The last time Hrithik Roshan stepped back in time was for multi-award winning historical Jodhaa Akbar. He has teamed up with the Mughal epic’s acclaimed director Ashutosh Gowariker again and gone even further back in history for Mohenjo Daro.
Set more than 4,000 years ago, the period film sees the popular actor playing an innocent farmer from a secluded village who takes a life-changing journey to a fabled city and unexpectedly becomes a saviour.
The big-budget film once again shows the impressive range of an actor considered by many as the most versatile and talented star of commercial Indian cinema.
Eastern Eye caught up with Hrithik to talk about Mohenjo Daro, going back in time in more ways than one and how curiosity has been a big driving factor in his life.
In terms of all-round ability, you are probably the most talented actor in Bollywood, but why don’t you sign more films?
I don’t know, Asjad, it’s just the way it is. I wish that films like Mohenjo Daro could be made in 70-80 days, but they take a lot longer than that. This is a script I enjoyed and wanted to do. The vision was great and Ashutosh has his style. It took longer than we expected, but the good news is that for the first time, before my one film for the year – which is Mohenjo Daro – is released, I have already completed about 65 per cent of my next film (Kaabil).
That is unheard of from you…
(Smiles) Yes, I think that is reason enough to give myself a pat on the back. I have acted upon my word and am trying to change a few things. I don’t have to or need to, but I do want to experience the joy of having two or three films in the span of a year. So we are gonna see that next year. Hopefully at least two or three of my films will be released.
Does the fact that demand for you is so high, put pressure on you?
Pressure is always good. No pressure, no diamonds is what I always say. Also, you have to choose the kinds of pressures that you want to take. Life really is about feeling good about what you are, what you are doing, where you are and with who you are. Everything that we do in our life, we do so that we feel good. So I choose which pressures to take on.
Sometimes I am not in alignment with myself and take on extra pressure I don’t need. But then realisation comes and I say, ‘wait, I don’t need to think about this.’ I just brush it off.
Then there are certain pressures you must take – the most important is the expectation people have of my films and that is something I totally do not take for granted. In all humility and gratitude in my heart, I do my best, so that I can rise up to those expectations. That is what I have been doing.
How did you feel about going back in history with Ashutosh Gowariker with Mohenjo Daro?
I went back in many ways, not just in the period sense. I went back in matters of the heart as well, because (my character) Sarman is a simple-hearted man. He is very honest. Even though he is born in Mohenjo Daro, he is brought up in a little village on the outskirts, so he has never really seen the outside world. He has never seen the city life of Mohenjo Daro. You can compare it to a villager coming to a city like London or Mumbai, experiencing for the first time the height of the buildings and structures, mobile phones and how life is for people who live there.
How does your character react?
When he sees his simplicity being looked upon as naïve and silly, he is desperate to understand that world, the games people play, the power, struggle, egos and injustices. So it is the story of Sarman. He enters Mohenjo Daro as an unaffected and unassuming young boy, but quickly has to become mature enough to be able to lead these people who are living in fear at the hands of tyrants. He is actually a leader at heart, but he is such a simple and honest person that he tries to fight against injustices for the sake of the people.
He also falls in love. The romance in the film is absolutely beautiful. I think that is something Ashutosh does really well.
Did you have to recapture the innocence you had in your debut film Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai to play Sarman?
Yes, I had to bring back the kind of simplicity (my character) Rohit had in Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. After a very long time I got that opportunity and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
With Jodhaa Akbar, you had a reference for the look, but with Mohenjo Daro you didn’t. You look great in the film, but how did you decide the look of your character?
Thank you, my friend. That can be a hindrance sometimes, but can also be very liberating. So we were actually free to conceptualise the looks, but of course, taking the few facts available about the history of the time. But yes, a lot of thought was put into it. There was some confusion, a few doubts, but I think eventually what we all got we were happy with. Now hearing your compliments, Asjad, I am further assured that we were on the right track.
You normally work with A-list leading ladies. How does starring opposite a debutante like Pooja Hegde compare to that?
I was amazed at Pooja’s courage and simplicity, which just helped me reaffirm my own character. Our scenes together are some of the most romantic I have ever done in my life. I am so happy that I have someone like her as my co-star in this film. Anybody else would have not worked the way it has. So I am very thankful to Pooja and very happy she is a part of this film.
My favourite songs in Mohenjo Daro are the title track and Tu Hai. Which are yours?
All the songs are great, so I can’t just pick one. But I do have a favourite piece, which is in the theme music. I don’t know how to explain it (hums a line) The way Rahman does that music is just incredibly perfect for a film like this. It sets the tone and atmosphere of Mohenjo Daro. It transports you another world and sound. It’s animalistic, magical, mysterious and beautiful. So that is perhaps my favourite musical moment, perhaps of all time, in the theme. I am in love with that one moment.
You are known to push yourself hard and get injured during filming movies. Did that happen too in Mohenjo Daro?
Yes. That is the story of my life. I don’t really take it too far, but I think maybe I do too much. I broke my left ankle during the making of this film, and an ankle injury is the worst. It kind of affects all the other joints in your body.
How did it happen?
Strangely I’ve never injured myself doing action, the big stunts I have done. It’s normally been something simple like while running when I have injured myself. No one can really predict what will happen. Ashutosh also was never worried because he was seeing the way I was rehearsing and had confidence in me. I injured myself doing a simple run. I am not blaming anyone – we didn’t know that there was a root of a tree jutting out of the ground in the grass. When I was running my foot went on it, completely twisted and I broke my ankle.
You are a huge inspiration to so many, but what inspires you?
My inspiration is in my being a curious person. The only way I know is forward and I want to discover truths. I want to debunk some myths, I want to find new ways, challenge the rules and kind of like dig deep to find out what really are one or two of the most important things that we need to take care of. The journey is about so many things. But right now, that is what comes to mind. My inspiration comes from my curiosity.
Give us an example?
I am very curious – like, what happens when I break my ankle? I would wonder, can I get the best abs while my ankle is broken? I might fail at it. Can a person who can’t run or walk still burn calories? Can I do maybe 2,000 dumb-bell curls or something with a very light weight that doesn’t stress my body, but still burns calories? You know, stuff like that. So it’s not just about health, but that’s what I do in a spiritual way too or with my films, like in Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai.
How did that apply in your debut film?
People said, as a new guy, you have to do magazine covers and press interviews. You have to put yourself out there, but I did absolutely nothing. The first time people saw me was on the big screen. They only knew me through the promos and trailers in Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. And nobody had really done that until then.
Then look at the film itself – with the cool dude Raj in the second half, I had him wear glasses and kept him clean-shaven. I made Rohit, the simpleton, have stubble. That was unheard of. They usually give stubble to the hero and glasses to the nerd. So I reversed that and it worked like magic. I am always very curious to try and find a way to be upside down.
The last time we spoke, you said there were Hollywood offers on your desk. What is happening with that?
Well, they are still lying on my desk. I haven’t really found anything that I really really love. But you know, it is a process and that will take time. I have begun to think and to do things in that direction. Let’s see what happens.
Finally, I love it when your father Rakesh Roshan directs you. Are there any plans for you to work together again?
Yes man, I love working with him too. Let’s hope I can coax him into Krrish 4.
Mohenjo Daro is in cinemas now.