| Hrithik Roshan with a young fan at a music store in Calcutta on Friday. Picture by Pabitra Das
The rising star’s visit in April 2000, post-Kaho Naa… Pyar Hai, was greeted by a hysterical fan following. Park Street was in chaos mode, with devotees throwing themselves at his car as he departed. The same year, he was back twice, for a promotion of Fiza in September, and then for the sell-out show at Salt Lake stadium in November. Both times, he was mobbed by fans desperate for a piece of the twinkle-toed muscleman.
Fast forward to June 2003, and you catch a falling star. Well, almost. On the day of the release of Main Prem ki Diwani Hoon, the hysteria, although in evidence, was no way close to the Hrithik Roshan scale of before.
He was greeted by shouts of “Hrithikda” every step of the way by the loyalists who haven’t deserted him. A child, desperate to get an autograph, was hurt in the melee and ended up in tears at the lost opportunity. Another waved eagerly from atop his perch on a cash counter at a music store, and was awestruck when his hero waved back, biceps bulging and a flash of pearly whites.
The action was at 22, Camac Street and the stars were the excited crowds, as much as the man himself. A girl frantically shouted “Hrithikdada, ei dike takaan ektu”, and a young man waved his Hrithik poster with gusto. “Fans are never a problem,” smiled the star. Looking cool in beige shirt and trousers, matching shades and a new haircut, the leading man was in form, enjoying the adulatory attention thrown his way.
The crowds this time were far thinner, the screams more muted and Hrithik was certainly not the traffic-stopper of two years ago, on his last visit to the city in July 2001. But he played to the galleries, hoping to get back his past glory. And they lapped it up. In response to “please watch my film” and “I love Calcutta because it’s got such a lot of love to give”, the crowds cheered. And Hrithik signed as many autographs as he could get his hands on, making sure to ask the fan his or her name.
Later in the day, in trademark black cap, T-shirt and trousers, the Bollywood hero elaborated on his failure to make it big at the box-office since his debut film. “Kaho Naa.. was a good film. It made me. The films make the star, not the other way round. Since then, the films I have done weren’t so good.”
As for the significance of Main Prem ki Diwani Hoon, the Rajshri film about “two Prems (Hrithik and Abhishek Bachchan) entering Sanjana’s (Kareena Kapoor) life and the choice she makes”, Hrithik admitted: “It’s the biggest film I have ever done. It’s that important and much more.”
Outside the hotel, where he was busy promoting what Bollywood is billing as his make-or-break release, there were no hysterical hordes waiting for a glimpse of this Prem. The Hrithik rage, on box-office Friday, was more lost than found.