'It's risky to make normal films'
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- Published 31.07.11
Sons of famous fathers don’t always find the going easy. Take someone called Kumar Gaurav. But fathers of famous sons are not exactly on a cruise either. Take Rakesh Roshan. The man, who once made his mark as an actor and for the last many years as a director-producer, is best known today for his son, Hrithik. And that keeps him so busy that through the course of our conversation he has to keep monitoring his email.
We are at the FilmKraft office — his production company — in Mumbai’s Oshiwara. It has taken me more than three weeks to get an appointment with him. Rakesh Roshan has been scuttling between Hong Kong and India, co-ordinating with the action director of his new film, Krrish 3, starring (who else?) but his son — the megastar with a sculpted body and tawny eyes. Even though there was no Krrish 2, the new venture is the third part of a set of films starring Hrithik as a superhero. The first in the series, he explains, was Koi... Mil Gaya (KMG) — a 2003 film about a mentally challenged boy bestowed (by an alien) with supernatural powers.
Roshan, 62 — natty in a purple tee and black trousers — is sitting in a room papered with posters from Hrithik films. I look around — spotting a huge pile of awards adorning a mantelpiece — while Roshan works on his Mac. He summons his assistant to discuss a letter from his special effects team stationed in Los Angeles. That done, we get back to the film slated to be released sometime in 2012 — and what triggered it.
Roshan is at his expansive best when he talks about Hrithik’s films. Other questions are dealt with summarily, mostly with one-line answers. But he opens up when we zero in on KMG, the part sci-fi, part fantasy film with dazzling special effects which led to Krrish, which portrayed Hrithik as a superman of sorts. “He could talk to animals, race with horses, fly in the sky and fight with many people single-handedly,” says the father.
It’s a genre that he loves. “I always wondered why such genres are not explored in India. Doing the same kind of stories is stagnating the industry. So, when I got the concept of KMG, I decided to take the risk. And I made sure that I went the right way, bringing in special effect artists from Los Angeles.”
The film worked, he says, because it had the “right kind of characters and emotional content that connected not only with kids but also adults”. The newness, he believes, wielded magic. “There is a lot of risk involved with filmmaking. Run-of-the-mill films are sure to bomb at the box office so why not make a ‘different’ film,” he asks. “It’s risky to make normal films.”
And he, for one, is not afraid of experimenting with new genres. “Making films with new plots is easier as the new subjects appeal to the audience. So when I got the idea for KMG, I immediately gave a call to Hrithik, who was then in Delhi. And he absolutely loved the subject. And that gave me a boost. I called in the scriptwriters, briefed them and went ahead with the story,” says Roshan, now smiling broadly.
Son Hrithik obviously has to feature in all his ventures — starting right with Kaho Na Pyar Hai, the 2000 box office hit. “His versatility gives me the confidence to try different genres. Had it not been him, I don’t think I would have made KMG or Krrish.”
But what’s this obsession with the letter K? His face lights up. “Well, there is an interesting story to that.” As a producer, he’d made several films such as Aap ke Deewane, Kamchor, Bhagwaan Dada, Jaag Utha Insaan and Karan Arjun, a film with which he struck gold in 1995. Then, one day, a fan wrote to him to point out that his films that started with the letter K were always hits. That was, of course, before Kites — his 2010 film which bombed at the box office.
“When I name a film of mine with K, I am not being superstitious, but paying respect to the sentiments and wishes of this ardent fan of mine. It was this fan who pointed out that all my films as an actor beginning with K had been hits.”
I go back to Krrish — and the superhero mould that he has shaped for his son. Does he want to create a superhero on the lines of Superman and Spiderman? “Yes,” he says, before I can complete my question. But isn’t that a bit risky? Hasn’t Hollywood demonstrated that men who act as superheroes often get typecast?
I can tell the question doesn’t please Roshan. “Yes, we want to market Krrish as a brand and Hrithik as a superhero that the Indian audience can identify with. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be a success in other genres. Post Krrish, didn’t he give the blockbuster Jodhaa Akbar? And then there is Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara,” he says referring to a new release that’s got the multiplexes packed with people who can’t have enough of Hrithik.
Roshan starts fiddling with his Mac, and I realise it’s prudent to move on to safer topics. I delve into the past a bit, to ask how he — the son of music composer Roshan and his Bengali wife, Ira — set foot in the Hindi film industry.
“I was 16 when my father passed away. Being from the film fraternity, I had no option but to join the industry. To get an entry here, I had the option of going to the Pune institute or join the industry as an assistant. Given the fact that my father was a music director and I did have some contacts, it wasn’t difficult for me to get a break as an assistant director,” says the man who started out with Harman Singh Rawail, who directed films such as Sangharsh.
He got his first acting break when he was assisting Mohan Kumar for Aap Aye Bahar Aayi, released in 1971. “While shooting for the film, actor Rajendra Kumarji asked me if I wanted to act, to which I said yes. He asked me to meet South Indian filmmaker B. Nagi Reddy, who was looking for a fresh face. That’s how I got my first film, Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani, directed by T. Prakash Rao.”
A string of films followed, including a few hits, before his career — along with his hairline — started ebbing. But Roshan stresses that even as an actor he had never lost his interest in direction. “I always had it in my mind to become a director. So when I found myself not doing well as an actor, I thought of moving on to direction,” he says. “Had Khudgarz — my first film as a director — not done well, then I wouldn’t still be in the industry.”
Not that he’s bid goodbye to acting. In many films, he has a cameo role. In KMG, for instance, he plays the hero’s scientist father, who dies in the first few minutes of the film. “Well, I enjoyed doing films as an actor. But I am content being a filmmaker today. It’s more fulfilling. I don’t miss acting, as I have realised that direction is my strength,” he replies.
Roshan seeks to stress that his life doesn’t revolve around his own — or Hrithik’s — films. “I liked (Aamir Khan’s) 3 Idiots a lot. And I do keep myself in sync with the changes that the industry is experiencing. If we don’t change, the industry will get stagnant,” he says. When he thought of making Koi... Mil Gaya or Krrish, he adds that he wasn’t sure the films would do well. “But I took the risk of making a science fiction, a superhero film — a genre that not many experiment with. But my films clicked, as the scripts had all the ingredients to make them believable for the Indian audience. And people loved it,” he says.
Krrish 3, the father and son would hope, will be loved equally by the viewers. After all, Roshan has seen the industry as a struggling newcomer, and knows that nothing succeeds like success. “When I began my film career, I struggled a lot and I haven’t forgotten those days. That motivates me to look further.” Await Krrish 4.