The Bollywood landscape in the last three decades has largely been dominated by the three Khans: Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman. Though their stardom has certainly dimmed in the last couple of years, the trade is in no hurry to write these ‘superstars’ off. Though Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn have also been around for nearly three decades and are still saleable stars, the magnitude of their hits has usually been lesser than Khans.
Hrithik Roshan, however, is the only star who has consistently challenged the hegemony of the Khans by whipping out colossal blockbusters. In fact, between 2003-2006, Hrithik was even ahead of all three of them. Interestingly, his debut movie Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai – which was released on January 14th, 2000 – was sandwiched between Aamir’s Mela and SRK’s Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani as they hit the screens on January 7th and 21st, respectively. So, in his first dig as an actor, Hrithik had gotten the better of two ruling Khans.
After Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, he ran into rough weather and copped a string of bummers. He was labelled as a ‘one-hit wonder’ before his father Rakesh Roshan resurrected his career with another super-hit, Koi Mil Gaya, in 2003. Since then, there have never been any doubts about his stardom or acting chops.
Since 2000, he has bashed out the highest grosser of the year four times – Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai (2000), Koi Mil Gaya (2003), Dhoom 2 (2006), and War (2019) – along with many other hits. Though he is hailed as a big star and a fabulous actor, he hasn’t been elevated to the pantheon of ‘Khans’.
One of the main complaints that even his fans have about him is that he only makes one film every three years. Because of such elongated interludes between two movies, his stardom hasn’t been completely optimised.
Also, because of these long gaps, it takes him a long time to recover from a couple of flops. For example, between 2014-2018, two films by Hrithik – Mohenjo Daro and Kaabil – came a cropper at the box office. Though his stardom was undiminished, he had no hits for five years, which diluted his perception.
He sallied back with War – which became the biggest hit of the year – in 2019, but again took a hiatus instead of consolidating on his success. This is the same mistake he made in 2006 when, after delivering two monumental blockbusters – Krrish and Dhoom 2 – he had no release for two years.
Apart from his failure to consolidate his success, his commercial potential has remained unfulfilled because, at times, he chooses completely off-beat subjects such as Guzaarish and Kites, which usually tank at the turnstiles.
Dabbling with avant-garde cinema is fine if one is doing at least a couple of movies a year, but for an actor who has one release in two years opting for these complete niches, the subjects aren’t salutary.
One can argue that Aamir became a superstar by embracing novel, ingenious subjects and doing just one movie in two years. But the truth is that Aamir started experimenting only in the latter half of his career, and more importantly, his selection of movies was amazingly perceptive. Be it Rang De Basanti, Lagaan, Taare Zameen Par or Dangal – all these movies didn’t just earn glowing reviews but were also gigantic hits. Hence, his consistency and perception never took a beating.
Three years after War, Hrithik is gearing up for the release of his next movie, Vikram Vedha, which is slated to hit the screens on September 30th. After Brahmastra snapped the dry spell for Bollywood at the ticket counters, the trade is expecting Vikram Vedha to continue the momentum and prove a money-spinner for the industry. Will Hrithik Roshan consolidate his stardom this time and deliver a monstrous hit?
The New Indian talked to prominent exhibitors about the prospects of Vikram Vedha and what they think of Hrithik as a star and actor:
Ashutosh Agarwal (Owner of Star World chain of cinemas): The buzz around Vikram Vedha is impressively positive. The trailer, when screened in my cinema halls, received rapturous cheers. People are excited to see Hrithik on the big screen after a long time. The fact that it is released during the periods of Dussehra and Navratri will only help its business.
The masses, as well as the youth, are excited about the movie. It seems like an action-packed potboiler and the audiences love Hrithik in such roles. I think the opening of the movie will be similar, if not more than, to Hrithik’s Bang Bang, which came in 2014. I’m getting heaps of enquiries about the movie, which speaks volumes about the excitement among people.
Brahmastra has broken the box-office hoodoo, and we are expecting Vikram Vedha to strike a chord with the audience as well.
Vishek Chauhan (Prominent Exhibitor): Hrithik has everything going for him, be it Greek-God looks, a ripped body, acting finesse, versatility and a towering personality. I think he should have been the biggest superstar India has ever seen by now. Of course, he’s a mammoth star who has been bankable for a long time, but he hasn’t measured up to his potential yet.
The audience have been categorical about what they want from him. Yet, at times, he does a few outlandish films, which throws them off the scent. His father has been the only filmmaker who has consistently harnessed his potential, both as an actor and a star. He still has age on his side, and I fervently hope that he becomes aware of his stature and potential as a theatrical star. People of all age groups and different sections of society fawn over him. He must make films that satiate their cinematic expectations.
As for Vikram Vedha, we must keep our expectations realistic. The biggest strength of the movie is the presence of Hrithik, but many people have already seen the original Tamil movie. The people in the Hindi circuits are now browned off by remakes. They want original content that is suitable for viewing on the big screen. If Vikram Vedha finds acceptance in mass belts, it will emerge as a hit.