Patcy N in Mumbai
Trying to step into Amitabh Bachchan's shoes is never easy, especially when it concerns the thespian's National Award-winning role in Agneepath. But it's a challenge Hrithik Roshan took on when he signed on the remake for Agneepath, which releases January 26.
The actor seems confident he will do justice to the role. He tells Patcy N why in the first part of this two-part interview..
What was your first reaction when producer Karan Johar approached you for Agneepath?
When Karan approached me, I said I don't want to do a remake, why destroy the sanctity of a classic? That, too, in a film like Agneepath in which Mr Bachchan has done an amazing job. Karan Johar, being a friend, just forced me to hear the script.
I was absolutely shocked when I heard the narration; that script went through all the layers, it touched me, even though I am an actor who does not want to work in remakes.
It just broke through all the barriers and hit me hard. When the narration was over, I knew I had to do this film.
How different is this film from the earlier one?
Not totally different because the basic story is the same. But the chapter of the journey has changed, the people have changed and the characters are new.
'Agneepath is the toughest film of my career'
Are you scared that comparisons will be made?
If during the shoot I had comparisons in my mind, then I would be scared. But I have done this role like me, and there is nobody in the world like me, like there is no one like you, so your individual way has to stand apart from anything else.
Audiences will still try to compare you with the old Vijay.
No, the moment you see my Vijay, that comparison will go away. People will come to see Vijay Deenanath Chauhan, but when they look at me, they will think he doesn't look like Vijay, he is nothing like Vijay, he is nobody, he doesn't have style, he doesn't have that swagger, that walk, not even the voice...
Their expectations are broken now and they will see the film keeping me in mind.
Did you meet Mr Bachchan and tell him that you are working in a remake of Agneepath?
No. I don't know whether Karan met him or not.
'Priyanka has a small role but has done a fabulous job'
Did you watch the old Agneepath for reference?
I had seen Agneepath twice when it was released. It is printed in my heart and my mind because the film was so powerful.
But this time around I did not see it because it was not necessary as the story is very different
If it was printed on your mind, didn't that influence you?
That was the challenge. But the refreshing part was that the director himself had written a character that was different. This Vijay was not Vijay Deenanath Chavan. He was a simple man and from the very beginning, I got connected to this thought that this is a new script.
If I had thought this was the old Agneepath, I would be playing a hero with a certain voice, swagger and walk.
But the director wrote the kind of script where he did not want a hero; he wanted me to play a common man, a normal man. A child who grows up to be a man and wants revenge and nothing else.
Tell us about your co-star Priyanka Chopra and your bonding with her.
This is Priyanka's best work till date. She will really make you cry. It is a small role but she has done such a fabulous job.
Her character, Kali, is such a sweet character. She makes you see Vijay through her eyes and when you see him that way you fall in love with Vijay. So it is an important role.
'There was Gabbar Singh, then Mogambo and now it will be Kancha'
Is it true that you said Agneepath is the toughest film of your career?
Yes. The climax of the film was shot in Diu. It was so hot and throughout the climax, I am fighting Sanju sir (Sanjay Dutt, who plays the villain Kancha Cheena), who looks like a Goliath compared to me. My clothes were torn and I was almost bare-bodied, there was blood make-up all over me. I had to fall and I was getting hurt. I was like this for 22 days, so it ended up being the toughest schedule of my life.
Did Sanjay Dutt's menacing looks ever scare you during the shot?
Yes, actually, sometimes I would think is this really Sanju sir? What has happened to him?
Twice he looked at me with so much anger and gave me such a dirty stare that I got out of my character!
He was so much into his character that I was taken aback. I thought what's wrong with him? I had to make myself understand that it is just acting.
You worked with Sanjay Dutt in Mission Kashmir. What's your relationship like?
I call him Sanju sir because he really has become a 'sir' in a way.
When I reached Diu, I was so tired because of Just Dance (the television programme for which he was a judge) and my other endorsements, that I did not get time to train and build my body.
Sanju sir just took over: he built a gym over there, he asked me to start at 7 am, and he took care of my food with the help of his cook and his staff.
He is like an older brother to me. When I was tired he kept on telling me, I am 50 years old and I am still going strong. I would get embarrassed and keep going.
Sanju sir has got one amazing quality: he does his scenes so easily, it's really very easy for him. You don't feel he is putting in any effort or even cares what's going on. In fact, you feel he is not bothered. He has this unique technique -- he makes it look very easy but he is into the character at the same time.
During Mission Kashmir, I would see him talking to everyone and I would think he will not come prepared. But he did his scenes easily. I am sure he does some kind of preparation which is a secret. I want to know that secret. His role in Mission was marvellous and he was so good in that.
There was Gabbar Singh, then Mogambo and now it will be Kancha.
'I was very impressed by Rishi Kapoor'
Do you think the character of Kancha will overpower Vijay, that people will like him better?
They should like him better at the beginning of the film and they should think that a fight between Kancha and Vijay is impossible. They should feel that Vijay is nothing in front of Kancha, and then the trajectory of the film should convince the audience of the David-Goliath impossibility.
If you think the mission is impossible, that makes the film more entertaining. If it was easy and if we were equals, you would not enjoy the journey. The fight is between a common man and a Goliath.
You worked with Rishi Kapoor in this film...
Working with Chintu uncle was amazing. He did so many action scenes. He would fall in a scene and then he would get up as though nothing had happened and there I was sitting with my knee and back pain, applying balm! He was so fit!
I thought when I am that age, what will be my state if I am hurting so much now. I was very impressed by his work. He is like an athlete, though you cannot make that out when you see him.
The amount of confidence that Chintu uncle has I doubt any other actor will have. Maybe Shah Rukh Khan does. But the confidence and the fire of Rishi Kapoor is something else.
'I knew Katrina was a good dancer but I didn't know she was so marvellous'
Katrina's Chikni Chameli is very popular but you are a better dancer. Shouldn't you have been part of that song?
I thought that way before the song was shot. The moment Katrina came on the sets and rehearsed -- if you were there, you would have also said the same thing -- 'Hrithik ko mat nacho humko yeh hi dekhna hai' (Don't make Hrithik dance, we want to watch Katrina only). What you are seeing in the promos is just five per cent of what she has done in the song.
After Madhuri (Dixit), Ash (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) and now Katrina -- I have been impressed three times by these three people. I knew that she was a good dancer but I didn't know she was so marvellous. All the steps are so difficult.
She comes from the UK and she does Mungada (the song from Inkaar), a kind of lavani (folk dance of Maharashtra). She just threw herself into it, she was not bothered whether she was looking good or not, she just went for it.
You were unwell during the shoot?
Yes, I fell sick during the last few days of the shoot of Just Dance. I had severe backache. I could not stop work so I kept on going. But after two weeks, when the show was over, I got my first day off, on October 2 -- my first day off since February.
That day I decided that I will not do anything. I will just lie down. I did everything lying down. I ate, saw a movie, everything, lying down. After 24 hours, my back went into a spasm and next morning I couldn't get up. I had such bad pain for the next six days that I couldn't lie down. I slept for just 10 minutes. I couldn't lie down because the slip disc was hitting a nerve.
I was bed-ridden for one month. Everyone sent their love to me in the form of cupcakes, brownies and chocolates, and eating all that my waist expanded to 36 and a half inches! I'm not joking. I have a photograph to prove that.
Papa (Rakesh Roshan) told me we would not make the Krrish sequel now, we will make it in 2013! But I was sure if we don't make it now, it will never be made because we had dates from all the technicians. After two years of hardship, we are at a stage where we can start the film now.
I called for my Krrish jacket but I couldn't zip it as my stomach was so big! I said to myself, I am not worthy of being Krrish right now, so I have to make myself worthy.
I hunted around and got the best trainers from the UK and transformed myself in 10 weeks. I lost 10 kilos and my waist is now 30 inches.
When my back was bad, I knew I couldn't do Krrish. I was so depressed. I smoked three packets of cigarettes a day. Now, all that is out of my life. I feel like a new person now.
'I feel my work in Guzaarish is good'
You have been nominated for best actor for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara at the Filmfare Awards.
It is good because it is an acknowledgement of my work and Filmfare is one of the most prestigious awards.
I am happy because this film was risky; we thought it may not do well because it is not a commercial film like Krrish, Dabangg or Agneepath. But it had a good script. I thought that, for the sake of cinema, somebody who can manage the budget should make this film, which was very high as the entire film was shot in Spain.
I am very happy that somewhere down the line, audiences have evolved and now such films are expected, which is great for filmmakers and actors. Our scope is wider now and we can do all kinds of films.
Do you care for awards?
I care for awards which carry value. If someone is giving you an award then you should respect it and you should be humble and thank them. But if you don't win an award that does not mean your work is not good. In my mind I have a barometer and I know which of my films is good.
I feel my work in Guzaarish is good. I felt very honest in that film, and now I always try to reach that level when I am facing the camera. There was a comfort in the flow; I was so much into my character that it became easy for me to do my role.
In every film of mine I want to try and achieve that because that is my benchmark. There are films in which I think I haven't done so well but I have got an award.