superstar dossier

Is the Hri-Naut scandal a blessing in disguise for Hrithik Roshan?

The controversy involving Roshan and Kangana Ranaut might inspire some much-needed introspection about image management.

Kangana Ranaut and Hrithik Roshan may bury the hatchet soon. Our interest and selective outrage will find fresh meat. Ranaut has borne the brunt of the scandal, with questions being raised about her true intentions in exposing her alleged affair with Roshan and even the state of her mental health. But there is little doubt that Roshan is as vulnerable to ridicule as Ranaut here.

Impossibly good looks, an enviable family support system devoted to nurturing his stardom and the potential to knock the Khans off their thrones – Hrithik Roshan had it all. Yet, the third-generation star has failed to make good the riches at his disposal. His box-office appeal has been steadily waning in recent years, and the Ranaut scandal has swung back the glare on him in a most undesirable fashion.

The Hri-Naut entanglement might have remained restricted to a knowledgeable few had Roshan ignored an interview by Ranaut in which she blamed her “silly-ex” for being dropped from a few upcoming productions. Despite not being named in the interview, Roshan chose to send Ranaut a legal notice. She countered with one of her own, triggering off outrageous allegations and revelations that have been spun by Ranaut’s team of publicists as proof of her underdog status in notoriously nepotistic Bollywood.

Roshan, meanwhile, has attracted his fair share of contempt. The general lack of sympathy towards the actor might have something to do with his inconsistent and sometimes incredible public statements and efforts to position himself as a contemporary Vishwamitra to Ranaut’s Menaka. He radiates “love, peace and harmony” at all times except when taunted by a woman.

Does the nation really want to know anything about Hrithik Roshan?

Roshan’s diminished popularity might also have something to do with the mixed reception of his last few films. Once touted as the worthiest successor to the Khan trio, Roshan has never found himself wanting for prestigious films or adulation since his debut, Kaho Na... Pyaar Hai (2000). He has managed to hold on to a clean, almost boring, family man image despite link-ups with his co-stars, including Kareena Kapoor, Barbara Mori and Katrina Kaif. In fact, Ranaut might just have done Roshan a favour. It’s been a while since anyone showed any interest in Roshan’s personal life. On the other hand, the nation often wants to know what Ranveer Singh had for breakfast.

Roshan’s father, the renowned director Rakesh Roshan, has played fire-fighter throughout his career. The Roshans backed their son when his wife, Sussanne Khan, walked out with their sons, and it is said that Rakesh Roshan has stepped in again to save his son from further self-damage and ridicule.

Why did Roshan rise to Ranaut’s bait and swap avatars like the mutants in Krrish 3? Did the hurtfully anonymous “silly ex” description rankle? Did Roshan perceive an attack on his privileges and entitlement as a star from an influential film family? Did he see the casual remark as a below-the-belt assessment of his waning stardom from a younger star whose fortunes are on the ascent?

Time for an image makeover

In 2012, Roshan made headlines with his fantastic physical transformation. A tough personal and professional phase had turned Roshan into a chain-smoking couch potato, he said at the time, and his beloved body had given up on him. The latest scandal might inspire some much-needed introspection about image management. It is no longer enough to be a so-called Greek god.

Roshan’s peers have been consistently working on consolidating their past gains even as they compete with younger and fitter talent. They are working hard on channelling their inner actors and have been experimenting with different roles (Shah Rukh Khan in Fan, for instance) and taking on creative challenges to stay exciting (Salman Khan’s astutely managed public profile). Both the established and emerging marquee names have shouldered their share of scandals and have managed to make good the attention and interest generated by gossip. After all, nothing rings the death of a star louder than a spell of silence in the media.

At 42, Roshan is possibly facing a crisis that is not merely about middle-age hormones. Incubated in his father’s laboratory with all the flamboyant elements of the classic Hindi film hero, he could never really connect with what was current. Even his launch vehicle was a rehash of his father’s favourite themes, which include rebirth and revenge. Roshan’s career has been crafted to sustain the family-run Roshan factory. The father writes and directs, while uncle Rajesh Roshan’s 1980s-inspired music plays in the background.

Most of his adult life, Roshan has lived in his assertive father’s shadow. Now, after the divorce and living on his own for the first time, he may have found his voice, only to realise that the world is speaking a very different language.

Something is surely eating up Roshan. In a recent uncharacteristic show of bad temper, he seized the camera of a newspaper photographer who was trying to get a picture of him on the sets of his upcoming movie Mohenjo Daro. Roshan confiscated the camera for over 24 hours and returned it after being threatened with legal action.

A closer look at the photograph tells a different story. The actor, who has always taken immense pride in his fitness levels and his ability to perform his own stunts, was shooting with a body double when the photographer chanced on him – an Achilles moment for a star who has always been vulnerable.

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