January, 2000. The Mumbai film industry is agog with excitement. After all, it isn't often movies of the ruling Khans are released in the same month. Aamir Khan's 'Mela' and Shah Rukh Khan's 'Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani' are slated to hit the screens on January 7 and January 21, respectively. Heavy bets are being placed on which of the two would be a bigger hit.
Amid the booming brouhaha, a film starring newcomers is given the short shrift. Though the music of 'Kaho Na Pyaar Hai' is already popular, especially among the youth, its release date — sandwiched between the two massive Khans films — ensures that expectation from Hrithik Roshan’s debut vehicle are meagre.
But as the first month of the new millennium comes to an end, the tables are turned. The mercurial Box Office has once again done a somersault. The much-awaited Khans films are reduced to cold cinders at the turnstile, while the 'Kaho Na Pyaar Hai' craze rages through every nook and corner of India. Millennials have unanimously chosen a new superstar - Hrithik Roshan - at the turn of the new millennium.
'Kaho Na Pyaar Hai' went on to become the biggest blockbuster of 2000 and slalomed Hrithik to the kind of stardom only a select few before him had witnessed. His dancing finesse and Greek-God looks drew sighs across the nation. Every big filmmaker lined up outside his house to sign him. Such was the force of his wave of popularity that even the redoubtable Khans - Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir - felt the tremors. The triumvirate had collectively dominated the 1990s, but the new millennium presented them with a fresh challenge.
Though his next two releases of the year - 'Fiza' and 'Mission Kashmir' - weren't as big blockbusters as 'Kaho Na Pyaar Hai', their thunderous opening, which was till then the preserve of the Khans, underlined Hrithik’s stardom in no uncertain terms. 'Fiza' also won him accolades from the critics for his fine acting.
The next two years, however, spelt doom for Hrithik as all his much-vaunted films came a cropper. Subhash Ghai's 'Yaadein' was in particular a shattering blow. 'Aap Mujhe Acche Lagne Lage', 'Na Tum Jano Na Hum' and 'Mujhse Dosti Karoge' added to his litany of woes. From being hailed as a superstar to being lampooned as 'One-hit wonder', Hrithik seemed to have come a full circle in just 2 years. His career hit a plateau when Sooraj Barjatya's 'Maine Prem Ki Diwani Hoon' also crashed unceremoniously in June 2003.
Hrithik’s illustrious father, Rakesh Roshan, once again came to his rescue. If 'Kaho Na Pyaar Hai' had conferred upon him the halo of a superstar, 'Koi Mil Gaya' not only resurrected his career but also cemented his reputation as a stellar performer. Hrithik walked away with all the kudos and awards in 2003 for his masterful portrayal of a differently-abled man.
Having endured his time under the jackboot of flops, Hrithik became enormously discreet about his choice of films. He opted to do just a film or two a year to avoid overkill. In 2006, the two biggest grossers of the year - 'Krrish' and 'Dhoom 3' - belonged to him. So, in just six years since his debut, he had whipped out the biggest grosser of the year, thrice - in 2000, 2003 and 2006. No other actor since mid 1990s had challenged the hegemony of Khans the way he did. Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn had been around and stayed afloat but they never delivered huge blockbusters or the highest grossers to take the Khans on.
'Jodha Akbar' in 2008 also set the cash registers ringing and enhanced his stature as a versatile actor. Hrithik was easily among the top three superstars of the decade (2000-09) but the new decade was about him peg him back.
The phase between 2010-2018 was a case of lost opportunities for Hrithik. His radical selection of films made a big dent in his Box Office fortunes, if not his stardom. 'Guzaarish', 'Kites', 'Mohenjo Daro', 'Bang Bang' and 'Kaabil' failed to cut the mustard with the audience. There were some successes such as 'Agneepath', 'Krissh 3' and 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' as well but overall Hrithik failed to harness his potential to its fullest. While Salman and Aamir were going great guns, even the younger actors like Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh seemed to be surging ahead of Hrithik.
The Roshan scion turned the tide in his favour, yet again, in 2019. While 'Super 30' was a critical and commercial success, Siddharth Anand's 'WAR' (featuring Hrithik in action avatar after a long time) set the big screen ablaze and turned out to be the biggest grosser of 2019. The ‘overnight meteor’ of 2000 was ruling the roost yet again in 2019.
In times when the term 'superstar' is loosely used, Hrithik personifies this appellation. Be it longevity, versatility, the number of big blockbusters and highest grossers, he ticks all the conceivable boxes. In fact, after the era of Khans, he is the only one who has flirted with super-stardom.
A superstar he is already, but if Hrithik grows from strength-to-strength in the next decade and chooses whip-cracking scripts in mainstream fold, he has the potential to be among the pantheon of all-time Box Office greats — a list that features Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra and the three Khans.