This is going to be the first of a proposed series of A.W. recommendations for particular performers that you may or may not have heard of before. People who, for one talent or several, just scream for a wider audience and I’m going to do my small part to make you aware of them, if you’ll allow me.
“Hrithik Who?” I can hear you ask…And as most of India and the greater part of it’s diaspora is already well aware of Hrithik Roshan and his larger than life dance talents, I can speak directly to the unalerted of the American audience. Especially that part of it, like myself, who still yearn fervently and hopelessly for a current day Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire or Tommy Tune. Yes, I know these legends can’t really be touched, but the joy that they brought us should be constantly sought, reached toward, their images held up as an example for our current crop of poppers and lockers.
Indian films are, for me, where our musicals of the fifties and sixties went when they left us; left us, regretting our loss of innocence and the sweetness of young love. Audiences seem to feel ashamed of themselves to admit a craving for just these qualities, and now we have no expression for them here in the US except for in animated films. Well, in Hrithik Roshan (the H isn’t fully pronounced, just lightly brushed by) I have found my song and dance man of those older films, even given the lipsynching by another vocalist, obligatory in popular Indian cinema.
Though, he’s a young man, and it has only been ten years since he stunned the Hindi cinema world in his father’s film Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai (Say This is Love), Hrithik has starred in sixteen films with five more in the can or in production. And there doesn’t seem to be any let up in the desire for seeing him on screen or in live stage shows when he does them outside of India.
As far as I know, Hrithik doesn’t choreograph his own work, as Kelly and the others did, but works diligently to achieve an almost effortless fluidity and grace for choreographers like Farah Khan and Prabhu Deva. While Indian choreography may seem a bit unusual to the Hollywood tradition of partner dancing, it is from a rich tradition and can be very satisfying. Cinema dancing in India seems to draw more from a classical Indian dance tradition of soloists in front of back up dancers, emphasizing arm and hip work, rather than a traveling footwork style, as in western ballroom based styles that we are more familiar with.
And Hrithik, though he’s quite an eyeful, is not just a pretty face with gifted feet; in each film he has been seriously working on his acting craft, not always considered a necessary skill in a film industry almost exclusively built on a nepotistic tradition. In each film he takes on he tackles another challenge, whether it’s giving us the first successful Indian Sci Fi film Koi…Mil Gaya or tackling a lush historical romance like Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar (both performances were awarded a Filmfare Award for Best Male Performance).
And throughout all of them, he’s given us the gift of his dancing, and seemingly maintained his own unruffled sweetness and an unexpected attitude of self-deprication. He’s a rare pleasure to watch, and I recommend that you take a gander at some of these video links, and perhaps rent or buy a few of them when you feel the need for that lightness of feet that lightens your heart.
Note: Blockbuster and Netflix both have many of his films available for rent, and to buy, I’d always go via Nehaflix.com (good prices, fast delivery and an fair return policy).
Some of my favorite Hrithik Roshan dances:
“Bole Chudiyaan” from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (with Kareena Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan):
“Jab Dil Miley” from Yaadein (Memories) (also with Kareena):
The circus themed “Baware” from Luck by Chance:
“Dil Laga Na” from Dhoom 2 (with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan):
and my favorite, “Main Aisa Kyun Hoon” from Lakshya, as a young man who feels he never fits in: