Hrithik has had an oddly eventful life. Besides the movie-star thing, there’s just a lot of stuff that happened! And so I have to do a Part 2, even though he is only 45.
Usual Disclaimer: I don’t know these people, I have know special knowledge, this is just how it appears from a far far distance.
Hrithik is phenomenally talented. He is handsome, his dancing is out of this world, and he has that movie star magic charisma in spades. His overnight stardom wasn’t some fluke, and the proof of that is that it has never been replicated.
The Roshan’s bet everything on their son. They mortgaged and borrowed and if Kaho Na Pyaar Hai hadn’t worked, they would have been living on the streets. But, it did work. Since then we have seen family after family try to recreate the magic, Jackky Bhagnani and Harman Baweja and a whole string of Kapoors shot for that “overnight hit” kind of status. They had bigger name co-stars, directors, even songs to support them. And they couldn’t recreate what the Roshans pulled off because they weren’t Hrithik.
But all of that talent and perfection can’t guarantee a smooth life, personal or professional. Hrithik married Sussanne Khan in December 2000, 11 months after his Kaho Na Pyaar Hai breakthrough. Their wedding photos are beautiful, a happy smiling couple. Hrithik and Sussanne made a decision to make their love story public. They had both grown up in households where the Star Wife wasn’t as much of a public figure as her husband, but Hrithik wanted to share his fame with the woman in his life. Sussanne was one of the first famous Star Wives in town, a familiar figure at awards shows and public appearances, hanging on the arm of her famous husband. Their love story, instead of harming his romantic icon image, ended up supporting it.
And I do believe in their love story. This wasn’t a particular easy marriage to accomplish, different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and both young at the time of the wedding (Hrithik 26 and Sussanne 22), and Hrithik’s career barely started. There’s a lot of practical reasons against the relationship and not many for it. Which makes me think the impractical reason of love is why they decided to be married. More than that, they were married for 5 years without children. Which could mean many things, but in a culture where marriage generally means children, where procreation is the purpose for a couple, holding off for 5 years is notable and might mean they wanted a different kind of marriage from that, they wanted to be a couple and a family even before children.
The early years of their marriage were also the early years of Hrithik’s career, and it was a hectic time. He released 10 movies in 3 years, mixing light romances with serious dramas. And none of them were hits, not at the level that Kaho Na Pyaar Hai had caused the industry to expect. On the other hand, none of them were big enough flops to fully sink his career. Hrithik was treading water, just successful enough that he should keep going, but not successful enough to feel like he was getting anywhere.
And then came Koi Mil Gaya. Hrithik returned to work with his father again in a very very odd film concept, aliens and super powers and a fragile boy-man who just needed love. And it was a massive massive hit. At age 29, Hrithik was back on top. And finally able to breath and take time. The next year, 2004, he made only one movie, a serious drama with a serious role, and one of the most challenging and spectacular dance numbers of his career, Lakshya. It flopped, but Hrithik survived. His songs in the film were a craze across the nation, and he still had the Koi Mil Gaya goodwill to sustain him.
Hrithik took another risk after Lakshya, returned to work with his father in an Indian superhero movie. This was in 2006, before the Marvel films had swept India and proved superheroes could work. It was an odd concept for an Indian film, superheroes and evil scientists and so on, but it still had a family element to it, and somehow it worked. Krrish was never considered a Great Movie, the pure filming quality (lighting design, for instance) isn’t even as good as Koi Mil Gaya, but it was popular and made money and made Hrithik beloved of children and families. And later that year his new status as the hero of the big colorful family film was confirmed when Dhoom 2 released.
Hrithik was riding high on Krrish in his professional life, and riding high in his personal life as well when his first child, son Hrehaan, was born that same year. Having a child always causes a personal reassessment in a person, maybe that is why Hrithik decided to turn his back on the silly blockbusters that brought him success and look for something different. His next film was Jodha-Akbar, a long complex historical drama to which he committed entirely for 2 years. And reaped the rewards in the best critical reviews he had ever received as an actor. That same year, his second son Hridhaan was born. Life was perfect, the Golden Boy was riding high.
And then just two years later it started to fall apart. After Jodha-Akbar, Hrithik did an extended cameo in Luck By Chance, one of the most interesting performances of his career. But his next actual film was Kites. It was produced by his father, directed by Anurag Basu and Brett Ratner. It was supposed to be his big crossover film, the Brett Ratner American cut would bring Hrithik to the attention of Hollywood and make him an international star. The Anurag Basu Indian cut would solidify his popular appeal. And Barbara Mori, the Mexican actress co-starring with him, would help them break into South America.
None of that happened. Instead, after a big opening, Kites immediately sank. I think it was a miscalculation in terms of Hrithik’s popular appeal. Kites is a sexy star-crossed lovers action film. Hrithik’s big hits hadn’t appealed to the mature sex-starved audience but instead to the children. Krrish, Koi Mil Gaya, Dhoom 2, they were all big fun almost cartoonish kind of films. This gritty sexy drama was not what worked for him. And at the same time, his personal life was suddenly filled with the kind of scandal and drama that did not work for his public persona either.
Hrithik had his first affair rumors shortly after his marriage. He and Kareena Kapoor were frequent co-stars and had blazing onscreen chemistry. Kareena was unmarried but publicly dating Shahid Kapoor (one of the first public dating relationships in Hindi film). Hrithik was married and publicly devoted to his wife Sussanne. And yet there were still rumors. He and Kareena stopped working together, stopped interacting together in public at all, and eventually the stories died down. Personally, I don’t believe there was anything more than a location fling (if that). Not so much because of Sussanne but because of Shahid. If Kareena was truly in a relationship with Hrithik, why keep dating Shahid? She broke up with him eventually anyway, so clearly she had no problem publicly ending the relationship. In that case, why not end it even sooner and be free to devote her energies to her Hrithik affair? On the flipside, if she was hiding the Hrithik affair to appear virtuous in public, then why be publicly dating Shahid which was only a little less scandalous at the time than dating a married man?
After Kareena, Hrithik learned to be very circumspect. Again, I don’t know whether or not he was actually sleeping with other women (and if so, I think it was with the knowledge and permission of his wife), but he learned to hide it so well that it was never even hinted at in the media. Until Kites and Barbara Mori. All of a sudden, it was reported everywhere that he and Barbara were sleeping together. Reported in a way that said it was more than just a rumor, it was actually known among multiple people around them who were leaking the news to the press. The odd thing was, Sussanne was friendly with Barbara through all of this too. The three of them were seen together, she stayed at their house, Sussanne welcomed her onto twitter, they even seem to have gotten matching tattoos. It’s possible this is less about Hrithik cheating on his wife with a Mexican seductress and more about Sussanne and Hrithik welcoming a third person into their marriage after 10 years, in order to keep the spark alive.
Whatever was happening, Hrithik and Sussanne came out of this period weaker rather than stronger. It was after 2010 that there started being the occasional stories of Sussanne and the kids moving out and then moving back and then moving out again. There was always an explanation of course, for instance that the house was being fumigated by exterminators so Sussanne and the kids moved over to her parents temporarily. But there were so many of these stories, it didn’t feel right. This was also when Sussanne started working again. She is a trained interior designer and had been working off and on with her mother for years, but in 2011 she and Gauri Khan started up a business together. Sussanne started being seen more and more in public without Hrithik, hanging out with her girl gang or with a mixture of male and female friends (for instance, Arjun Rampal and his wife). It felt increasingly like Hrithik and Sussanne were leading separate lives.
But on the other hand, this wasn’t unusual for busy powerful couples who married young. A few years of upset and estrangement didn’t have to mean anything in the long run. They’d been married over 10 years, together for 5 years before that, they had two children together, their families were intertwined, and they had a big sparkling public love story. We’ve seen this with celebrity couples before, a few years of rumor and scandal, and then they come back together stronger than before and the stories disappear, never to come up again.
In 2013, there started to be odd rumors of Hrithik having a serious relationship with his co-star Kangana Ranaut. This is a bit of a miss-matched couple, Kangana presented herself as very forward thinking and feminist and artistic. Meanwhile, Hrithik was solidly mainstream, family oriented, with a small close group of friends from within the industry. There were no photos of them together, they didn’t even seem to have friends in common, and Hrithik was still married, and yet the rumors persisted. (full Kangana and Hrithik discussion is on this post)
And then, those rumors were over-shadowed by the sudden shocking announcement that Hrithik and Sussanne were separated. There was no spin, there was no PR game, Hrithik just put out a statement saying he still loved her but their marriage was over. The next year, after all the formalities were completed, they were officially divorced. This is probably the biggest divorce to hit Hindi cinema. Hrithik is a big star, yes, but more than that he and Sussanne were a power couple. We knew their love story, we knew their faces, we had 14 years of adorable loving couple photos. They were a love match, and love matches were supposed to last forever. Even Hrithik’s announcement treated it as a love match, it ended with love as much as it had started with love.
This is my greatest tribute to love. Sussanne is and always will be the love of my life for the rest of my life. If her smiles are brighter without me my love for her must accomplish that. Unconditional.https://www.facebook.com/hrithikroshan/posts/this-is-my-greatest-tribute-to-love-sussanne-is-and-always-will-be-the-love-of-m/10152036758359407/
Hrithik and Sussanne broke new ground in their marriage (a brand new top hero choosing to marry his Muslim long time girlfriend just as his career was starting), and then broke new ground in their divorce as well. They have refused to become enemies, or let anyone paint them as enemies. Hrithik is still part of Sussanne’s larger family and she is part of his. They are constantly together as parents of their sons, even vacationing together. They socialize together, they are photographed together, the only difference is that they are no longer legally tied together and they no longer live together. And neither of them has made any serious move towards a new marriage. Or even a new public relationship.
No one knows why Hrithik and Sussanne divorced, but it seems to have been coming for a while. As early as 2012, Hrithik was giving interviews related to the release of Agneepath that revealed severe emotional distress. He said it was because of a painful back injury he suffered during filming which confined him to bed for weeks and lead to depression, but it sounded like more than that. With the divorce coming shortly after, it makes me wonder what was happening in his life that made him able to relate to the pain of his Agneepath character, that brought that pain forth onscreen?
His physical pain continued into 2014, post-divorce, when he suffered another traumatic injury during the filming of Bang Bang. Bang Bang is a fun action film, and during one water stunt Hrithik dived head first into water and came out with a banged up head and a headache. The on set doctor checked him out, it appeared to be nothing. But the pain persisted and a few days later he finally had brain imaging done and they found massive bleeding on the brain. Emergency surgery followed and within weeks, Hrithik was back to forcing himself to do his own stunts.
Hrithik’s main source of stardom has always been his body. He brought on the era of the 6-pack, the gym body superhero. And his dancing set him apart since childhood. And now, he is aging, and his body is breaking. He hasn’t had a real big dance number since 2014 and the brain injury. He started out with a loving family, a devoted girlfriend, and a body that was a gift from God. He lost Sussanne, he is losing the body, and now he is also losing the family.
Thanks to Kangana making it public, we now know both that Hrithik’s father is dying and his sister is mentally ill. Through out the marriage to Sussanne it was rumored that part of the problem was Hrithik’s closeness with his family. They lived in the same building, Hrithik worked with his father, they spent all their time together. With this new information, I look at that with new eyes. Rakesh is sick now, recently. But he was shot and almost killed before Hrithik was married. Hrithik would surely have the normal human reaction of fear and considering what his world would look like without his father in it since then. And if Sunaina is fragile in some way, that would be another reason to stay close to home and worry about being there for the family. Sunaina has been married twice and has one daughter who chose to live with her father (while remaining close with the Roshan’s as well). Both marriages love marriages, both ending with her returning to the family home. Along the way her weight has yo-yo’d up and down, and she has survived cancer and meningitis. I can’t begin to guess what she is like as a person or what kind of concerns might haunt her family related to her, but the bare facts of her life make me think she is a person those who love her will spend much energy trying to protect her. Here’s a quote from an old interview with Sunaina which I find revealing of both her and how Hrithik feels about her:
Duggu (Hrithik) often says that he likes it when I tell my family on the phone that I love them. Life is so uncertain, so I believe in telling the people I love, that I love them. You never know, they may not be around the next time you want to tell them so…http://www.savvy.co.in/article/i-believe/hrithik-roshan39s-sister-sunaina-roshan39s-spirited-battle/11961
So that’s Hrithik. On the one hand, handed a dream debut by his father, born with a beautiful talented body, an overnight star. On the other hand, broken marriage, broken body, broken family.