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20 years of Kaho Na... Pyaar Hai: How Hrithik Roshan became an overnight star

Actor Hrithik Roshan was thrust instantly into stardom but has had to work hard in the two decades since to retain his status.

Sonal Pandya

The term 'overnight success' is not to be used lightly. There are few in Hindi cinema who become overnight stars with the release of their films. Whether it was Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in Bobby (1973), Kumar Gaurav in Love Story (1981), or Ajay Devgn in Phool Aur Kaante (1991), all of them made their debuts with films that showcased their talents to the fullest.

Twenty years ago, another star arrived in the film firmament to newfound hysteria with the release of Rakesh Roshan’s Kaho Na... Pyaar Hai (2000). It was the filmmaker’s son Hrithik who drew the whistles and applause.

The musical drama contained it all — it was a love story, a revenge saga, and it afforded Hrithik to show off his skills in a double role as the suave NRI Raj and the lovable romantic Rohit.

Audiences went crazy. The Khans had asserted their dominance in the previous decade. But it appeared that the new millennium would belong to Hrithik. His face was on almost all movie magazine covers. The film’s soundtrack, composed by Hrithik’s uncle Rajesh Roshan, was on endless repeat and the television channels couldn’t get enough of Hrithik’s moves in ‘Ek Pal Ka Jeena’.

Hrithik had achieved a feat that happens only once or twice in a decade, when the old guard changes and a star is born. For potential filmmakers, Hrithik was the complete package — he danced beautifully, emoted well, and had solid screen presence.

With Ameesha Patel in Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai

Looking back now, Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai had its flaws, but the film worked as a showreel for its leading man. Ameesha Patel was signed opposite Hrithik, but while she was also accepted by the film industry, she never could achieve the heights her co-star reached.

After Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, Hrithik starred in Fiza (2000) and Mission Kashmir (2000). While he wasn’t the only star in those films (Karisma Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt, respectively, were his co-stars), he was still appreciated in those films. The next year, he appeared in two ensemble films, Subhash Ghai’s Yaadein (2001) and Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001) with Kareena Kapoor Khan.

Hrithik didn’t know how to handle the sudden fame, says Rakesh Roshan on 20 years of Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai

Over the next few years Hrithik’s hits were spaced out. Films like Koi... Mil Gaya (2003), Krrish (2006), Dhoom 2 (2006), Jodhaa Akbar (2008), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) and Agneepath (2012) showed the actor was still in the game, and in 2019 he made a strong comeback with Super 30 and War. In fact, the latter film features much of the swagger of his first film — the ease of his dancing, the smoulder to the camera, and his dedication to his work.

But this was also an older, wiser Hrithik than the one who made his debut in Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai. In a recent video interview with film journalist and critic Anupama Chopra, when Hrithik Roshan was asked about his longevity since his debut, he initially responded, "I have no idea!

"You have to be okay with the fear to last. Otherwise you will burn out and, at some point, keep changing." He later expanded on the ups and downs of his career and the need to change his future and not repeat himself.

It’s a lesson learnt the hard way by an actor who has known the lows of struggle and is thankful to have made it to the other side.