As a perfectionist, how do you feel about your performance in "Lakshya"?
I've done films for various wrong reasons. They didn't get me anywhere. The ones that gave me satisfaction as an actor are those that excited me from the outset. So now I know, if I'm not excited from the beginning, the film doesn't work.
And I'm not talking about the box office. My father's two films and "Fiza" have given me the maximum satisfaction. Now there's "Lakshya". It's up there. I never expected "Lakshya" to come out as a performance-oriented film. I've not done anything that's aggressively performance-oriented.
So why do you think your performance is being so widely noticed?
What's great about "Lakshya" is Farhan's narrative supports my performance so well. It translates into a completely new form of filmmaking. All I've done is be completely true to my character. You could say my performance is completely the opposite of "Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon". Farhan gave me absolute freedom to enact my scenes the way I wanted. If in the emotional scene with my father, I wanted to cry, I cried.
There were no set notions on how to handle a scene. There's absolutely no wrong behavior in front of the camera in Farhan's film. The kind of atmosphere he creates is a dream come true for an actor. He expects his actor to be focussed and punctual. All an actor has to do is come on the sets and remember his lines.
Would you say Farhan is the best director you worked with?
I've grown as an actor working with Farhan. He has made me comfortable in front of the camera. I could do exactly what I wanted. I've never been handled like that. Other directors say, 'Be yourself...but don't smile like that'. But that's the way I want to smile! Initially, I was very confused if I was doing okay. There would be no discussion. Farhan trusted me completely as an actor. That's when I realized how he managed those performances in "Dil Chahta Hai".
What do you feel about the criticism of the film?
I feel I'm very close to the film. "Lakshya" isn't a film you can approach with preconceived notions. Farhan's storytelling is very different from the usual. It's so commendable that Farhan took up a subject so different from "Dil Chahta Hai". He's done a fabulous job!
The people who love "Lakshya" love it to the hilt. Speaking for myself, the SMSs are as frequent as during "Koi...Mil Gaya". It's surprising that the same people who liked my in-your-face performance in "Koi...Mil Gaya" like me in "Lakshya". People need to be a little more patient with the film. Everyone has a right to have a say about the film.
I'm happy. Ninety percent of the reviews are positive. A newspaper did a survey of men in uniform in our films. I scored the maximum points. They praised everything from my crew cut hair to my butt (laughs). But I still have a long way to go. Look at the work Shah Rukh Khan has done in 10 years.
Did you prepare for "Lakshya"?
None at all! We did consult books on Kargil. It was important to know the hardships that the soldiers faced. I've to tell you I had to stop reading and just think about what the soldiers had to go through. What tragic tales. My god! It affected me deeply. I knew I had to get this role right. I couldn't let the soldiers' down.
But I thought you always wanted to be an actor!
I didn't know if that was the right decision. I didn't know if I was equipped to be an actor. My dad wasn't sure either. My character's initial indecisiveness is something I completely identified with. For four years of my life I was completely lost about what I wanted to do with my life.
When I asked Farhan about how he wanted Karan Shergil to be played, he said he wanted me to react to the character as I would. I clung to that advice throughout "Lakshya". There's no playing to the galleries. "Lakshya" is my most subtle performance.
"Koi...Mil Gaya" touched on your own traumatized childhood, didn't it?
Yes. Still it was the easiest role in front of the camera. I felt I was one with the character, and was elated. It was like encountering my childhood again. I learnt a lot about myself in "Koi...Mil Gaya". The homework for the role was painful.
To know how the world reacts to a physically challenged child was indeed traumatic. Yes, I don't think any role could get more personal. But "Lakshya" is also personal. I reacted how I would if I, Hrithik Roshan, would be in uniform.
You're so shy in person. How do you play flamboyant characters?
I think every person has an introvert and an extrovert side. I do let my hair down. Though not like my character in "Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon". I could identify more with the flamboyance of my character in "Lakshya" in the first half. If I was goofy I'd be like him.
For the goofy parts, I had to enact the role with a wig. I did say earlier it was my natural hair. You'd be surprised how many people accepted that. Taking the wig off at the end of the day was heaven! I've developed a new sense of respect for our heroines who wear wigs all the time. I'll never again wear a wig.
How was Preity Zinta as a co-star?
I don't tire of saying she's the most positive influence on the sets. A movie set is happier place with her around. She's the best co-star I could ask for. She makes acting easy for me. She isn't a selfish actor. She looks at the film in totality and not just her own performance. In "Koi...Mil Gaya" you can see she wasn't insecure though I had the central role. All our three films so far haven't been about a romantic couple's life. After "Lakshya" I'm told we share amazing chemistry.
Farhan Akhtar offered you a role in "Dil Chahta Hai".
I couldn't do it because I was already committed to other projects. I feel my presence would've destroyed the sleek balance among Aamir, Akshaye and Saif. The fact that "Dil Chahta Hai" came out perfectly proves no other actor belonged to the film. I'd love to be in Farhan's next film. But it's about an eight-year old child. I think I've had my fill of a child in "Koi...Mil Gaya".
Where do you go from here?
I don't know. I'm looking for the right role. I'm aiming for higher goals, greater challenges and triumphant endings. I'm not very ambitious. I'm only bothered about my next move. If every step is my best, I guess I'm happy. I'm not in competition with anyone else. I don't know how people can compare what one actor does in one film with what another actor does in any other film. But unlike Woody Allen, I won't stop going to the awards functions (laughs). It's a prize, an acknowledgement.
What kind of a challenge are you looking at?
Nothing, and everything. I could do a cameo in a film if I like the role. I'm told I give too much to each shot. I won't change that. But I want to have fun as an actor. I want to play "Superman". Frankly, I still feel there're lots of dark areas in my acting. I've a long way to go.
The roles aren't drying up. It's all out there. I've taken the other path: I've done films without optimum excitement. It didn't work. I can afford to take my time now. Except dad's next film, I've nothing on hand. But I'd do another film right away if I get something. I can do 10 if I like them. There are a few projects, but nothing concrete. Eventually, I may take up potentially promising projects and work harder and see how it goes.