The man, the meeting, the meaning: How I Met Hrithik Roshan at IIFA 2014

DuFan Sonja may be a relatively new entrant to the hallowed halls of his admirers, but that does not dim her fervour. To each of us, he signifies something different. Each of us draws a different kind of strength from this man we so admire. And each of us will have a different perspective on meeting him. This is one of them.

Early in 2013, I came across Jodhaa Akbar on Netflix and decided to give it a try. Growing up in the Caribbean, I never watched many Bollywood movies but I knew who Aishwarya Rai was. I didn’t know the male lead in the movie but was startled by his unbelievable good looks – the only other human being I had ever seen who was in my gorgeous Mum’s class of beauty! I decided to google him, and this is how I discovered Mr. Hrithik Roshan.

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I absolutely loved Jodhaa Akbar, and an Indian friend at work was only too happy that I was finally discovering the joy of Bollywood movies. She started sending me links to Hrithik’s YouTube interviews and performances, and as a birthday present gave me the DVD of a popular Hrithik movie, Zindagi na Milegi Dobara. I loved this movie too and was now hooked. I followed him on Twitter and from there I discovered a whole online world of HR fandom. I was never one to be bowled over by “celebrity” status, so I just stayed in the sidelines and quietly observed. I looked up his filmography and started working my way through his movies. Some movies I loved, others not so much, and some of them I still haven’t seen. But one common element remained – I started becoming less interested in the roles he played and more interested in learning about the human being behind the roles.

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From his Twitter persona as well as the interviews I continued to see on YouTube, I became more and more impressed. I enjoyed hearing the philosophies of life that he espoused. Here was someone who had overcome his own obstacles to achieve tremendous success, and who seemed determined to use that fame to impact people’s lives in a positive way. From my own perspective, his dedication to fitness certainly inspired me – I have become a huge fan of Kris Gethin’s killer workouts (his one-time trainer) and am in the process of becoming much fitter and healthier.

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In January 2014, he hosted a live shoppable hangout on Google Plus – scheduled to occur in the early morning hours here in the USA. I dutifully set my alarm, awakened at the appointed hour and logged in to the interview – after all, what was a loss of sleep compared to my first and probably only chance to see Hrithik do ANYTHING live! Little did I know that one month later, an announcement would come that he was going to perform at the IIFA awards in Tampa Bay. I got excited but at first my attendance didn’t seem likely –none of my friends or family were interested in joining me and I didn’t feel keen to go on my own to the show and to a city I didn’t know. I thought it over for all of one night. Fear of the unknown had never stopped me from doing anything before, so why should this be any different? I bought my ticket, made the travel arrangements, and waited excitedly but anxiously for April to arrive. When the time came, I nervously packed my bag and headed to Tampa solo.

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I was excited to be in the same city as he was and wondered if I could get a sighting of him in Tampa. I had seen pictures of the crowds outside his downtown hotel and knew that I would be uncomfortable with that kind of crush. I thought I would try instead to go earlier to the show and get a good spot to see his green carpet arrival, so I got ready and headed to the Stadium at 3pm. Clearly I had no previous experience of the dedication of Bollywood fans. When I got there, the crowd was already about one hundred strong, with some having arrived since 10.30am that morning! The sun was blazing down, there was no shade and it was HOT. I stood there for all of two minutes before heading back to the hotel. This was definitely not my kind of scene. I was not one to be “celebrity-struck” and I didn’t want an attempt at a fleeting, distant glance of Hrithik to spoil my enjoyment of the show itself. Perhaps I just wasn’t as devoted a fan as I thought I was.

At around 7pm I headed back to the Stadium. I made my way to the entrance to my section, only to meet crowds of people milling around – the gates had not yet been opened. I decided to take a walk to where the green carpet was located – if I had to wait around anyway, I might as well wait on the fringes of the excitement! I saw the green carpet in the distance and stopped alongside the road that led up to it. The people who were congregated there told me that the cars heading to the carpet would have to drive this way. The crowd was about 5 people deep and I casually took my place at the back, enjoying the excited atmosphere. I didn’t realize that, little by little, as people left or changed spots, I was getting pushed forward. Suddenly, in amazement, I saw the barrier in front of me and realized I was somehow now in a front position.

But in a front position to see what, exactly? As the big names started passing us in their cars, they hardly deigned to lower their windows, let alone alight from their vehicles (Vivek Oberoi and Priyanka Chopra being impressive exceptions). It started getting later and darker and I could see the stadium seats filling up in the distance. My family was sending me anxious texts asking if I was planning to go in soon, worried both about my safety in the dark and if someone would take my seat. Even the crowds around me started thinning as people headed into the stadium to await the start of the show. I decided to remain for a while longer and kept scanning the darkened windows that passed me for any sign of that classic profile that I knew I would recognize, but nothing.

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Then suddenly, the girl next to me whom I had befriended clutched me hard. About 10 feet away from us stood Hrithik Roshan. In his usual classy manner, he had unobtrusively alighted from his car and was making his way down my side of the road, quietly greeting fans and shaking hands. I made a conscious decision to put my iPhone away, determined to fully experience this very unexpected moment rather than trying to record it. Together with my new friend, I jumped up on the barrier and waited. Everything was incredibly silent and then, all of a sudden, he was in front of me. I remember a handsome face, light (but tired) eyes, a slightly bowed head and a little smile. He shook my hand and continued down the line. I recovered my senses in time to call out to him, “bless you”. He looked back, smiled and said “thank you”. I lost sight of him, sent some insanely excited texts to my family, and finally headed inside the stadium to await his performance.

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Seeing Hrithik Roshan in real was something I will never forget. As the award show would not be televised for a few months, I made an effort to take some videos that I could share with other HR fans around the world who were eagerly awaiting updates. I screamed my head off every time he came on stage, and thoroughly enjoyed his performances. But intensifying the enjoyment of all of that was the feeling that I had been well and truly blessed. Not by shaking Hrithik’s hand – despite the tendency of some to elevate him to God-like status, I see him as a human being no different to any of us in that he is on his life journey, having his experiences, meeting his challenges, facing his trials, and (in his own words) trying to “live the best life possible, come what may”. No, what I felt blessed by was the potent reminder of one of the core philosophies that has always guided me through the years on my own journey – that we have ALL the power within us to create whatever we want in our lives. To Hrithik Roshan I was undoubtedly just another faceless hand that he shook that day – but for me, universal forces aligned to give me an unexpected and delightful experience that I wanted but never thought would come my way. I may never get a chance to see him again, but on both a physical and a philosophical level, the joy of this experience will stay with me always.

Contributed by : Sonja (Twitter.com/Sonja_Tee)

 

7 comments

  1. WattsLA says:

    Sonja,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I think you are a very courageous young lady, and I’m sure your parents are justifiably proud of you. Like you I became a fan of Mr. Roshan’s after seeing Jodhaa Akbar, the difference is I went looking for history after visiting India. I was born in India and left when I was sixteen, after 45 years I went back and I found my home again. During this search I found Mr. Roshan who embodies everything I have believe being Indian to be.
    The story of your experience and his response to you has just confirmed all my beliefs in my Indian roots. Congratulations, on your marvelous experience. I hope your life is always filled with the same philosophy he seems to have “…follow your instincts and your dreams with courage and conviction.

    Good luck with everything you do.

    WLA

    • Sonja says:

      Thank you very much for your very kind and touching words. I have been so surprised by all of the incredible responses I have received to my little story! I deeply appreciate your good wishes, and in return I hope that your life too will be always filled with universal blessings.

  2. dentist omneya says:

    I have asimilar story … but i haven’t met hrithik yet … I wish He could visit Egypt one day … He has a big fan here !

  3. Poly says:

    Beautiful story, totally loved it.
    Thank you so much for sharing Sonja :D

  4. sheban123 says:

    Hi Sonja :) ) Titanic Queen here! Kudos for your beautifully constructed essay on you Tampa experience and meeting Hrithik. As you already know Christine Fain was at the same event and was lucky enough to have Hrithik sign her Jodhaa Akbar DVD. My journey into Bollywood and Hrithik is much the same as yours. I started with Jodhaa Akbar with the recommendation of Indian friends of mine who have several restaurant businesses in my nearest city. So a little over 6 months ago, recovering from surgery, and bored out of by mind laid up in bed I put in the first Disc of the deluxe set I bought on Ebay. Living in rural Australia I don’t have access to Hindi cinema or a Hindi DVD shop and this is the only way I can buy them. Right from the opening scenes, the soundtrack and initial credits I somehow knew I was going in be in for a treat. By the end of the first disk I was engrossed in the story and it’s incredibly sumptuous costumes & settings. Intermission…well, that allowed me to put the kettle on and have a cuppa as I though about the actors involved. The chemistry of the two leads was completely outstanding.The fact that they were surrounded by excellent character actors just made the movie an even more pleasurable experience for the viewer. Coffee over, now for disc two!! Now hubby was interested! :) )He sat next to me and watched the second half of the movie. Then came the question>who are these two? Meaning Hrithik & Aish. My reply to him was: ‘How would I know’? When disc two was finished: ‘I’ll find out’!(^_^)Then the hunt was on to find out more, and just like you it began with the internet and finally Twitter and finding out that their was en entire movement devoted to Hrithik and his movies. My knowledge base was slowly building with the help of the legion of Hrithikian fans out there in cyberspace, and much like you wanted to know more behind the man. That lead me to watch his many interviews,study his filmography,and aspects of his personal life. The hardships,the joys and challenges that have been part of his 40 year life. and how he has risen to the occasion to overcome them. I have said this before, and on his Twitter account as well. I never thought someone much younger than myself could ever teach me much, because as a nurse who has attended returning wounded soldiers from Vietnam I have pretty much seen it all. So I am pretty hard boiled when it comes to life. Recently I watched a video of Hrithik at his fathers 64th & more recently his speech during his sister Sunaina’s book launch. This was a guy that had no fear in displaying affection,emotion and outright love. He is the same to his fans. I myself have difficulty in being this way as I am introverted and have been this way since childhood. What Hrithik has shown me is a way of having the courage to open up, give that smile, say those words, embrace & give those hugs. THAT is what this man has taught me……at 62 year of age. Salute to you young man and never ever stop what you are doing!

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