Mathematician Anand Kumar, with his path-breaking Super 30 programme, made a massive difference to the lives of underprivileged kids wanting to learn.

The inspiring story of how he went from humble beginnings to becoming a globally-renowned educationalist who helped countless youngsters battle against the odds is brought to life in uplifting film Super 30.

Hrithik Roshan has transformed himself to play Anand Kumar in a film that already looks as if it will inspire, entertain and make a big difference to society.

The popular star returns to the big screen after two and a half years with a film he is clearly proud of. Eastern Eye caught up with Hrithik to talk about the Super 30 journey, his school days and master plan going forward.

Today, how are you selecting film projects you do?
I believe that the process has remained the same for me. Right from the start of my career, the script of the project has been extremely important and till date, it serves as the significant criteria before I sign any film. Simple as that.

Tell us, do you get nervous before a movie release?
Honestly, I try not to get disappointed with the results of any of my movies at the box office. I try and do my best in all my roles and after a while, you get a sense of awareness, you develop a sort of sixth sense that prepares you for the outcome too, which I think has helped give me peace of mind regardless of how a movie fares.

What did you like about Super 30?
It’s the real-life story of a man who fought against the odds to work for those 30 children year after year. Anand Kumar’s story inspired me, and I wanted to be a part of this journey, spreading his message to a larger audience. I hope this film inspires underprivileged children who get the motivation to work hard and succeed in life despite difficult circumstances.

Were you aware of Anand Kumar’s story beforehand?
He is one of the most celebrated mathematicians in the country and anyone must be living under a rock to be unaware of his renowned Super 30 institute. I was certainly aware of his credentials, but it was only after I read the script that I realised his incredible journey behind setting up the institute. The film is an accurate reflection of his trials and tribulations and playing his character on screen was an experience of a lifetime.

Tell us about Super 30 and the character you play?
I portray the role of Anand Kumar, an Indian maths wizard who founded this supremely successful coaching institute, Super 30. Each year the institute inducts 30 underprivileged, but academically-bright students and provides them free coaching to train them to face India’s toughest entrance examinations – to gain admission to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). The film brings to light his struggles and the challenges as he tried to set up this institute.

What was the biggest challenge of playing this role?
One of the biggest challenges was to get the mannerism of the character right; the way he talks and his body language. As I have never played a teacher on screen before, I had to understand the nuances of classroom teaching and interacting with students. It was an amazing experience and I had a blast shooting for the film, though.

Hrithik Roshan with Anand Kumar

Tell us, how much did you interact with Anand Kumar while constructing the character?
Anand Kumar has been a part of the process since the inception of the film. I feel honoured that he considered me capable of portraying him on screen. I watched videos of him and used them as a case study to understand how he teaches and how he talks to his family members. I also met him six or seven times in Mumbai to have discussions with him. Anand sir kindly shared anecdotes from his life, which helped me assess where he is coming from and how I could portray that on screen. His life is inspirational and there is a lot I have learned from his journey.

What did you learn?
As I mentioned earlier, I have never played the character of a teacher on-screen and trying to get the part right was tricky, but helped me learn and grow as a person. Anand Kumar’s story has reinstated my belief in the power of hard work towards achieving success in life.

Is it fair to call this an entertaining film that is also inspirational and will make a difference to the society?
Yes, absolutely. The film is entertaining and inspirational. Since the start of the movie, Vikas sir (director) was pretty firm of the view that he wanted to keep it as real as possible. The film has romance, drama, comedy and dance; but I am sure wh-en audiences will watch the film they will realise that every sequence of the film is contributing to the story of Anand Kumar.

Who are you hoping connects most with this film?
The film is an underdog story and has the ability to strike a chord with each and every member of the audience irrespective of their age or nationality. What Anand Kumar has achieved is no ordinary feat and despite encountering countless struggles on the way, he has continued spreading education and enlightening lives.

How do you feel about the issues covered in the film and did it affect you in any way?
The film covers issues of inclusivity and equal opportunity, which are constitutionally guaranteed rights to Indian citizens. It inspired me in ways I couldn’t even fathom, for Anand Kumar is an ordinary man with his own struggles and yet he chooses to make 30 kids a part of his family each year and works extremely hard for their upliftment and wellbeing. His selflessness and humility are my key takeaways from playing his role and I wish to incorporate them into several aspects of my own life.

Which teacher inspired you most as a kid?
All my teachers inspired me in different ways. I learned so much from each one of them, not just about academics, but also about life. I still feel I am a student as I continue the process of learning from people around me.

What were you like as a student?
I was born with an extra thumb fused with my right thumb, which made me the centre of unwanted attention and I faced bullying in school. School and college were like hell for me. Back then, due to my stutter, I used to think of myself as weak – someone who is not capable, not equal and not normal – and kids, as sweet as they are, can also be quite mean unintentionally. Not having enough information or education was the problem, and not the stutter itself. Awareness is what we need.

A lot of the young generation look up to you; what important life lesson would you tell them?
I think we all should look at life objectively and view it just as a journey. Even in our struggles, there’s a lot to learn. Do not feel disempowered by the situations in your life. Take such situations positively. They are there to serve a purpose and are there to teach you something.

Today, what inspires you the most?
One of the greatest inspirations is my mom, Pinky Roshan. She has dedicated her life to the family and she is so happy with it. She deserves the world and doesn’t even know it.

It seems that even after all these years, you still don’t seem to have got used to the global fame; what keeps you so grounded?
I don’t consider myself as an ambitious person. ‘Famous’ is something I never thought of. I had to survive and there was a lot of fear in me. I had many barriers in front of me when I was thinking of becoming an actor. That fear is what drove me. The fear inspired me to fly higher than I could imagine. I don’t feel famous on a normal day when I am at home. I work 300 days in a year – either in the hot sun, eating bland food, breaking bones or in pain all the time. I spend the rest of my year with my family, so it is just a few times in a year that I feel like a star, maybe 10 -12 days. In my head, I am a normal person who is the breadwinner for his family and gives his 100 per cent while doing his job, which is acting.

What is the master plan going forward?
For the past couple of years, in my personal life, I have tried to step out of my comfort zone and do things I otherwise wouldn’t. Even in terms of my career, the goal is to keep taking risks, pushing the boundaries and rediscovering myself through the choice of roles I play on screen.

Is there one dream role you haven’t played, but would like to?
I don’t have a dream role. I like getting surprised. I would like to do challenging roles, something that I haven’t imagined for myself.

If you could learn and master something new, what would it be?
I would love to direct a film, which is a dream I have nurtured since the start of my career. Coming from a family of directors and knowing a bit about the work that goes into making a film, it would be quite natural for me to take to direction.

Why should we watch Super 30?
Super 30 is the journey of a man who has fought all odds. The film also talks about the power of education to usher in a silent revolution and bring about generational change. It is the best bet to beat poverty and help build an egalitarian society by giving the deserving their due and rewarding merit. I believe you should watch the film as Anand Kumar’s journey will inspire people to work hard and do good for themselves as well as others.

What is your message for your fans?
As my film Super 30 says, ‘Misaal bano. Haqdaar bano’. Be an inspiration to others and work hard to achieve what rightfully belongs to you.

Super 30 is in cinemas now