On being Aamir

On being Aamir

On being Aamir

Known for his thought-provoking roles and films, Aamir Khan may not be your conventional Khan. But his one-film-a-year rule makes his flicks the most awaited ones. The actor talks to RAjiv Vijayakar about his latest release ‘Dhoom 3’ and more...

The Perfectionist is pleased. Dhoom 3 has shaped up as intended, and Aamir Khan, who loved the script when he heard it, calls it “the most challenging role of his 25-year career”, which actually began when Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak released in 1988. Before that, the son of late producer Tahir Husain (Caravan, Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke) and nephew of box-office whiz the late Nasir Husain had acted as a child artiste in his uncle’s Yaadon Ki Baraat, father’s Madhosh and done a small role as an adult in Holi (1984).

Much water has flown under the Aamir Khan bridge since, with blockbusters galore as well as self-made classics like Lagaan and Taare Zameen Par. Dhoom 3 is his second film with Yash Raj Films, though he also acted in Parampara (1993), an outside film directed by Yash Chopra, in whose lifetime Dhoom 3 was launched. “Yashji was a part of the planning process. He would have loved the film too,” he says. “Films like these are universal entertainers, cutting across urban-rural and other divides.”

Playing the villain

We ask whether the role was more demanding than histrionically challenging, because Aamir has done a lot of unprecedented action, learnt tap dancing and more. He nods, but adds, “As an actor too, it was quite challenging. The emotions were intense.”

The demand on his physique included the much written-about 60 spins an hour 40 feet up in the air for the song Malang, for which Aamir needed to take medicines to control nausea. Admitting that he did need medication, Aamir says, “The loop was more risky than the strap. I had to hang upside down. These things are done so effortlessly in a circus. I must say that the team was particular about safety. They did not send me up until I was trained.”

Stating that he was not much into VFX and software, he surmises that they must have enhanced some of the stunts digitally. “But 90 per cent of the shots have been actually done by Katrina Kaif and me,” he says with pride.

Physically, the film was a tougher act that Ghajini, declares the superstar. “There it was about building a big body for brute strength, but here it was about flexibility. From a year before shooting, I had to train, ensure eight hours of sleep and make sure that I had only nine per cent body fat.”

The tap dancing part was another gruelling exercise. “I always wanted to learn tap dancing after watching Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) and Victor (director Vijay Krishna Acharya) came to know of this, and insisted I do the tap dance. Now, the hitch was that it takes two years only to learn basic tap and five years to be really good at it. They hired the top company, Tap Dogs, who are Sydney-based, and who have worked on the animation film Happy Feet to train me — within a month.”

Laughs Aamir: “They came down to India first, but there were too many distractions for my training. So I went to Sydney to train intensively. The beat our composer Pritam has made is heavy and grungy, and faster than classical tap. Considering the time constraints, I have been praised by those who have seen the sequence. And that’s the charm of films — there is something new to learn each time.”

Praising YRF and the team for the meticulous marketing of the film, Aamir says that they have agreed on the “Less is more” credo for the promotions. “We released 30-second promos even of the songs. Otherwise, people come to watch a film after watching its songs 50 times on television and lose interest in the way they have been filmed too. This way, we whet the curiosity level.”

Aamir also says that it is a policy decision not to promote the film on reality shows and sitcoms. “That does not help in a big film where the audience has already decided whether to watch it or not,” he tells you. “It can, however, be a powerful tool for small movies like Peepli [Live], where it can persuade audiences to watch a film without stars and conventional entertainment.”

Aamir surprisingly confesses that he has not watched Dhoom 2. “The first Dhoom was terrific, and I dance to the hook every time I hear it.” he says. He had no qualms about working with Victor, who has written all three films, but whose only directorial outing was the flop Tashan. “I have never looked at such considerations. Ashutosh Gowariker and Zoya Akhtar had only given flops when I signed films with them.

I knew that, like their films, this was one that I simply had to do as an actor,” he replies. However, Aamir would like to clarify that his role is not a negative one. “I am not a classic villain,” he points out. “I am not an Amrish Puri or my character in Fanaa, who is a terrorist and kills people. My character has a back story and has a powerful reason for doing what he does. There is an emotional connect there. The format of the series is always propelled by a new character that Jai and Ali are pursuing.”

Lauding Katrina for being an easy person “who loves chess like me”, he admires her focus. “She has such a great track-record at the box-office, that when I came to know she was my heroine, I knew that this film would be a certain hit,” he quips.

About co-stars

Aamir has praise for Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra too. “Like Katrina, I have also worked with both of them for the first time,” he says. “I called them Yaajood-Maajood, who are fictional characters in tales that my grandmother used to tell us kids. Jai and Ali are the constants — the heroes of the Dhoom series, which is basically known as their adventures. I found both the actors opposite to what they came across — one appeared simple when he was not, the other was the reverse,” grins the actor.

About his super-successful television show Satyamev Jayate, Aamir admits that the second season will take off soon. “We have short-listed some topics,” he says. “But I am not allowed to disclose them.”

Moving to matters closer to him, what his wife Kiran Rao is working on now? “Oh, she is writing a script, but she never shows anything to me till it is complete. And I like it that way,” he says.

Will he do her film if Kiran approaches him? The business-like actor says, “Only if I like the script. The same will apply to my son Junaid, who is now assisting Rajkumar Hirani on our film Peekay and will make films sooner or later.” Peekay, he informs, is complete, but for one song.

Would he like Ira or Azad Rao Khan to join films? “Why not? I would love it if all my kids were in this profession,” he says instantly. We move on to his recent declarations of love and affection for Salman Khan — can competitors really be friends? Even Salman’s father Salim Khan finds that impossible from experience.

Thoughtfully, the actor replies, “I think competitors can be friends. Personally, good work gives me joy, even if it is of others. I want to do very well for myself, but I cannot forget that I am also an audience. Speaking of Salman, he’s our biggest star — he is about true star-power and just has to be on screen to make a film a hit. I do not have that kind of stardom! And I am very fond of him. We became close pretty late, but we really bond well.”

Finally what is his take on the 100 crore club and allegations of fudged figures in so many movies? “It is sad because they are only fooling themselves. I would rather that my films be remembered as good films and that people come out of the movie-hall saying ‘Wow! What a film!’”