Crowd pleaser

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Crowd pleaser

He has always been the unconventional Khan and his path-breaking films have never failed to entertain the audiences. RAJIV VIJAYAKAR talks to Aamir Khan about his upcoming release ‘PK’, whose trailer has left many wanting more...

Twenty-six years as a frontrunner is a success parameter that sits casually on this Khan’s shoulders, as his head is firmly and levelly anchored on them. This is despite his extraordinary achievements even vis-à-vis the other superstars.

Aamir Khan’s journey from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak to PK as a star is studded with game-changer films which have had lasting impacts not only on the work ethics of Hindi movies, but also on the common man and society.

His post-1998 resume is in a class of its own — the unique Sarfarosh, the trailblazing Lagaan (his debut production), the uber-fresh Dil Chahta Hai, the daring Fanaa, the famous Rang De Basanti, the first films in the 100 (Ghajini), 200 (3 Idiots) and 300 (Dhoom:3) crore clubs, the breezy blockbuster Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na (as producer) and the well thought-out small-budget revolutionaries Peepli (Live) and Delhi Belly apart from the path-breaking Taare Zameen Par and the intense Talaash.

An unusual take
Will PK further strengthen his hold as the always innovative and daring Khan? Says Aamir, “All my great roles can be placed on one side, with PK on the other! This is my most challenging role to date. In fact, I was so engrossed in the film and my character that when I had to shoot a patch-up sequence for Dhoom:3 in Switzerland just a day after a PK shoot in Rajasthan, I automatically switched to Bhojpuri that I have spoken in this film.”

There is much speculation on the subject of PK and his role in it , and it has been fuelled even more by the promos. Laughs Aamir, “I am an alien, God, drunkard or a man who has lost his memory — so many theories are going around.

And that’s what I think marketing must be all about — it should create a desire to consume a product. That is much more important than telling someone, ‘My film, based on subject X, is releasing on December 19.’ The consumer must be waiting to know when the product will hit the market.”

His equation with Rajkumar Hirani has been strong since 3 Idiots, but for Aamir, his most cherished experience during PK was working with Sanjay Dutt. “He is like a teddy bear, huge and strong, yet somehow who you felt like protecting,” says Aamir,

who also loves Anushka Sharma and Sushant Singh Rajput as people and as actors.
“Of course, Raju (Hirani) is one of the best human beings I have ever met and his films always turn out to be social movements,” he declares.

Aamir also feels that films like Sarfarosh, Lagaan, Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots and PK fell into his lap as a lucky coincidence, and that some of them were never meant for him originally. “Amole Gupte wanted to use my contact with Akshaye Khanna to get him for Taare Zameen Par.

I told him I would help only if I liked the script, as Akshaye was a friend. When I finally read it, I casually asked him why he was not offering it to me, and Amole confessed that he thought that I would not do a subject like this. So it is also not true that I am the first choice for films that change society,” he grins.

He also adds that he never thinks business when signing a new movie, and “must simply want to do the film!” After he comes on board, however, he does suggest the economics, or decides them if the film is to be produced by him. “For Peepli (Live), it would have been stupid to exceed a costing of Rs 4-5 crore.

For Taare Zameen Par, the budget could not have been more than 12 crore, as I knew its potential was 10 to 15 crore and I was even prepared for a small loss. But it did much more business. Also, Talaash was no candidate for the 100 crore film, but I still wanted to do the movie because it is the only one in recent memory that deals with coming to terms with loss. However, maybe because I was in it, Talaash too did a business of 90-plus crore.”

The actor humbly states that a lot of hosannas he earns are for things that thus happen organically. “Lagaan, for example, was just like a wild horse that zoomed to glories like the Oscars and opened new vistas for Hindi cinema. Like all my films to date, I only made it for the Indian audiences, never the international.

And I think that is what got the acclaim. When there is good cinema, language becomes redundant, and so also the settings and characters. You relate to the stories as human beings, like I did to Life Is Beautiful, or the world too did to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Work ethics
Finally, we come to the most important and enduring change that Aamir has brought into India’s filmmaking ethic: the practice of working on one film at a time. “It’s just that I was not comfortable with multiple films,” he smiles mildly.

“Filmmaking has three key stages — pre-production, production or shooting and post-production, and here we were mixing all of them by doing all three for short schedules interrupted by many months. When I suggested to my filmmakers that we should shoot a film in one continuous schedule and with sync sound (which eliminated the need to re-enact the emotions months later in front of a screen in a dubbing theatre) everyone was sceptical, because such things were unheard of over here.”

With justified pride mixed with humour, he quips, “When I launched my first production Lagaan, I finally decided to do things my way. Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra, I remember, even warned me against using sync sound by taking me aside and concernedly putting their arms around me. Today, both use sync sound!”
How has the Aamir Khan of the past changed — if at all — over the decades, or maybe from childhood?

“I was always certain of what I wanted and felt as a kid,” he answers. “A lot of credit for that goes to my parents,” he replies (his father was the late filmmaker Tahir Husain). “Ammi, in particular, was instinctive, caring and strong at the same time. Since becoming an actor, I have loosened up because of many humbling experiences in life.

At one time, I was unforgiving, strict and judgmental with others as much as myself. I had high standards until I did things that I did not like about myself. A big change was Kiran (Rao, his wife) coming into my life. She brought in so much positive energy that the uptight man in me learned to relax.”

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