Creative to the core

Khan kingdom: Not for nothing is Aamir Khan known as Mr Perfectionist. He explains how a good script is what makes him sign a film

Aamir Khan in 'Thugs Of Hindostan' 

On merit, his latest film Thugs Of Hindostan has not been received well, but when did that make a difference to Aamir Khan? A man who has had 30 years as a leading man, becoming bigger with the passage of time, and popularised healthy trends like shooting for one film at a time and insisting on Sync Sound, and also set box-office records in India and globally, has little to fear from one box-office dud, especially since his performance has been appreciated, even by co-star Amitabh Bachchan.

“Amitji complimented me and said that, according to him, it was my best performance, that I had really caught the accent well — he hails from the area in Uttar Pradesh shown in the movie,” says Aamir, with a pleased smile. “He even told me that he will watch the film again just to see how perfectly I have pitched my character of Firangi,” he smiles.

What was his equation with Amitabh Bachchan like? “Oh, I was nervous in the beginning, wondering whether I will be able to perform in front of him. But Amitji’s a very easy, generous and warm-hearted person,” he replies. “The first scene we ever did was the one seen in the trailer in which we are circling each other. I had only two issues: one, that he has such a dry sense of humour that you don’t realise, until you have spent a bit of time with him, whether he is serious or joking, because then the wrong response can create problems!”

And what was the other issue? “I have begun to smoke a pipe now,” he goes on with a laugh. “And I did not know if it would be okay to smoke in front of him!”

So what was his solution? “I asked Shah Rukh Khan for tips!” he grins. “He said that he did smoke when Amitji was around. But he said that if I was still nervous, I should first smoke at a distance and then begin coming a bit nearer every day!” With a broad grin, he adds, “But this conversation was heard by our still photographer Avinash Gowariker, Ashutosh’s brother!”

He continues with a chuckle, “So when we were shooting in Malta and I invited Amitji to watch a movie with me and we went walking to the movie hall, he suddenly asked me about it! It was so embarrassing for me, while he was amused. He told me that Avinash had revealed our conversation. He, however, added that smoking was not good for my health!”

For the record, this was the third time Amitabh and Aamir had been signed for a film together. Of the two aborted projects, one was to be produced by Amitabh’s then-corporate filmmaking company, ABCL. Of course, the senior actor had also given the voiceover for Aamir’s first production, Lagaan.

What did he feel about the initial escalation of ticket rates for the film? “They must be having their reasons, including recovering the huge budgets,” he answers. “See, personally I am always for cheaper tickets and economy theatres — that’s my dream for the cinema-loving people. I will give you an example: did you know how 3 Idiots became so popular in China? It was seen on pirated websites! Now, as a creative person who wants more and more people to see my work, I was very happy. And it mattered little to me that Vinod Chopra was unhappy with the piracy!”

Looking much younger than 53, Aamir says that the secret of his looks lies in his unwinding after the strict diet he was following for Yash Raj Films’ magnum opus! “It is Diwali season and I usually take a break from my diet and fitness programmes, both after completing a film and during the festival. Who diets during Diwali?” he asks.

Aamir had immense pride in the fact that three of his four discoveries from Dangal, Sanya Malhotra, Zaira Wasim and Fatima Sana Shaikh, who also stars in Thugs Of Hindostan, are doing well for themselves. “I intend to catch up with Sanya’s Badhaai Ho and Patakha soon,” he says. “I haven’t done so as I was very busy.”

He has done almost half his few films — four — in the last decade with just two directors, Rajkumar Hirani and Vijay Krishna Acharya. ”It was unplanned. They just happened to offer me something exciting, that’s all. But yes, what you say is right, I never noticed that!”

Would he have accepted this or any other film, whatever the role, just because Amitabh Bachchan was to star in it? “No!” he answers categorically. “The role should excite me, so must the material.”

On his terms

As a general credo, Aamir likes to spend two years on one film. “That way I am in control of the journey, and that is why the work should excite me and there should be people with whom I should get along!”

We move to a discussion about the mutual bonhomie between the Khans. It is said that Aamir was first offered Saare Jahan Se Accha, the Rakesh Sharma biopic, for which he suggested Shah Rukh Khan’s name, as did Salman Khan for Zero.

“I do not know about them, but I am certainly not competitive about Salman or Shah Rukh,” he says. “In fact, I don’t see myself as a star. I don’t live like a star. When Shah Rukh was showing me around his new house, I found his wardrobe so huge and yet organised, and it was as big as my house! Wow, man! I thought. Now, this is a star’s house!”

What is he doing next?

“I am not sure. Shakun Batra has discussed a subject on Osho with me, but I would like to read the script first,” he says. However, just a few days after our interview comes confirmation that he will make his dream project — Mahabharat — as a seven-part web series with different directors, and will play Lord Krishna in it!

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