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Source : https://www.femina.in/celebs/indian/in-conversation-with-aamir-khan-108402.html
 


Aamir Khan


Being emotional can have many repercussions. Losing at poker is just one of them. Consummate actor-producer Aamir Khan in his interaction with Femina editor Tanya Chaitanya talks about his fears, failings, fallings and how he uses them to his advantage. Take notes, quite a few lessons to be learned here. 

First things first, Aamir Khan is not perfect. Smoking a cigar, in his rugged Thugs Of Hindostan persona with ear and nose piercings that are reminiscent of Jack Sparrow’s rake-like appeal; our cover boy has just trended for an entire day post a mere SM reveal of the film. But he is not perfect. Amazingly enough, not only does he like that sentiment, he echoes it. (More on that later.) 

Since we are talking about imperfections here, our interview starts three hours late. Aamir is apologetic, explaining that his return flight from Italy into Mumbai was the reason for the delay. I settle down in his sea-facing office in Bandra as he puts his feet up, prepares a cigar (after checking if I’m okay with him smoking) and takes on the volley of questions. 
 

Aamir Khan


The man sitting in front of me is a superstar in India and an equally huge star in China (his PK, 3 Idiots and Secret Superstar broke quite a few records in our neighbouring nation) and could just be the peace ambassador for Sino-Indian ties. His cinema combines entertainment with social impact (Dangal shattered gender stereotypes, PK was a satire on religious dogmas and both 3 Idiots and Taare Zameen Par took down the country’s flawed education system). His Paani Foundation has done phenomenal work in teaching watershed management to 75 drought-hit talukas in Maharashtra.

“It’s not that I don’t have fears. It’s just that they don’t stop me from doing what I want to do.”

For now though, Aamir is fully immersed in his new movie Thugs Of Hindostan. In fact, he laughs at his single-minded motivation and reveals that his wife Kiran brought it up one day. “Kiran told me that she has finally come to terms with the fact that I’m not interested in them. She said, ‘You are with us but you’re not fully with us; your film is all-consuming for you and we don’t really matter. We don’t exist for you.’ She was not angry, it was an observation. She said, ‘I am not sure I want you to change. Because if you change you won’t be who you are. I like the look on your face when you’re absorbed in something you like.’ So I thought about it and realised that she is right. If there is a crisis I am able to drop my work instantly for people who are close to me personally. But then you don’t have to wait for a crisis to happen to give your full attention to your family. On a daily basis Kiran is totally focussed on our six-year-old son, Azad, I am not. That’s not my instinct. My instinct is to be excited about what I am doing unfortunately (chuckles). That’s the truth and that’s me.”

Post that home-truth session with Kiran though, Aamir in signature style, scheduled a daily 6 pm to 8 pm slot for his son Azad. “I am so lost in my films that if I don’t put a slot to it I won’t spend time with him. By and large 70 per cent of the time I stick to that schedule. I read to him before he goes to bed; we take a shower together, eat dinner together. It’s been a year since we started this. No, I am not a hands-on father but around when I’m required. Like when Kiran wanted three weeks off to write a film, I was a single parent in that time.”
 

Aamir Khan


Circling back to his current obsession Thugs of Hindostan, he talks about why this film may stand out in his filmography. “This is perhaps the only time in my career that I have selected a film based on the character; that’s how much I fell in love with the character Firangi. Basically, he is a self-serving, selfish mercenary who will sell his own mother for money. His only redeeming quality is that he is funny. In fact, there is a line in the film which describes him the best where he says, ‘Jab tak kisi ka bharosa jeet na lo, use dhoka nahin de sakte.’ I am hoping he is likeable in the end.”

There is a lot of conjecture around the movie being based on Philip Meadows Taylor’s 1839 novel Confessions of a Thug. Aamir negates it: “Thugs is a conventional, mainstream film which is essentially a revenge story. It’s not based on any book and is not historically accurate to the Thuggy period. The movie is a work of fiction.” 

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ask him if he knew 30 years ago when his debut film as lead Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak was about to release, if he had any clue of the superstardom that would follow. He chuckles, “I had no idea. I was just thinking that the film that we’ve made (QSQT) has so many flaws in it, I could see mistakes in my performance and I wished we could have done things better.”

In an irony of sorts, for a man who shuns most awards, his first film Holi (in which he had a cameo) had won the National Award for cinematography. “Holi was before QSQT but it never released as a film. Most people saw it on TV because it won a National Award. The rule may be applicable today too. Any film which wins a national award has to be shown on Doordarshan. I wasn’t playing a lead in that; I was one among 30 kids.”

Aamir Khan

After QSQT came Raakh, an experimental film, the first among many such unconventional, off-mainstream choices. What makes Aamir this fearless? He disagrees. “It’s not that I don’t have fears. It’s just that my fears don’t stop me from doing what I want to do. They just make me more alert. I am aware that what I am doing is experimental and may not succeed; I was aware of the kind of challenges that lay ahead of us with Lagaan, Sarfarosh, Dil Chahta Hai, Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par, and Dangal but creatively I wanted to go ahead so the fear never stops me from doing what I want. The fear keeps me on my toes.”
“Filmmaking is all about being alive in the moment. It doesn’t matter how much I prepare for it.”
Since he is known as an openly emotional man, what’s he like in love? “I am a very sentimental person. And I think I’m quite a romantic but that you’ll have to ask Kiran that. The fact is that I love surprising her. I remember on her 40th birthday she wanted to celebrate with her family and friends; people she has known for years, those who were in college with her. So she wrote to all of them asking them to plan something for her 40th. I wrote to all of them separately and told them to make some excuse. All her friends wrote back to her with fancy excuses and they all copped out. Including her parents. Naturally, she was upset. I told her Azad and I will take her somewhere special. I knew she had always wanted to go to this one place in Assam. Without her knowing, I booked the place for 40-50 of her friends. So we flew in from Mumbai to Kolkata and then from Kolkata we were to fly to Guwahati. Now in the second leg of the journey I had chartered a plane and all her friends and family were already waiting in it. So when we took the connecting flight (for her it was a connecting flight from Kolkata), as she entered it was empty since everybody had ducked behind the seats. That’s when they all jumped up and surprised her. We spent a few blissful days in Assam.”

In our conversation Aamir talks about how he is hugely influenced by his mother, cousin Nuzhat, sisters Nikhat and Farhat, his first wife Reena and now Kiran--women who he says are strong and have inspired him in many ways. Our talk veers towards his children from his previous marriage (Junaid and Ira), who he believes are more like friends. “With Ira and Junaid, both of whom I’m close to, the relationship is not a typical father-child one but of friends. They rarely come to me for advice but sometimes Ira does. Yet she takes her own decisions and is quite confident about them.”

Aamir Khan

Do they discuss everything? Boyfriend/girlfriend issues? “I think it’s a beautiful feeling to fall in love and I think Ira is old enough to decide that for herself. She is 19 years old now. And my advice to both Junaid and her is that there should be love, trust, faith and honesty in any relationship; that is all that is needed.”

For somebody who has been seen as a feminist, Aamir’s take on the wage gap that exists in the industry comes with a business perspective yet not without a solution. “Payment is market-driven. According to me, a producer would pay a large amount of money to people who can fill seats. Sometimes it is a director, sometimes a writer (Salim-Javed in their time commanded and got more than actors) but it is the ability to fill seats that would decide their remuneration. The fact is that at this point the male stars happen to be bigger draws. It is unfortunate that we don’t have huge female stars who on their own could sell megafilms; there are a few like Deepika, Kangana, and Alia but when we compare them to Salman, SRK or Hrithik among the top 4-5 actors, I don’t know if any solo film of theirs could match. It is all related to the box-office potential of the person.”

Doesn’t representation matter? The creator of Dangal and Secret Superstar (both films with feminist ideology) offers his perspective. “This may be the reality of today but the fact is that the reality of today is a result of the conditioning. We have been brought up with stories of male heroes. In children’s stories, it is Chhota Bheem who is the hero; Motu-Patlu are the male protagonists. We are essentially a patriarchal society and that impacts how we represent women. It is very rarely that we show a girl as the lead who we look up to. The reason why the top 7-8 stars in the industry are all male is because our audience is conditioned by patriarchy to look up to male heroes. Let’s build up women heroes and start it early. Change will not happen overnight.”

Aamir Khan

Logic that cannot be faulted. However, I am now traversing towards tricky territory. I ask him about his studied approach towards acting as opposed to the spontaneity of some of his counterparts and he is quick to defend: “As an actor I certainly put in a lot of homework into each role; and people have a misconception of what is spontaneous. You’ve seen Charlie Chaplin films and the world over audiences will say that he is very spontaneous. Are you aware that he used to do 300 rehearsals before he took any shot? He really rehearsed it to the T. Spontaneity is not in not preparing and then without preparing whatever I did is spontaneous. Because what you did is terrible. The idea is to do it well. I feel a lot of creative people are lazy; and sometimes they are scared ki yeh shot kaise hoga. Arre arre nahin main kar loonga wahin par. Phatak se kuch kar liya aur haan yeh achha lag raha hai. Toh usko hum spontaneous bolte hain. Aur usko hum credit dete hain; humko usko credit nahin dena chahiye. Credit usko dena chahiye jisne bhale ek rehearsal kiya ho hazaar baar par shot perfect hai aur lagta spontaneous hai. Like Charlie Chaplin’s every shot looked like it was done the first time. That is the craft of an actor. Look at Buster Keaton. All his cinematic moments were extremely physical; he could have got hurt while doing them. Like he is standing on top of a building and then he will climb onto a pole, which will fall down from the building and underneath a car will be racing across and he will land in the seat and go off. It needs perfect timing and thousands of rehearsals for it to look spontaneous.”

Aamir’s spirited take on spontaneity versus method takes another form when he talks about improvising. “Filmmaking is all about being alive in the moment. It doesn’t matter how much I prepare for it. For Dangal I prepared for four months before going on set. And however much you plan ahead, something will come up which we have not planned for; the location might make me react differently. In that moment you might actually perform in another way. Even during the making of PK where I had again prepared for three months and knew the lines backwards, something used to trigger off a completely different enactment. It happened at least 10 times in PK that I ended up doing a take which I had not planned. And I feel the more rehearsed you are, the more you can go off in different tangents and still hit the mark. But for that you have to be both rehearsed and ready.”

Aamir Khan

I take my shot. Why doesn’t he like being called a perfectionist? “I’m happy to be called a perfectionist, it is just inaccurate. In a creative space there is no such thing as perfection. I do a particular shot and you may think it’s great; another actor may do the same shot in a totally different way and you may still think it’s great. So which one is perfect? In creativity there are no absolutes. If people think I am a perfectionist, I’m happy that they think I am good but I can’t take that credit. But I try hard to get there.”

For somebody who actively fights the perfectionist tag, Aamir knows he is too emotional. Which is also why he loses at poker, he says poker-faced. “Our annual Diwali party is the only time I gamble and I love it. But I am not good at it as poker needs you to go without emotions. In poker you have to be cut-and-dried, analytical with a high sense of statistics to calculate quickly and bet.”
“I’m happy to be called a perfectionist, it is just inaccurate.”
So what is he like when angry? “I am quite patient so I don’t get angry easily. When I do, I go silent. Suddenly there are steel walls around me. Nobody can get through to me.”

How does he reboot and rid himself of anxieties? “I read.” He shows me a copy of Amitabh Bagchi’s Half the Night is Gone which he just finished. “And I backpack once a year—all alone without security, Man Friday, manager. Right from airport check-in to hotel check-in to cooking to washing clothes, buying stuff to eat—I do it all by myself. As actors we are an indulged lot, these 2-3 weeks alone help me find myself. I sit in cafes, meet new people and do my own thing. It clears my head. Places I’ve visited are Iceland, Hawaii, and Buenos Aires—where there are fewer Indians and less of a chance to be recognised.”

2 Answers

0 votes

Other big stars should learn from him(minus movies like Thugs and Dhoom)....

answered by Second Unit Director (73.8k points)
0

Bhaisaab pehle Thugs ko release to hone do. Pehle hi Dhoom 3 ki category me daal diya.

–2 votes

Mangal Pandey: Thugs of Hindostan is coming to scare this news away. Aamir is going to be hurt badly and so am I. I will get to my toe and so will he...

answered by Set Designer (2.3k points)

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