Aamir Khan is an unconventional superstar. Despite a dream debut as a chocolate loverboy in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak in 1988, he tried his best to not get trapped in an image. Though QSQT wasn’t exactly his first film, but it was the first time Bollywood fans saw Aamir as a potential superstar.
By the end of 1990, he had five more releases. Out of them, Dil worked and he became a force to reckon with.
Since then, every year he started delivering at least one major success. Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin (1991), Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar (1992), Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (1993), Rangeela (1995), Raja Hindustani (1996), Ishq (1997), Ghulam (1998) and Sarfarosh (1999) turned him into a reliable brand.
The year 2000 was the only one in which he couldn’t come up with a commercially successful film. Mela released that year did not do well.
The next year turned out to be the gamechanger for him and the Hindi film industry. Khan’s Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai served Bollywood really well.
While Lagaan gave international exposure to Bollywood, Dil Chahta Hai demonstrated the audience’s changing tastes in films and pop culture.
By now, Aamir Khan had become a marketing expert. His content was well packaged and was pushed by smart marketing.
Both Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai had shown how Aamir Khan was tapping the popular beat.
It was the time when his major competitors were struggling with aging body and weren’t ready to commit to roles other than romantic ones.
Aamir Khan was continuously taking risks. . His moustache and long hair in Mangal Pandey The Rising (2005) made headlines. It was a smart ploy to keep the film in news. Not many actors before him had done anything similar.
His appearances on public platforms along with social activist Medha Patekar brought the spotlight to Rang De Basanti (2006). Simultaneously, the success of these films at the ticket window was also strengthening his position as a star.
He was creating the image of a thinking person’s star. It was in tandem with the changing social scenario. The country was getting younger and needed a hero who could address their issues. New technological advancements were attracting the youth and somebody needed to incorporate the popular traits of youngsters into a role. Aamir Khan decided to be that guy.
His unemployed, scared of the world but rebellious DJ immediately struck a chord with the youngsters. He was their star.
Surprisingly, he didn’t repeat any of this in Taare Zameen Par (2007) and chose a totally different story. A lot was on stake for him, but he was a reliable brand by then. Taare Zameen Par turned out to be a hit.
He gradually became a shrewd businessman with Jaane Tu Yaa Jaane Na (2008, producer), Ghajini (2008), 3 idiots (2009), Peepli Live (2010), Dhobi Ghat (2011) and Delhi Belly (2011, producer).
From shocking the audience with his physical transformation in Ghajini to roaming around in different cities under heavy make-up, he always knew what he is out there to sell. He always made these films about himself and how he has always produced good content. In a way, he projected himself as the common man. One who understands what the youth wants.
He reaped the benefits of his hard work over the years in Dhoom (2013) and PK (2014). Mega success of these films gave him the idea of going beyond what is in sight.
He had already captured the Indian market. He had a sizeable presence in the overseas, but there was one country which was overlooked.
Though China was already an important market for Hollywood, the Hindi film industry never took it seriously. In fact, no big producer thought of penetrating that market which boasts of a huge number of theatres.
China has a quota of foreign films releasing every year, but it was waiting for Dangal to take Indian films seriously. Aamir Khan realised the potential because 3 Idiots and PK had done well there. He already had a footing there.
But, Dangal turned out to be an unprecedented success. It took China by storm and earned more than Rs 1850 crore there. No Indian film had ever seen such a number. Nobody even had dreamt of it.
Such is his popularity in China that Secret Supertar, which has Aamir in a cameo, earned ten times more money in China than India.
He is now looking towards markets like Taiwan and Hong Kong which are not big for Hollywood movies but can contribute significantly to Indian films. In a way, it’s the beginning of Aamir Khan’s authority on the key Asian markets.
If it happens then he will be a parallel force to Hollywood biggies in this part of the world. Who knows, Aamir Khan might be planning for it with Thugs Of Hindostan.