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[FILM] Interview with Aamir Khan

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  • madchinaman
    Aamir Khan : Perfect? Who, Me ? ANURADHA CHOUDHARY http://www.filmfare.com/articleshow/msid-1204194,curpg-1.cms Hey, reason to celebrate. Aamir Khan s back on
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 24, 2005
      Aamir Khan : Perfect? Who, Me ?

      Hey, reason to celebrate. Aamir Khan's back on the screen after a
      four-year hiatus. He's had his reasons for staying away but Mangal
      Pandey marks the end of a break that's unprecedented in his 17-year

      More cause to cheer: he's back with a bang on Filmfare' s pages fter
      nearly a decade.

      We've missed him.

      But here I am now, sitting in his study, watching the rain tap
      vigorously at his window, while he talks on his mobile phone.
      Interviewing him after 10 years is threatening to become an
      emotional moment for me.

      At first glance, there's no sign of the old Aamir Khan. Is that a
      touch of reserve there? Understandable. Also, the familiar long
      tresses have given way to curls (never underestimate the
      significance of a new hairstyle). The Aamir I knew lurks somewhere
      beneath. As we talk, the frost melts away. The boyish charm
      surfaces. But the rapier sharp eyes can still fix you for a query he
      thinks is frivolous. He still has a way of looking at you from under
      his eyelashes, a way of suddenly smiling, his eyes crinkling at the
      corners, that's very, very appealing. And he remains as elusive as

      As he snuggles into his favourite armchair, one leg neatly tucked
      under him, he prepares for the interview. And then he talks. In an
      unconfused manner that is very familiar. He's certainly not the sort
      who'll rush to fill in the silences in a conversation. Yet, in
      between rounds of garam chai and ringing phones, he does opens the
      door, just that wee bit.

      It's been four years since we've seen you in a movie. So what lies
      in store for us?
      (laughs) You should ask what lies in store for me. That's what I'd
      like to know.

      Okay, so what lies in store for you?
      I don't really know. We'll all know on August 12 when Mangal Pandey

      Tell us something about Mangal Pandey and what attracted you to the

      Mangal Pandey is a film about the concept of freedom. About the
      right of every individual to hold his head as high as the next man.
      It's a story about two friends—William Gordon, a British officer,
      and Mangal Pandey, an Indian sepoy.

      What appealed to me was the fact that though it's a period film set
      in 1857, it's very contemporary. What happened then is happening
      now. Then you had the British Empire taking over the world, moving
      into societies and countries, ruling them and exploiting them. Today
      it's the US that's doing it by moving into different places
      economically and socially, exploiting the weaker countries. And
      they're pretending that it's for their good, that it's doing these
      countries a favour.

      1857 was a very interesting period in Indian history. I learnt so
      much about that period through the script. For instance, I didn't
      know opium was one of the main products the East India Company
      traded in and that they had a monopoly. They sold opium to China and
      when the Chinese emperor resisted, they fought wars against him,
      using Indian sepoys. You know, they used to run their own brothels
      for white soldiers to prevent the spread of disease in their army.

      Your last film, Dil Chahta Hai, released on 10 August 2001 and
      Mangal Pandey hits the theatres on August 12 this year. Why such a
      long gap?
      Well, it wasn't planned or intentional. I went through a very big
      crisis in my personal life and it was a very traumatic period for
      everyone involved. I was in no frame of mind to listen to scripts, I
      was unable to work. There was no question of shooting for any film.

      There are tremendous expectations thanks to your long absence. Are
      you nervous?
      It's nerve-wracking. There's been a lot of pressure on me after the
      success of Lagaan, followed by that of Dil Chahta Hai. And rightly
      so. People wanted to see my next film, they wanted to know what I
      was doing next. Directors, producers, the audience, critics,
      journalists... wherever I went, people asked me, what's your next
      film? The pressure to do something quickly and good has been
      immense. And it's only been building up over the last four years.

      Are you happy with the way the film has shaped up?
      Yes, I think so. I mean, I'm never completely happy with any of my
      films. But I think what was on paper in the form of a script has
      been translated onto the screen. I think we've more or less achieved
      what we set out to. Now we'll wait and see if the audience likes
      what we intended to make.

      There's been talk that you weren't very happy with the film.
      Not true. This kind of rumour comes out all the time. Six months
      before Lagaan released there was a rumour that I wasn't happy with
      the film and we were re-shooting half of it. Same rumours. Not true.

      Then why was Mangal Pandey delayed? Wasn't it supposed to release in
      Yes, we were hoping to release it in June. But the work took a
      couple of months more than we anticipated. In my opinion any film of
      this scale needs about eight months to a year in post-production.
      And we took about a year.

      How much of what we're going to see is your contribution to the
      character and how much of it is director's?
      Ketan has lived with the script and the story for 18 years. He's
      been researching it, writing it and taking it through various
      drafts. So his inputs and instinct for the character are immense.
      I've just tried my best to understand what he had in mind and
      portray it on screen.
      Interestingly, when Ketan and I were discussing what the character
      would look like and be like, I told him I imagined Mangal with long
      hair and he told me that was exactly how he thought of him too—with
      long hair and a moustache. I told him I didn't want to wear a wig.
      So I started growing my hair and a moustache. It took me a year to
      do that. That decision itself cost us a year and a half. It required
      a lot of patience. It was tough.

      How much did your personal turmoil affect your work?
      As I mentioned earlier, I didn't work for some time because I wasn't
      able to. It was only after I felt I could, that I took on
      the project. So I'm hoping it didn't affect my work.

      Are you saying what you went through didn't affect your work at all?
      I think all of us are affected by what happens around us, in our
      personal lives. But we try to see that it doesn't affect our work.
      Maybe it does somewhere.

      So what goes on in your mind when you are in front of the camera?
      What I'm trying to achieve during the shot is to be in a semi-
      conscious state. I should be lost enough to become the character, to
      feel like the character and forget everything else. But I must be
      conscious enough to hit my mark or follow any technical instructions
      from the director, the cameraman or the sound recordist. I don't
      always achieve this state of mind but that's what I strive for.
      Though I think a lot about my character, all my thinking happens
      months earlier. On that day, I follow my instincts.
      Follow your instincts? That's something one doesn't associate with
      you! The general impression is that you're a method actor. In fact,
      you are often accused of over-preparing for a role.
      I have no idea what impression people have of me, or how they think
      I operate. But I can tell you how I operate. I don't know what
      method acting is. I haven't studied acting, so I'm not a trained
      actor. As I said, I follow my instincts. At the same time, I try to
      be completely prepared for the shot. And I think there is no
      conflict between being prepared and following your instinct.

      No. Look at Sachin Tendulkar or Virendra Sehwag playing. They are
      very instinctive players, but I'm sure they've put in hours at the
      nets. So don't get fooled and think they haven't prepared because
      they're playing instinctively when they see the ball coming at them.
      Yes, they are naturally good batsmen. Yes, they are great. But
      they've honed their instincts to the maximum with a lot of hard
      work. The same applies to an actor.
      I prepare for the role beforehand, but I might decide to do it
      completely differently on the day. What is important is that I have
      to get into the mind of the character. Everything flows from there.

      Do you start living, breathing the character?
      In my personal life? Off the sets?

      No. I don't. It happens only on the sets.

      Is it like a tap which you can switch on and off at will?
      No, not for me. When I come on the sets, it takes me time to get
      into the frame of mind of the character and get into the scene. I'm
      not an actor who can switch on and off.

      You've started sporting a new hairstyle for every movie. What is
      this obsession with your hair?
      It's not an obsession, it's just common sense. Since I'm doing only
      one film at a time, I have the facility and freedom to mould the way
      I look physically for each character. I do things with my hair, with
      my body, to whatever extent I can and want to. It's not an
      obsession, it's something I need to do for work.

      But it's something that's happened recently, hasn't it?
      Well, I couldn't do it till Lagaan. But after Lagaan, I've shot
      strictly for one film at a time. Therefore I have the freedom to
      change my hairstyle.

      You're playing a college kid in Rang De Basanti. Now, isn't that
      taking things a bit too far?
      I'm not really playing a college kid. I'm playing someone who's
      completed his post-graduation and is still hanging about the Delhi
      University campus finding excuses, and doing different courses to
      stay on. The character is in his late 20s.

      The one-film-at-a-time rule has worked for you. Quite a few actors
      are now doing the same. But if you remember, many laughed when you
      floated the one-film-at-a-time policy.
      I work the way I enjoy working. But that doesn't mean I think other
      people's way of working is wrong. Everyone has his priorities and
      everyone should work the way they want to. There's no right way or
      wrong way of working.

      How do you react when people call you Mr Perfect?
      (laughs) Well, I'm happy people think I'm perfect. But the fact is
      that I'm not. Fact is that I would like to be. Fact is that I strive
      to be. My endeavour is to be perfect. But nothing and nobody can be

      Perfection can get boring, sometimes, can't it?
      (grins) I don't know. But certainly, my attempt to be perfect is
      extremely interesting to me. It's a challenge. I want to do
      everything I do as well as I can. And that is extremely demanding
      and exciting for me.

      You know, there are stories about how you have taken over Rang De
      Basanti because you want everything to be perfect, that you are
      interfering in every department.
      This is completely baseless and false. You must not go by what you
      hear. Tell me if you have any personal experience of my
      interference. I have done interviews with you. Have I ever
      interfered in your interviews? Have I ever asked you to show me your
      questions before you start the interview? Have I ever done that?

      There. In answer to your question, I never interfere with other
      people's work.

      How do you react to statements that you're the best in the industry?
      (grins) I don't think I'm the best.

      Because I see actors like Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan, who are
      wonderful actors. When I see actors like Nasseerudin Shah, Om Puri,
      Pankaj Kapur, (he was brilliant in Maqbool), and Boman Irani (he was
      fantastic in Let's Talk), I feel they're much more talented than I
      am. So I certainly don't think I'm the best.

      The Khan triumvirate has ruled the roost for nearly two decades. How
      do you see the other two Khans?
      Salman is an extremely charming personality. He's extremely good-
      looking, he's a good dancer, a great star. People love him.
      Personally, I have a lot of issues with certain things, as far he's

      I have no intentions of discussing them publicly. He's a friend of
      mine and I can discuss them with him personally... as I have.
      Shah Rukh is a great star as well. He's got a lot of energy, he has
      great presence and he has a strong survival instinct. And he's very
      loved by the people. Both are dear friends and we get along very

      How competitive are you vis-a-vis Salman and Shah Rukh?
      I'm extremely fond of both of them. So in my personal interaction
      with them there's no such feeling. When I meet them—which is every
      now and then—there are absolutely no negative feelings. On a
      professional level, yes, I do feel competitive towards them and I'm
      sure it's the same with them as well.

      Competitive in terms of roles you do?
      No, I would never envy any role that either of them has performed.
      So there's no competition in terms of trying to grab roles. And we
      all have our own ways of working, so there's no competition there,
      too. But we are certainly competing to be the most loved star on the
      Indian screen, we are competing to be the best actors and the
      biggest stars.

      In our last issue, Shah Rukh said you are one of the best actors in
      the country. What do you have to say to that?
      (Laughs loudly) I always suspected that Shah Rukh Khan knows very
      little about acting. Now I'm sure.

      He also says the difference between him and you is that you think
      too much while he thinks too little.
      (chuckles) It's never the quantity but always the quality that

      How do you react when Shah Rukh is called Badshah Khan?
      I completely agree. He's the Badshah. and I'm the Ikka, woh bhi
      hukum ka. He's King Khan and I'm Ace Khan.

      When asked for your opinion, you recently said you would have played
      Devdas differently. Earlier, you've spoken about his portrayal in
      Darr. Do you think there's a chance he may not take such statements
      in the right spirit?
      No. I think you are referring to the Walk The Talk programme, in
      which I was just trying to be analytical. It's not a personal
      statement. And I did not make it unprovoked. I was asked
      specifically about my work, what I thought about a particular film
      and how I would have played it. Each creative person has his own way
      of doing things. Each director has his own way of making you

      I think Shah Rukh is an immensely talented actor. No doubt about it.
      I've seen a number of his films, which I've liked very much. Dilwale
      Dulhania Le Jayenge was a great performance. And he was outstanding
      in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. I'm extremely fond of Shah Rukh and I think
      he's a wonderful actor. I think he has wonderful qualities that I

      Like what?
      (smiles) I think he's extremely charming.

      And you think you're not?
      I don't think I'm as charming as he is.

      The Khan triumvirate is soon going to hit its 40s. Who do you think
      are the actors who could take over from you guys?
      Abhi tak to koi paida nahin hua hai. (laughs). Relax, I'm just
      kidding. I think Hrithik (Roshan) is very talented.

      People say he's modeled himself on you.
      I don't know about that. But I've always liked his work. I think
      he's extremely talented and has loads of potential.

      You've gone and signed three movies after Mangal Pandey. That's
      something unheard of for you. What prompted you to do it?
      I've signed three films so I can plan ahead. People complain that I
      don't have enough films coming out, that I don't do enough work. So
      I'm just trying to address that complaint.
      But I don't want to change the way I work, I don't want to do more
      than one film at a time. So after Rang De Basanti, I have a gap of
      about four months before I begin Kunal Kohli's film. When I finish
      that, I have another gap of four months before I start Vishal
      Bhardwaj's film. That's the way I've planned it.

      You've worked with Kajol in just one film, Ishq. You're not exactly
      the best of friends. So how do you look forward to working with her
      in this film? Or doesn't it matter who you're paired with?
      Strictly speaking it should not matter who your co-stars are. But
      the fact is that acting is never done in isolation. So a good co-
      star really helps your own performance. In fact, it's not just the
      actors; even a good crew contributes a hell of a lot to a film. I'm
      looking forward to working with Kajol. I think she's an extremely
      talented actress.

      What's happening to Aamir Khan Productions? Why haven't you produced
      anything after Lagaan?
      I'm not a regular producer whose main job is to come out with a film
      every six months. I was waiting to some across something exciting.
      I've now found a script which is really wonderful and that will be
      the next film I produce.

      Somehow, when you think of Aamir Khan, you think of him as an entity
      somewhat separate from the industry. You're part of the industry,
      yet not part of it. Has that been a
      deliberate attempt?
      No, not at all. I love the film industry. I'm very much a part of
      it. And I very much belong over here. I'm extremely loyal to the
      film industry and I feel strongly for it. Perhaps the way I function
      may be slightly different from the norm. But that doesn't mean that
      I'm separate from the industry.

      Why don't we see you more often at film events or in interviews?
      (laughs) Because I'm busy working. Where's the time to attend
      parties when I'm busy shooting for a film? By and large, when I'm
      working, I don't like to go anywhere. I don't like to do interviews,
      unless there's a reason for me to do so. I like to stay at home. I'm
      a fairly private person.

      You don't think it's important for an actor to be seen or heard?
      (smiles) It's not a question of whether I think it's important to be
      seen or heard. It's just that there are only 24 hours in a day. I
      have a certain amount of time in life and there are only certain
      things I can do. So I like to prioritise my time and devote it to
      doing things I want to do.

      Film-making is one of them. Being part of making films is one very
      important aspect. Spending time with people who are close to me is
      very important. Going to parties is not. Attending film functions or
      other events comes very low on my list of priorities. Speaking to
      the press is an important part of my professional life. I choose to
      do it but I can't overdo it. How many times can I say the same
      thing? It is through the media that I'm accessible to my fans and my
      audience but I don't think I should over do it.

      You are not seen as aligned to any camp in the industry. Do you
      think you've missed out on any movie because of that?
      What you're asking me doesn't even come into my radar. It's so far
      removed from me that I have no answer to that question. I have never
      looked at films as camps. I only do films that appeal to me. And I
      work with people who I feel are the right people for that project.
      For me, it's the film that's paramount. So this whole concept of
      camps is alien to me. (grins) I don't think I've missed out on any
      movie because of that.

      Do you have many friends in the industry?
      A number of them. Ameen Haaji is a close friend. I'm extremely close
      to the rest of the Lagaan actors too. We are still in touch. I think
      by and large I'm friendly with most of my co-stars.

      Rani Mukerji has admitted she uses your shoulders to cry on, Preity
      Zinta always sings your praises. How do you charm these women?
      (smiles) I don't charm them, they charm me. Preity is a very warm
      and wonderful person. Rani is a close friend. She's someone I'm
      extremely fond of. We share a very good relationship. We can depend
      on each other.

      About how many people in the industry can you say that?
      Quite a few actually. I've been lucky that I've had good
      relationships within my working environment. See, the kind of work
      we do makes us almost like gypsies. You enter one project and for
      those six months you're extremely close to that team. You're living
      out of one another's pockets.
      Then you move on to the next project and you kind of lose touch with
      the first bunch of people though you are extremely fond of them. You
      move on and make new friends and get close to different people. We
      actors are like New Age Gypsies in that sense.

      Do you have a 4 o'clock friend?
      What's a 4 o'clock friend?

      Someone you can call up at four in the morning.
      I suppose I could. In fact, last week Shah Rukh and Salman actually
      called me up at four o clock. They were both at Salman's house and
      they wanted me to come over. So I went. And we chatted till seven in
      the morning.

      In the context of this interview, have you reversed your decision
      not to talk to film magazines?
      No. I assume you're referring to the film magazines that I've not
      been speaking to for the last 15 years. I am not reversing that
      decision. My reason for not talking to Filmfare was different from
      the reason why I stopped talking to other film magazines. I'd
      stopped speaking to Filmfare because I had issues with the then-
      editor. The editor has changed. So I have no problem talking now.

      Okay, let me ask a personal question. In hindsight, do you think
      your divorce was the right decision?
      I don't discuss details of my personal life in public.

      How do you react to statements about your personal life in the
      I don't.

      Is it that easy to ignore them?
      Yes. By and large I don't read a lot of stuff about myself. If it's
      interviews, I already know what I've said so I don't need to read
      them. If it's something written about me, I know most things about
      myself; I don't need to refer to the press for that.

      You think the media went overboard reporting on the recent
      developments in your personal life?
      I don't think I would expect the media to react any differently.

      How much time do you spend with your kids?
      I love spending time with my kids. It's the one thing that I most
      look forward to. We play, we chat, watch movies. I'm trying to get
      them to learn Urdu. But so far I've faced stiff resistance!

      Do they realise their father is such a big star?
      (chortles) Judging by the way they treat me, I have my doubts. They
      are really not into Hindi movies. It's more children's films like
      Harry Potter, Spiderman and animation films.

      Who's their favourite actor?
      Probably, the Harry Potter kid. I don't know. I haven't asked them
      We've seen you often in public with a girl called Kiran Rao. Would
      you tell us something about her?
      Kiran is a very important part of my life. She's my partner. We
      share each other's lives. And I hope we always will. And that's all
      you're going to get out of me.
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