[FILM] Interview with Aamir Khan
- 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 friendsWilliam 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
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
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 toowith
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
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 themwhich is every
now and thenthere 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
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
(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
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
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
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
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.