MUMBAI—In an exclusive interview with India-West, Aamir Khan talks on all aspects on which he is, as always, very clear.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: You have given your all to the characters since you began working on one film at a time. Is there any role you would have done differently in the earlier busy phase?
A: That may or may not have happened, but I would have given my looks a little more importance. For example, ACP Rathod in “Sarfarosh” had too long a hair for a cop, but we got by because it was an undercover cop who as supposed to melt into a crowd. Today, I would have cut the hair shorter, though not as short as my character in “Talaash,” who was a regular cop. I would have kept it sufficient to suit a cop but, again, an undercover one. Even then, I attempted to do as much as I could to work on my roles.
Q: Today, people are saying that it is time for unusual films doing well. What do you have to say to that?
A: Unusual films have been made all the time like I made “Taare Zameen Par,” but they will succeed only if they are good films, not because they are small or unusual. Big or small, it is about how well a film connects, and whether we are able to tell a good story in a good way. There is nothing that says that this is the time for big films, or small films, or different films. Isn’t “Judwaa 2” a huge hit?
Q: You have not done too many heroine-oriented films.
A: I have worked on my characters. But the stories of “Ghajini” and “Rang De Basanti” are actually heroine-driven if you check carefully. Even “Thugs Of Hindostan” is actually the story of a girl, played by Fatima Sheikh.
Q: How was it working with Amitabh Bachchan after a couple of false alarms, so to speak? He has only done the voiceover for your “Lagaan.”
A: It was a great experience. I have grown up on his films, and have seen his total sway over the audience, which held on to every word and gesture and nuance. It was a magical time for audiences. In 1978, there were at least seven films of his running simultaneously and successfully! So he was even clashing with himself when today we are making so much of a hero clashing with another! (Laughs)That is the kind of stardom we will never get to see.
Q: Yes, stardom has changed, right?
A: It’s a different concept of stardom now. The fabric is changing. Earlier, the access to a star was very limited, and until the ‘70s even television was not there. The only way to personally see or hope to meet a star was by being physically present outside his studio, his house, at a premiere or on location. The only other access was the print media, where we could read about a Dilip Kumar or Amitabh. Then “Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan” began on television, and we could watch and hear the star talk.
Today, a star is much more accessible, communicative, right in your pocket so to speak when he can be accessed or watched on your phone.
Q: Your films command a lot of initial. Isn’t that also stardom?
A: Stars are made through films – uss mein se star nilkata hai! Stars never make a film, never make a hit. As a star, as you say, I can at the maximum get a film a decent first weekend, though as an ACTOR my creative contribution is much more. But whenever a film is a huge success, it is the director (or story narrator) and writers (who are the story conceivers) who deserve far more credit. In the same way, a director needs to take the primary blame when a film flops.
I will give you an example of MY contribution. Based probably on my name, “Dangal” opened to Rs. 25 crore on day 1 in China and grew steadily. On the second Sunday, it collected Rs. 100 crore in a single day, which is what we dream about as a lifetime figure often! But had I been responsible alone, it should have collected Rs. 100 crore on day one itself, right?
I am very clear that it’s the film, not me. There is no confusion or pretense. I am enjoying fame and success because I have had the good fortune to be part of these films. My career is built on these films. Yes, my choice was good, but that is only a small part of the credit. If I tell my mother to make a dish she is brilliant at for a party, and it gets appreciated, how much of the actual credit is mine? Very little!
Q: So are you afraid of losing this hold?
A: I am very clear I am going to lose it all. Like death, it is inevitable. It is a natural process exemplified by Brahma Vishnu Mahesh. How long can you hold on to this phase is what it is all about. My real fear is always whether we make what we set out to because, in filmmaking, any step can go wrong. Like the old song “Jaana tha Japan pahunch gaye Chin (We wanted to go to Japan but landed in China)!”
Q: You initially rejected even “Lagaan.”
A: When I rejected it, it was only an idea. I found it absurd, a group of farmers, tax, freedom, and shortage of water in a village! Then Ashutosh Gowariker worked on it for three months and came back. I asked him why I should spend three hours on listening to something I had rejected. But then the fact that he had spent three months on it made me listen to him, and I loved it!
But again, I did not say ‘Yes,’ because I did not have the courage to make such an unusual film for mainstream cinema because if it did not work, people would lose money, and I would hate something doing that because of my dream.
It took me a full year to agree because I could not get the story out of mind! So I thought, why am I scared? Two things finally convinced me: one, I thought of our great filmmakers like V. Shantaram, Mehboob Khan, Bimal Roy, K. Asif and Guru Dutt. Would they be scared if they loved a story just because of the commercial risks? No, I had to follow in their footsteps. I had to take courage from our seniors. Next, I made Ashutosh narrate the script to my parents, ammi and abbajaan (late filmmaker Tahir Husain). They were very moved. I was watching their face, and they were flowing with the narration. And they unanimously said, “Aamir, don’t think it is unusual. You must make it because it is a good story.”