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November 7, 2001
'What's this nonsense about lobbying?'
Subhash K Jha
Aamir Khan, whose Lagaan was chosen over the other hot contender Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding to represent India, is delighted that his unconventional film is going from strength to strength.
He asks: "What makes Mira Nair feel USA Films is in a better position to promote a film to the Oscars' jury than Aamir Khan Productions?"
Just back from a month-and-a-half long concert tour of the US and Canada, Aamir returned to India to a rousing reception with Lagaan being selected to represent India at the Oscars.
Aamir is irked by Nair's open declaration of her film's superior chances at the Oscars because of its US exhibitors lobbying powers in Hollywood. USA Films has promoted Oscar-winners like Traffic in the past.
Aamir told IANS: "When I meet Mira Nair, I'll have a lot to say to her. How could a person of her intelligence and creative sensibilities talk like this? She should know it's the quality of the film and not the money spent to promote it that matters.
"If I have to pamper egos and push my film unnecessarily to get noticed at the Oscars, then the award has no meaning to me. In that case Oscar would be no different from the popular awards in India."
Aamir is proud of the fact that Lagaan was unanimously selected as India's official entry for the Oscars in spite of "zero lobbying" and despite the fact that other films were being heavily plugged for the honour.
"What's this nonsense about lobbying?" he asks angrily. "I have never done it and I never shall. However, I will leave no stone unturned to make sure that Lagaan gets seen by the jury members."
On the anvil are a mainstream non-NRI targeted re-release of the film by Columbia-Tristar in the US and Britain and a comic-book version of Lagaan to be published by Egmont.
"Now I guess it is time for me to seriously start reading the pending scripts," laughs Aamir, known for being a perfectionist, who hasn't signed a single film after his back to back hits -- Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai.
"Right now the only film I am committed to do is with AB Corp Ltd to be directed by my cousin Mansoor Khan. However, we may not be doing the film called Happy Diwali that we had announced. We're thinking of changing the subject. No matter what, the next film I do will definitely be for Bachchan's AB Corp."
Aamir makes no bones about his recent run-in with the underworld when four men reportedly affiliated to a gang in Dubai hatched a plan to kill him. He says: "I heard about this while I was in the US. As far as I am concerned I have never received extortion threats. So the plan to cause me harm came as a complete surprise to me."
He admits he received one call from the underworld two months back. "But there was no threat, no demand for money or that I do a film for them. It was a polite non-committal 10-minute call. Of course, I informed the police commissioner immediately."
Now Aamir has been provided government security. "I am not comfortable with it. But I have full faith in the Bombay police. They are one of the most efficient police services in the world."
Aamir's stage shows in October across the US and Canada entitled The Lagaan 11were a huge success. "I am thrilled that the audiences unanimously said this was the best show they had ever seen," laughs Aamir, as he prepares to celebrate the happiest Diwali of his life. "We're taking a holiday abroad. I haven't been with my family for months."
Indo-Asian News Service
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