Jab bhi choom leta hoon in haseen aankhon ko, sau chirag andhere mein jhil milane lagte hain.
Mumbai's R K Studios has a palpable buzz -- Aamir Khan is shooting for his first music video Pyaar Ka Jashan with Gauri Karnik (of Sur). The song is Baba Azmi's tribute to his father, the late poet and lyricist Kaifi Azmi.
I sit in front of the circuit television used to view the shot recording. In front of me, white reflectors loom over a small garden. Cameras pan over Aamir romancing Gauri.
Gauri, who has no lines in the song, has to use her eyes to express herself. In a sleeveless polo neck, she immerses herself in rehearsals. Azmi reportedly cast her in his video because of her expressive eyes, unconventional looks and because she is new in the industry with only a release to her credit.
The crew gives final touches to the shot -- plucking flowers, oiling the camera track and fixing a reflector parallel to the ground. The click of the light meter sets the ball rolling.
Just then, Roopkumar Rathod, who has lent his voice to Kaifi Azmi's numbers, enters the studio. Wearing a blue kurta and churidar, Baba informs us it is the singer's 43rd birthday.
Khan, with long hair minus the Dil Chahta Hai goatee and a few pounds thanks to regular workouts, is wearing a short, white kurta and loose trousers. Rathod recites some shayris. Khan exclaims, "Kya Baat Hai!" He adds people who sing and write poems express themselves beautifully.
After a few jokes, it is time to start. It is 1:30 pm, well past lunchtime. Artificial smoke pervades the garden and the song starts. After a couple of retakes, Aamir is unhappy with his hair and tries to set it. He sprays on his favourite perfume, Cool Water from Davidoff, and returns to his shot. At 2:15 the shot is okayed by director Ashok Mehra.
In the meantime, I speak to the singer who has just returned from Dubai. Rathod, who partners with wife Sonali, says, "This [video] is a big thing for me. Not only did I get a chance to sing [Kaifi]saab's shayri, I also got a chance to work with Baba, Aamir, Ashok and Gauri."
He shares an incident with Kaifisaab with me. "After all the eight songs were recorded, I called Kaifisaab to the studio to listen to them. It was raining. But he was as enthusiastic as he was for his first video. He heard the recording and started crying. Then he hugged me."
Rathod claims, "The fun lies in the journey, not the destination. Kabhi gana, kabhi mutthi bhar chana toh kabhie who bhi mana. There have been ups and downs but I am enjoying it."
Khan makes his way to me. He is clear, short and to the point: "When I said I would like to do this video, I was not aware of the concept. I was in the US when Baba called and told me about it. When I heard he was basing it on Kaifisaab's ghazals, I said, 'If you don't mind and have not cast [anyone], make me part of this project.'
"I have always been a big fan of Kaifisaab. I have grown up on his work. One of my favourites is the film Heer Ranjha, which was written entirely -- songs and dialogues -- in verse. He is one of the best poets in India and Baba is my friend. Kaifisaab was quite senior to me -- I have never worked with him. My association with him was as a fan. I wanted to do this on an emotional level. It has come from my heart. I may not be known for making emotional decisions but many decisions are emotional," the actor admits.
Of his role in this music video, Aamir says, "It is about a person traumatised by what he sees around him. He is a photojournalist and sees people dying and suffering and he cannot deal with it. The one thing that helps is the girl he loves, from whom he gets strength, warmth and love."
The Lagaan star jokes that he has kept his tradition of doing one thing at a time. "This is the only thing I am doing. I am not shooting for any film right now," he says.
His long hair has raised a lot of questions. He explains, "I have to grow my hair for my next film, Ketan Mehta's The Rising, where I play [freedom fighter] Mangal Pandey. The shooting starts in four months, so it will grow longer."
The Risingis a period film set in 1857. "I have been reading a lot and collecting information about the time -- the social scenario, the people, how they interacted and how the East India Company operated," says the actor.
Khan is sweating. He wipes his face with a towel, sprays on some perfume. When asked whether Indian films should be changed in any way to match international standards, as they are perceived as musicals in the West, he says, "I am very proud of Indian cinema. It has been with us since the last 50 to 80 years since talkies (Alam Ara) came in. Most of our films are musicals and there should be no change. That is our way of telling a story. This does not mean I will not do a film with no songs."