'Aamir was a superstar during Lagaan. I was a nobody. Yet, he treated me gently and affectionately.'
Aamir Khan's heroines love him not only on screen but off it, as well.
As we continue our Aamir, 50, special series, actresses Ameesha Patel, Manisha Koirala and Preity Zinta send the actor their love.
Ameesha Patel: I had auditioned for Lagaan
Everyone knows Aamir to be a perfectionist. But only those who have worked with him can vouch for his integrity.
I had the privilege of doing one of my most important films, Mangal Pandey: The Rising with Aamir.
I had auditioned for Lagaan. That's where I met Aamir for the first time.
He was a superstar; I was a nobody. Yet, he treated me gently and affectionately. He put me at ease completely.
Then I went to New Zealand to shoot for Kaho Na... Pyaar Hai. There, I got to know that Lagaan's director Ashutosh Gowariker had rejected me because, according to him, my eyes looked too intelligent and educated to play the village belle.
Ironically, I was selected for Gadar for the same reasons that I was rejected for Lagaan. They wanted someone who looked intelligent and educated.
Lagaan and Gadar opened on the same day. And they both went on to make history.
I was destined to make history of another kind with Aamir when we did Mangal Pandey. The offer didn't come from the producer or director, but straight from Aamir.
I was in Hyderabad shooting for a Telugu film with Mahesh Babu when Aamir called, saying he wanted me to play the widow Jwala in Mangal Pandey.
But hasn't Aishwarya Rai already been signed for the film, I asked. He said she had, but he wanted to replace her with me. He wanted a certain vulnerability and innocence in the character.
I accepted the part.
It was one of the best decisions of my career, although any other actress of my generation would have refused to play a widow so early in her career.
I learnt so much just watching Aamir at work. Every actor was required to be on location, irrespective of whether he or she was needed for shooting.
We were shooting in Pataudi and every day Aamir would put on tanned make-up for his character. I asked why he needed to use make-up from head to toe when all that was visible on screen was his face and hands.
He said he had to feel everything authentically for the part.
I've never experienced such dedication in my career.
He was genuinely concerned about each crew member. When I was signed, he asked me my fee. I quoted a price and he agreed to pay without consulting the producer.
When the shooting was over, my payment was not fully made. I didn't want to bring it up... who cares about money when you get to work with Aamir?
But would you believe it, he called and asked if my dues had been cleared. When I told him they had not been cleared, he made sure the money reached me.
This is the level of Aamir's integrity.
I used to call him Pinocchio on the sets. Pinocchio's nose would turn red if he lied. Aamir would turn red-faced if he had to tell a lie.
Honesty comes naturally to him.
If I had to do Mangal Pandey again, I'd do it for Aamir.
Is he really turning 50? To me he is eternally 22.
Manisha Koirala: Aamir and I had to do a lot of over-acting in Mann
It is sad, but many really good actors don't evolve as the years go by.
I have seen him grow as a human being and an actor.
When I see him in his films, I am filled with admiration for the quality of his work.
Aamir never does mediocre work just for the heck of it. Even when he does an out-and-out entertainer like Dhoom 3, the product is so many notches above the usual fare.
What I truly admire about Aamir is that he is a socially conscious human being and I have the deepest respect for that.
Satyamev Jayate is one of the bravest attempts to expose the hollowness of our society.
I have done two memorable films with Aamir: Mansoor Khan's Akele Hum Akele Tum , which fetched all of us a lot of acclaim, and Mann.
Surprisingly, I am asked about Mann to this day, even though it was not received well. It was a typical over-the-top Indra Kumar film.
Aamir and I had to do a lot of over-acting. Usska bhi apna ek mazaa tha (there was fun in doing that too).
Akele Hum Akele Tum was more subtle. I had to play this woman who abandons her husband and child to pursue a career. I was not very convinced about the part. I don't see why a home and a career should be a choice for a woman. In real life, I'd choose both.
However, it was a character I had to play. Aamir was completely focused on the film and had a lot to say about the scenes.
Initially, I didn't enjoy his suggestions. Luckily, Mansoor is not a director who will allow his vision to be re-directed by someone else. So his will prevailed.
As the shooting progressed, I realised that Aamir had extremely pertinent suggestions to make. And they were all for the benefit of the film.
He doesn't think only about himself. He thinks about the film.
None of the changes that he suggested were off-hand or sudden. They were all planned earlier and after taking me into confidence. So I was okay with them eventually.
What I learnt from Aamir was concentration and hard work.
He gives all of himself to his films. It is not just his character he cares about, but the total film.
Working with him I learnt a lot about concentration and self-discipline. I realised preparation is essential.
Aamir is a perfectionist to the core. It may irk those who are not that sold on getting it right. But to those who enjoy striving for a flawless scheme of things, he is a dream co-star.
Preity Zinta: Aamir is dedicated, sweet, a bit mad, and a lot of fun
Aamir is dedicated, sweet, a bit mad, and a lot of fun.
We had a lot of fun working in Dil Chahta Hai. No one took themselves, or for that matter the film, very seriously.
Of course, we slogged hard to get it right. But this was not an issue-based film or a period film. It was a youthful film, and we were all young, and raring to go.
All of us had a ball working on it.