Aamir Khan: I am not a hands-on father
It’s 3.30 pm and we are sitting in Aamir Khan’s living room at his plush Mumbai apartment overlooking the sea.
I look around -- the life-sized abstract painting covering one wall and the DVDs, especially the James Bond limited edition box set placed right below the giant television screen, catching my eye -- while the actor calls for a Diet Coke and lights up a cigarette before he starts talking about his character in Dhoom 3.
“I know that curious look on your face. I get tense when my film is up for release. That’s why I have started smoking again,” Aamir says, promising that he will quit once the movie releases (December 20).
The superstar plays the antagonist in the film and he opens up to Sonil Dedhia about what attracted him to the part.
You just celebrated your son Azad’s birthday. How do you spend time with him?
He is two now and has brought a lot of joy in our lives.
I’m afraid I am not a hands-on father. I think I am too self-centered for that. I get lost in my work. But I am not a bad father. I spend a lot of time with him. I tell him stories at night. I spend time with him in the mornings.
He has started playschool now but until then he used to come with me every day to the sets because he wouldn’t let me leave the house, saying, ‘I want to go with papa.’
He would not listen, he would cling to me. So I would take him in the car with me. He would play around, feel tired and sleep and then the car would take him back.
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Image: Aamir Khan with his son Azad Rao Khan
'I would like all my children to come into films'
Your older son Junaid is now an assistant director. How do you see him evolving as a filmmaker?
He is working with Rajkumar Hirani on Peekay. He is really happy being on the set and that’s a good sign. I think he is doing well. It will depend on what he wants to do. He hasn’t told me yet.
It is rumoured that your daughter Ira is also venturing into the film industry.
I would love that but I don’t know yet. I don't ask these questions of my kids. They should do what they feel like doing, no pressure from any of us.
I would like all my children to come into films because they would come to the field I am in and Kiran is in. We would be able to work together. It would give me a great amount of joy.
Image: Aamir Khan with his children Ira and Junaid
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
'My character is not completely negative'
Rumors are rife that you are playing a double role in Dhoom 3.
That’s not true. There are lots of rumors, like the film is based on time travel, which is also not true. The funniest one I heard was that Katrina (Kaif) is playing my mother (laughs).
In a way I am happy that people are curious and excited about the film.
The anti-hero in the Dhoom series has always been popular. Was that why you agreed to do the film?
I loved the script. I also believe this is the most challenging role I have done in the 25 years of my career. The role was challenging not because I had to build muscles or maintain a diet; performance wise, it was challenging.
Also, my character is not completely negative. It’s not the kind of character that Amrish Puri would do. My character does not kill people. He is a guy who has a past, who has gone through an emotional trauma, and it is because of what has happened that he is doing certain things.
Image: Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif in Dhoom 3
'I am not looking to outshine any actor'
The focus in all the Dhoom movies has been on the antagonist…
(Interrupts) No, I don’t think that is the case. I have seen the first movie in the series and I don’t think the focus was on a particular character.
Our story is about every character in the film. Abhishek’s (Bachchan) and Uday’s (Chopra) characters have remained constant. Each time a new antagonist is introduced and his job is to catch up with the continuing characters.
In that sense the story is moved ahead by the new character, but I guess everyone has a good role to play in the film.
There have already been comparisons with Hrithik Roshan and John Abraham (who played negative characters in Dhoom 2 and Dhoom, respectively).
I am not looking to outshine any actor. My purpose is to be able to achieve what is expected of me through my role and be able to that to its best. I am not comparing Dhoom 3 with the first and second part. They were different films.
You’re playing a gymnast in the film and in the publicity material have been called the ‘clown thief.’ What’s the connection?
For us Indians, the circus is all about elephants, lions, trapeze artists or contortionists. But that was the old-fashioned circus. Unfortunately, the modern circus hasn’t come to India as yet.
Traditionally, a joker wears funny hats and make-up and does slapstick to make you laugh. But that is not the definition of a clown any more in a circus. In a modern circus you have to train to be a clown. You have to identify and paint a character and then your entire life you play that; you never get out of that.
And any acrobatics that you do, you do in that character. So I may be doing trapeze but I will do it like that character, I’ll not do it as a normal trapeze artist.
Image: Aamir Khan and Abhishek Bachchan in Dhoom 3
'While training for Malang, I realised I was not feeling well'
You have worked on your physique again after Ghajini. How difficult does it get at your age?
It was really challenging. My character in Ghajini required me to look like a tank. I had to bulk up my muscles and it was important to have brute strength.
In Dhoom 3, I play a gymnast, a circus artist, so I needed a lot of flexibility in my body. I had to be very lean; my fat percentage had to be very low. I came down to 9 percent body fat while we were shooting.
It required me to follow a very strict diet, extremely strict workout and eight hours of sleep.
A newspaper reported that you had to take medication while performing stunts for the film.
Yes. There is a song in the film -- Malang -- in which Katrina and I had to do the kind of aerial stunts that are performed in international circuses... You will see us doing acrobatic stunts using a loop and some silk straps.
While training for it I realised I was not feeling well, especially when you are hanging upside down almost 30 to 40 feet in the air. The only way to overcome it was to take medication.
Image: Katrina Kaif and Aamir Khan in Malang from Dhoom 3
'I was the first Khan to create the Rs 100 crore club with Ghajini'
Yash Chopra passed away last year and you had earlier worked with him in Parampara (1992). What was his contribution to the film?
One of the biggest regret I have is that Yashji will not be able to see Dhoom 3. He actively participated during the planning of the film. He was keenly seeing the progress of the film. I truly miss him.
You were the first Khan to create the box office record of Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion/$40 million then) with 3 Idiots. There are huge expectations from Dhoom 3.
Don’t forget I was also the first Khan to create the Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion/$20 million then) club with Ghajini (laughs).
On a serious note, I don’t believe in numbers at all. I want my film to be a success; I want my films to win people’s heart. What excites me about 3 Idiots is that people loved the film and it has really touched the hearts of the people.
I wish we can do it again with Dhoom 3.
Image: Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif in Dhoom 3
'Shah Rukh Khan is extremely charming and I love to see him on screen'
Your star status does play a role in influencing the box office…
To a certain degree all stars have the potential to influence the box office for the first three days. Beyond that, we don’t have any influence.
A lot of people attribute the success of 3 Idiots to me, but it is not my film. It’s a Raju Hirani film.
No film will run only on the strength of the star. (Thinks for a while) I think Salman manages to do that. According to me, he is the real number one.
I don’t have that capability. I think if the film is not good enough I won’t be able to make a mark for myself. So, for me, in my head I feel when the film is good, then it does good business.
There has always been rivalry between you, Salman and Shah Rukh. How do you look at competition?
I don’t believe in competition. I feel all of us are big stars and want to do better and better in our films.
I don’t have anything but love and warmth in my heart for Salman. I personally feel he is a bigger star than me. I don’t have any hesitation in saying that he has the ability to carry a film on his shoulders. I don’t think I have it in me to do it.
Shah Rukh is very well loved and a fine actor. He is extremely charming and I love to see him on screen. He always brings a smile to your face. I loved him in Dilwale Dhulaniya Le Jayenge, and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and I would love to see Chak De! India.
I like to see other people’s work. I saw Barfi! and Ranbir was fantastic in the movie.
I watched the film with Kiran (his wife) and I asked her, “What is it that Ranbir is doing and I am not? How is he approaching his roles? I feel I need to learn from him.”
Sanju (Sanjay Dutt) was fabulous in the Munnabhai series.
Good work gives me joy and it doesn’t matter that it is not mine.
Image: Aamir Khan in Dhoom 3
'I am a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Shammi Kapoor'
Do you believe the industry is still star obsessed? Is that the reason why actors of your generation are still churning out hit after hit?
I don’t think the industry is star obsessed. It is the audience that is star obsessed. It is not a bad thing at all.
As an audience, I am also star obsessed. I am a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Shammi Kapoor.
I think an entertainer has a great role to play in society and he is often underestimated. I don’t think any of us knows the secret to our longevity or delivering hit after hit. I wish we knew it (smiles).
Rowdy Rathore and Dabangg are rooted in India. Dhoom 3 is more international in its appeal. Won’t that create a disconnect with the audience?
Not at all. It is not necessary that if I live in a city I would like to watch only city films. Lagaan is not a city kind of a film but I love it.
Dhoom 3 promises entertainment and the huge mass audience wants entertainment. Dhoom 3’s target audience is not looking for a strong emotional hook in the film. The film has a lot of thrills and stunts and is full of entertainment.
I think people are going to get more than their expectations.
Image: Katrina Kaif and Aamir Khan in Dhoom 3
'Kiran is very secretive about what she writes'
Will your wife Kiran ever direct you in a commercial film?
Kiran is working on a script. She is very secretive about what she writes. I also like to be surprised. I don’t like to hear a script in the middle. So let’s see what she writes.
I would like to be in her film, but not if I don’t like what she has written, because I have to be honest with my emotions and creative instincts.
If I don’t like it, I may not be a part of it. Or she may not want me.
Image: Kiran Rao and Aamir Khan
Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar