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April 4, 1997


'Ram Gopal Varma and Yash Chopra tell lies!'

Aamir Khan Selective as the actor is in his choice of films, one does not see Aamir Khan's films releasing with the regularity that, say, an Akshay Kumar's films do. But fans abroad get to see him regularly in stage shows.

After a month of such shows in Canada, the UK and the USA and a month's holiday with his wife and son in Europe, the actor is back where he belongs. To the studios and the dubbing theatres of Bollywood.

Reaching his unstarlike home in Bombay's Beverly Hills is difficult on the appointed day as taxis and autorickshaws are off the roads, their drivers protesting against the fuel price hike. But returning from there is not, as the actor gives you a detailed bus route -- heartening to know that he still remembers the common man's mode of transport so many years after he himself ceased being one. Years during which stardom and controversies have gone hand in hand.

Since dubbing for the day has been cancelled, the star takes time off to clear up some of the controversies sticking to his name. He spoke to Alpana Chowdhury. Excerpts from the interview:

How come you participate in so many shows abroad?

Aamir Khan One, for financial reasons. Two, I get to interact with my audience which is very important for me. That is why we are now planning to put up similar shows in India as well. There is a lot of excitement when performing before a live audience.

Earlier, star shows were not so professionally organised. The stars graced the shows with their presence for a few minutes. Whereas, today, the shows are performance-oriented. This year I played the drums to Gujarati and bhangra beats. I had practised even an African beat, but we left that out as the item would have been too long.

Then, apart from the mandatory songs and dances, we put up a little skit in which Shahrukh (Khan), Gulshan Grover, Sonali Bendre, Urmilla Matondkar and I performed. It had me coming on stage, dressed as a sensuous woman, dancing to the Dole Dole number from Baazi with Gulshan trying to molest me. I punish him by giving him a song to sing during which time I exit.

Three and a half minutes later I am back on stage as myself. I can tell you it was no easy task getting out of all those clothes and make up and getting into men's clothes again in such a short time. Then Shahrukh and I battle over Sonali -- he walks away with her. While I stand dejected Urmila comes in singing Mangta nain kya. It was a lot of fun with, of course, a lot of hard work behind it.

But popular as these shows may be, what you are doing is performing, not acting.

Yes, it's a different medium altogether.

You were one of these who took part in a show for a diamond merchant's son's wedding in Bombay recently. Was that necessary?

Aamir Khan To begin with, I didn't know it was linked to a wedding. Originally, we were to perform is Belgium for the Asian community. Then Karim Morani, who was organising the show, told us that most of them were coming down to Bombay for a wedding, so why not put up the show here itself? We would have the same number of about 5,000 spectators.

It was only a few days before the show that I discovered that the invitees to the wedding were to comprise the audience for the show. At that stage it was too late to pull out from the commitment.

But let me clarify: The show was like any other show with Wizcraft doing the event management, Bijon Dasgupta putting up the sets and so on. The seating arrangements were like at any show. It was not like it was made out to be -- that guests ate and drank while we performed. No! The show was no different from, say, plays sponsored by the USIS or the Gujarati Mandal.

However, the flak I received for lending my name to this event has made me decide never to participate in a show where tickets are not sold to the public.

After coming up with such a stupendous hit, why did the director of Rangeela, Ram Gopal Varma, denounce your contribution to the film?

There was much more to that interview Ramu gave than just him running me down. The interview was given to a journalist several months before it appeared. That journalist happens to the editor of Filmfare whose awards function I have refused to attend because I think the magazine needs to clean up its act of giving awards.

When the journalist came to invite me for the function, he told me he had this interview with Ramu but he had used his discretion not to print it because he felt it was untrue and malicious. And then what does he do? He prints it to time its appearance two weeks after the awards function

But why did Varma have to run you down when the character of Munna (whom you played) contributed so much to Rangeela's success?

I think he was feeling insecure because I was getting a lot of credit for the film's success. Strangely, at a party to celebrate the film's release he had thanked me profusely for my help in the making of the film. With tears in his eyes he had said things like 'I don't know if I'll be able to work again with an actor of your commitment level... I'll always remember the relationship. As a director I have learnt so much about film-making from you...I think you should get the Filmfare award this year...'

Rangeela I was quite embarrassed with his emotional outburst and I mumbled something about just having done my job. When I told him I don't attend the Filmfare function he said he'd collect the award on my behalf!!

Why he changed his opinion about me four months down the line he would know best.

Why do you think Varma approached you for the role if he thought Govinda would have done it better as he now seems to feel?

That you have to ask him.

I am asking you because usually when a film-maker approaches an actor he gushes about why that artiste is apt for his film. Did Varma indicate in any way why he had asked you to do his film?

Personally I think Govinda is a very good actor and can do almost any role offered to him. Whether he would have done this one better or not we can't say till we actually see him do the same role. I am one of his biggest fans

As far as Ramu's casting is concerned. I can recall that when he came to me initially, after the narration of the story, we discussed dates and I told him I wasn't free to do his film till a year later. He wasn't ready for that and said he'd opt for someone else. I said 'fine'. The meeting ended on that note. I went away for my shows.

When I returned, about four months after that initial meeting Ramu came back to me saying, 'I've looked everywhere and I've thought of all the actors and tried to imagine each of them doing this role but I cannot imagine anybody other than you so I'm prepared to wait for however long you want me to wait.' This is what he had to say about the casting aspect at that point of time.

Do you feel hurt when people like Varma and Yash Chopra fail to understand your approach to a role and take potshots at you in print? Yash Chopra accuses you of wanting to know exactly how many punches you would give Sunny and vice versa when you were supposed to do the role Shahrukh Khan eventually did in Darr?

Aamir Khan They don't fail to understand my approach They simply tell lies. Yes it hurts tremendously when they do this.

Regarding Yash Chopra's accusation I'd like to put things in perspective. In the first narration he told me that Sunny (Deol) and I would fight but it would be Juhi (The woman whom I was obsessed with and harassing) who would kill me. That was poetic justice. Then I came to know that he had narrated a different climax to Sunny in which Sunny would kill me. So I asked for a joint narration.

I was concerned about my screen image. I was certainly not going to be beaten up by a regular hero in a regular commercial film. See, I didn't mind being beaten up by Deepak Tijori in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar because that was a different kind of film. But if you have a casting coup like Sunny and me then I certainly don't want to be beaten up by him or even Arnold Schwarzenegger for that matter. Is there anything wrong with that?

When Yashji told me it would be an equal fight in the climax I asked him what he meant by that and he said both of us would have an equal number of punches. These were his words, said in the presence of cameraman Manmohan Singh and scriptwriter Honey Irani.

In any case it made more sense to have a heroine who has been terrorised all along killing her tormentor.

Yashji has also said that I had second thoughts about playing a negative role. Far from it... in fact, I would not have glamorised the role the way it was done in the film if I had done it. The character had a mental problem and it should have been played accordingly.

Have incidents like these disillusioned you about the film industry?

No. I feel disillusioned about the way the world is functioning. People in the film industry come from the same society that doctors, lawyers etc hail from.

What do you think of competitors like Shahrukh Khan, Govinda and Akshay Kumar?

They are all doing very well. If you asking me to compare myself with them, I would say the audience views each of us differently. The audience expects different things from the four of us. There is no clash or rivalry between us. Each of us has our own niche.

What are the films you are doing at this point of time?

My next release will be in Diwali -- Raja Hindustani with Karishma Kapoor. After that, Ishq will release, next year -- that's Indra Kumar's film, and my co-stars are Ajay Devgan, Kajol and Juhi Chawla. Other films under production are Mela, Mahesh Bhatt's Ghulam and an untitled film of John Mathew's opposite Sonali Bendre. I can't say when these will be completed.