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December 24, 1999


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'I just like to do films'

Aamir Khan What," the public relations person wanted to know, "is the time?"

"12.25 pm," we replied.

"Aamir said he'll be here at 12:30, so he will be here at 12:30," he said, as both of us continued to wait.

Exactly five minutes later, a white Maruti arrives and Aamir Khan steps out. A wave of excitement passes through the crowd. Everybody rushes towards him as he acknowledges the presence of his waiting fans.

"Aamir is here for an MTV shoot. He's on MTV's Hot Seat this month," explains the PR, inviting us to watch the shoot. The veejay readies for the interview.

"This shoot go on for an hour," Aamir tells us. "So I'll speak to you at exactly 2 pm."

Two pm. "I'll be with you in five minutes," he reassures us.

Dressed in blue jeans and a tight tee shirt, he does not look very different from the rest of humanity. Yet, the fact remains that he is Aamir Khan. Talent and modesty personified, the man's known to keep a low-profile. There are many people waiting to meet with him and he is pressed for time. But, as promised, he spares a few minutes for a chat with Kanchana Suggu.

You usually do one film a year. But this year saw three of your releases -- Sarfarosh, Mann and 1947: Earth. Are we seeing a change of strategy here?

No. I've been doing two-three films simultaneously, but it so happens that only one film of mine releases per year. But, from this January onwards, I'll actually be working on just one film at a time.

While Sarfarosh was a huge success, Mann didn't do too well. Did that disappoint you?

I was not too happy with the end result of Mann. I was disappointed with the way the film turned out. It did not turn out the way I had imagined it.

Aamir Khan in Sarfarosh Did you realise this after the film was completed?

Yeah. Film-making is a very difficult process. And, sometimes, what you are attempting does not necessarily happen. But we always try our best.

Do you feel Earth deserved more acclaim?

I think Earth was received very well. Despite being an offbeat film, I think it got a good response.

What are your personal preferences? Do you like doing offbeat films or commercial films?

I don't have any particular preference for an offbeat kind of a film or a popular film. I just like to do films. Many times, there might be a subject that is not strictly a popular film. I personally enjoy doing a good film. What I look for is a script I believe in, a script that excites me.

What is Mela about? What is your role in the film?

The film is basically about a girl who is in trouble and how she meets up with these two guys (Aamir and Faisal Khan) and how they end up helping her. It is a very lively film. It has a lot of fun and a lot of entertainment in terms of comedy, music and romance.

My character's name is Kishen Pyare. He is a truck driver. He and his partner, Shankar Shaane (played by brother Faisal) have a transport business. They take stuff from place to place.

Kishen Pyare loves to perform. He loves to do nautankis. So he performs in every town he goes to. But his plays always flop because he doesn't have a heroine. He is in search of a girl who could be part of his nautanki and also become his life-partner.

He is an over-the-top, loud person; the happy-go-lucky kind. He is constantly performing, even when he is off-stage. His partner, Shankar, on the other hand, is just the opposite. He is very serious and practical. Shankar too has a sense of humour, but it is of a very different kind. He only passes these sharp one-liners.

What would you say about Faisal's performance? He is maintaining a very low profile and avoiding the press. Are you going to do all the talking for the film and for him?

Aamir Khan with Twinkle Khanna in Mela (Laughs) Faisal has his own policy. He takes his own decisions. Maybe he is not speaking because he wants his work to speak for itself. He wants to first do something and probably talk about it later.

He has worked pretty hard on the film. I think he has done fairly well. He is not bad at all. He has justified his character. He certainly has a long way to go and has got a lot to learn as an actor.

Does he take any tips from you?

Occasionally. He does ask me sometimes and I always tell him if I feel there is something he needs to know.

How did you decide to venture into production? Did you always want to produce a film or was it because of Lagaan that you took this decision?

Yes, it was with Lagaan that I decided to go into production. When I read the script of the film, I liked it very much. Then I thought I should produce it myself. Before that I didn't have any plans at all. I think it's a good decision to produce a film and I am finding it a good experience. It's pretty exciting. Hopefully, things should go well and we should be able to execute the film the way we had visualised it. But that is something we'll come to know only when we actually make the film. It is definitely a project that excites me.

What does Lagaan mean? What is the film about?

The title means tax. Tax that the farmers had to pay.

Just then his secretary walks into the room and asks him about his schedule for the day. Aamir pauses to recollect and asks for an interview to be cancelled. A short discussion later, he gets back to me.

Sorry, where were we?


Oh yes... The film is set in 1890 in a small village in central India. Basically it's about the problem they are facing at that point of time and how they unite into a group and manage to solve it. It's a film about how the human spirit succeeds in the end.

How did you decide upon newcomer Gracy Singh for the film?

Aamir Khan and Sonali Bendre in Sarfarosh We screentested a couple of girls. There were some established actresses who suited the role. But none of them were able to allot us four months at a stretch. We will be shooting the film in one schedule. None of the well-known actresses who suited the role had the dates to spare. So Ashutosh (Gowariker, the director of Lagaan) screentested some girls and finally selected Gracy. He thought she really suited the role and felt that she is a good actress.

You both act in and produce Lagaan. Is it difficult juggling between the two?

Yes, it is difficult because I am playing two roles; that of an actor and a producer. What's made it easier with me is the fact that my wife, Reena, is handling the production aspect of the film. She is doing an excellent job and that has taken a lot of pressure off me from the production side. It is really great working with her. It has brought us closer together. Until now, she has never been a part of my work. I'm happy that we're working together to achieve one common goal. I am enjoying it. I'm getting to interact with her in a different manner. So that's really nice.

What will you do after Lagaan?

After Lagaan, I will be doing a film for a new director. His name is Farhan. He is Javed Akhtar's son.

What is it called?

The film hasn't been titled yet. It's a film about three friends. One of my co-stars is Saif Khan; the other one has not been finalised as yet. Even Preity Zinta is there in the film.

What do awards mean to you?

At this point, they don't mean much.

What about the early stages in your career? Did they mean anything to you then?

I think it is very difficult to decide which actor is better than the other or which director is better than the other because you are comparing very different films. You are seeing five different actors as five different characters in five different films. Only when you see all of them in the same role can you decide which of them is better. It's a very subjective view.

Initially, though, I used to look upon them as a day when the entire film fraternity gets together to appreciate each other's work, to applaud the work of some of our colleagues. Till that time I was a regular participant in these programmes until I thought that they had some inconsistencies. So I lost faith in them as an organisation.

Aamir Khan They don't matter to you anymore?

No. Not now.

Only your fans are important to you…

Yeah. What matters to me is the reaction of my audience to my film and to my work.

Recently you were rated as the best actor in a poll conducted by Outlook and ORG-Marg. Did that please you?

These things mean a lot (laughs). First of all, the reaction that I get from my audience when my film releases is important to me. These polls are not a regular feature. They happen to have done it. And I'm very happy about that. I'm very touched.

Do you have any plans to turn director in the future?

No. Right now, I don't have any plans. I'm still growing as an actor. I feel I have a lot to prove myself as well as to my audience.

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