by Nazia Khan
Aamir Khan talked insecurities, hopes and ‘Peepli Live’ dreams with Masala.com in Dubai
picture: Rajesh Raghav/ITP Images
When Aamir Khan enters the room at the Park Hyatt where we’re to interview him, he does so very quietly. He introduces himself and settles down on the sofa. At this point, he seems just like a regular guy. Then Aamir starts to re-touch his make-up. Ah, the star emerges! A star who’s openly nervous about producing an unconventional film with no big stars. It’s plain to see how much Aamir cares about his home production ‘Peepli Live’, a satire on society woven around farmer suicides, that he’s in the city to promote.
It’s also plain to see that he won’t answer a question specifically if he doesn’t really want to. He’ll just smile and say, “I feel awkward talking about that.” Now, don’t go thinking we asked him something offensive! That was actually his reply when we asked him what was the most touching fan experience he’d had! Aamir seems the serious, somewhat reserved sort. The kind of person who prefers reading books to magazines (Yes, he told us so). So we ask him what he’s reading at the moment and he tells us it’s a thriller he bought at New York Duty Free, though he can’t remember the name just then. We’ll put down that memory lapse to the hectic promotional travelling he’s been doing. Meanwhile, here’s the man on himself and what’s driving him right now.
Who is the real Aamir Khan? How would you describe yourself?
I don’t do that actually. I am what I am, it’s for people to decide what they think of me. First of all I see myself as a human being. Then I am a creative person, and as a creative person I work as an actor sometimes, as a producer sometimes, as a director sometimes. I am all of these things. And I am just an average guy with my hopes and fears, insecurities and strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.
We’ve read on your blog that you’ve lost your appetite and sleep as Peepli Live’s release nears. Does this happen to you before every movie of yours or just this one?
(Smiles) That happens to me pretty much for every movie. When a film comes close to release, I get nervous about how people will react to it. I wonder whether the efforts and emotions of the entire team that has made the film, me included, will engage and entertain people; if it will connect with them.
You’ve talked about ‘Peepli Live’ being particularly tough because the movie doesn’t have any big stars. Did you ever think about acting in it yourself?
Very early on Anusha (Peepli Live’s director) and Mahmood (the casting director) and I discussed whether I should play Natha, who is the central character of the film. It was a great part. But for me to pull off Natha I would have had to go through a major physical transformation. I would have done it too if I were playing the part. We thought that we should do a screen test to see if at all I was suitable for the role. So we were flirting with that idea for a bit. Then they found Omkar (who plays Natha in the movie) when they were testing for some other part. And they really liked him. They showed his test to me and I agreed with them completely that we had found our Natha. After that, there was no point of me testing anymore.
When an unconventional script like this comes your way, do you think about the commercial aspects?
I don’t think about the commercial aspects when I decide to do it. My excitement about doing something is based purely on my reaction to the material. Once I’ve decided to do it then I look at the practical side. The film should work, economically it should be viable, and the people investing the money shouldn’t lose out. All these practical points come later.
You said in a recent interview that you only like your own movies because they’re universal.
(Looks surprised) I’ve never said that! But you're the second person to tell me about this interview. I’d like to look this up. I’ve never said that, it’s an inaccurate statement. Please clear the air. Actually when I watch my movies I always feel like I could have done better. Some of my films do have a universal theme, that’s true. And I do feel that less and less films are being made which are universally appealing to audiences across the country, people who live in smaller towns, villages, and cities. India is such a large country with people from so many different cultural and economic backgrounds living together. At one time there were many films being made which were viewed universally, I think less and less of those films are being made today. But no, not all my movies are universal either.
Having said that, has there been a role in recent times that you wish had come your way?
I don’t look at things that way. Occasionally I’ve felt that way but I can’t think of any strong example of late.
What are the projects you’re excited about for the future?
There’s ‘Dhobi Ghaat’, a film that my wife Kiran has written and directed, which I am also acting in. Then there’s ‘Delhi Belly’. It’s too early to talk about them now, we don’t even know when ‘Dhobi Ghaat' is releasing. Probably sometime in January.