"Yes, I have directed Taare Zameen Par" - Aamir Khan
By Harneet Singh (Screen Weekly), May 21, 2007 - 04:08 IST
Everyone talks about Aamir Khan. They tell you he is a control freak. They tell you he has shelved the much-awaited Mani Ratnam film Lajjo. They tell you he fired debutant director Amol Gupte from his home production. They announce his marriage with Kiran Rao is over. Sometimes, once every couple of years, he chooses to do the talking. And then, everyone listens. In an exclusive interview to eye on the sets of his forthcoming film Ghajini, Aamir broke his silence and made a big announcement: yes, he has turned director with Taare Zameen Par
You have been quiet for a long time now.
When I'm doing a film, I find myself too absorbed in it; so I'm unable to spare time for interviews. I'm not good at multitasking. Creating time for the interview is not an issue, but creating mindspace for it is. Also, I don't see the point in saying the same stuff every three weeks to different people. I'd rather be working and talk when I feel I need to.
But how do you explain the fact that people remember the one exclusive interview you decide to give?
I don't know. I'm not making an attempt to make statements that people remember. I try and give honest answers. So maybe that's why.
Last year, you gave us a double whammy with Rang De Basanti and Fanaa. One would have expected grand things of you but you turn around and sign a very small and personal film like Taare Zameen Par.
My choice of films is governed by my heart and instinct. I'm not governed by what the market demands. I loved the script of Taare Zameen Par and that's why I agreed to be a part of it. It's very simple. When I'm reading a script, I react to it as a member of the audience. If it excites me, I want to do it, irrespective of the budget.
Could it also be that since you have acquired the reputation of being different, you have to do something different each time?
I'm not trying to be different. There is no such pressure on me. I pick scripts based on what I like and the ones that I pick will be different because I follow my taste. Rang De Basanti and Lagaan were rejected by everyone, but I did them because I liked them.
So you think it's the industry's misconception to suggest you're different?
I don't know about that. All I know is that in the last six years, all my films have been diametrically different from what other people are making. Perhaps my choice is different. I do think that what you choose reflects on the kind of person you are.
In that case, you must be quite a secure actor. Rang De Basanti had six other equally important characters. Almost all other big stars had turned it down.
I don't think I'm an insecure actor. To me, filmmaking is about the film, not the individual. If I like a film, I like it because it has all the elements. If it is tampered with, its beauty will be destroyed. As an actor, I believe my job is to get the script right.
How do you explain the tags of �control freak� and �interfering actor�?
The fact is that I haven't spoken to the film media for the last 15 years. The result is that they hit out at me whenever they get a chance. Today, any and every untrue story is being reported. What's more disturbing is that even the national media has become like the film media. You must have seen that recently a film magazine carried a story on my marriage being on the rocks. Soon, the national channels also picked it up. I call that yellow journalism.
You are referring to the Stardust story. Let me first ask: is the story true? Is there trouble between your wife Kiran and you?
Not at all. That news is all wrong. It's utter crap. I don't usually comment on my personal life, but unfortunately these meaningless rumours are forcing me to comment. All this talk about my marriage being over is a figment of someone's imagination.
Why don't you sue the magazine?
If the legal system in our country were strong enough, I would have filed a case. I checked with my lawyers and they tell me that I should take it up if I want to spend the next 20 years of my life fighting a case. All this distracts me from my work, which I love doing.
What is your reaction to these stories?
Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I get irritated. There are moments when I also feel sad, especially when I think that some people have to earn money by lying about others. The only thing that keeps me going is that I know in my heart that my audience knows me. I know that they won't believe the crap that is written about me.
How do your family and kids react?
My family is used to it. So they don't believe it. As for my kids, if anything has to be told to them, I'll tell them. They will never find out what's happening in their father's life from the media.
It's almost as if you operate in an alternative industry: you work with your own group of people, you don't attend award functions, don't sip coffee on talk shows and hardly give interviews. Is it by design?
(Laughs) I think that's a wrong way of putting it. I'm very much a part and product of this industry. It's just that whatever I do in my life, small or big, I like to do it on my terms. I like doing things that I believe in. I can see that I'm an oddball and I don't fit the requirements of what is recognised as a star today.
What is your definition of being a star?
In my opinion, a star is defined by the number of seats he can fill in the theatres in the first week on his own merit, irrespective of the director and co-stars. I've been fulfilling that requirement so far.
Will we ever see you acting in a mindless comedy and a mushy romance?
I don't want to use the words 'mindless' and 'mushy' loosely. I would like to do a purely romantic film, which may not be in the realm of logic, which is what Fanaa was. It was not a logical film but it was from the heart. But I have to confess that I'm comfortable doing different kinds of cinema. I want people to be entertained in different ways and I want to be able to entertain them in different ways.
Of late, you've worked with a lot of new or less successful directors. Do you want to give new people a break?
My purpose is not to give other people an opportunity. My purpose is to do films I like so that I can entertain people. I do films with directors in whom I have faith. It doesn't matter how their last film fared, as in the case of Rakeysh Mehra and Ashutosh Gowariker. My choice of what film I'm doing depends on three factors: trust and faith in the director, the script he wants to make and the producer. I don't compromise on any of these.
There are rumours that you (and not Amol Gupte) have directed Taare Zameen Par.
Yes, that's true. But that's not how it started out. A couple of years ago, Amol came to me with a script that I fell in love with. He wanted me to act in it and produce it. I was happy to do both. Amol wanted to direct the film and I agreed since I felt he was capable. But one week into the shooting of Taare Zameen Par, I wasn't happy with what I saw of the rushes. I lost faith in Amol and his capability of translating on screen what he had so beautifully written on paper. At which point, I expressed my feelings to him and did what was fair and returned the script back to him so that he could direct it for another producer, with another actor. But Amol came back to me and said he wants me to continue as the producer and he decided to step back as the director. After going through various names and options, Amol suggested that I take over as director. Our main concern was the child who has a pivotal role in the film. Both of us felt that we had found a magical child in Darsheel Safary. Any new director coming in would mean a delay of six to eight months and we were afraid Darsheel might grow up. It was Amol's suggestion that I take over as director. So I took on the responsibility and did the best I could.
How was the experience?
Emotionally, it was very difficult for me as I'm sure it was for Amol because we have been friends for more than 25 years. Amol is an extremely talented person and I'm certain that he will direct a film soon and direct it well. Amol's contribution to the film is immense. He was with me every day on the shoot, guiding me and, at times, even correcting me. I'm grateful that he stayed on and helped me make the film.
But did you enjoy direction?
I must confess that it was one rough journey because I had to jump in without any preparation. I'd always wanted to direct a film but this was not an ideal situation. I'd have liked to spend time on the script and visualise it. Working with kids can be tough but we had a great bunch of kids, especially Darsheel, Sachet and Tanay Chheda. It was extremely challenging and a great learning experience. Despite all that, it was fun. (Taare Zameen Par will release on December 21.)
Is it true that you've rejected your wife Kiran's script thrice?
Not true. Kiran will direct soon. I must confess that I was bowled over by the script she has written. I'm definitely going to produce it. Unfortunately, there is no role for me in it and I'm extremely sad about that. But I've requested her to tweak one of the characters to fit me in. I hope she does.
What is the philosophy of Aamir Khan Productions?
To do films we believe in and enjoy making them.
What will it take for an Indian film to win an Oscar?
The film just needs to be able to impress the committee that is judging the foreign language films. When people ask me what made Lagaan reach the top five, I say it was because the people who saw Lagaan loved it. And when I'm asked if I was disappointed that Lagaan didn't win the Oscar, I say reaching the top five is an achievement itself.
Is winning an Oscar important?
It's of minor importance. I'd be happy to win one. But I give more importance to the audience's reaction to my work and what I feel about it.
What is the status of Lajjo?
Trade reports suggest that the film has been shelved. The last that I know of it is that Mani (Ratnam) is working on the songs and the script. If there is any change, I'll check and get back to you.
This one is a personal request. Can't you drag Mansoor Khan (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar) back to direction?
(Laughs) I've tried my level best. In fact, I requested him to be the creative producer of a film I'm producing, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, wherein I'm launching my nephew Imraan. He was kind enough to agree. That was my way of getting him back ki thoda sa chaska lagega. Mansoor tells me that he's working on something; so let's wait and watch.
Shah Rukh, Salman and you have dominated films for over 17 years now. What makes The Khans so special?
I've no idea. You need to check with the audience.
Who, in your opinion, can take over after The Khans?
I don't think we're planning to move out soon. But Hrithik (Roshan) is a good actor and a popular star. Even Abhishek (Bachchan) is doing well.
What was the last film you saw that you wished you had acted in?
(Thinks hard) I can't think of any.
Karan Johar has said you don't respect him as a filmmaker.
I've seen all three films by Karan. I loved Kuch Kuch Hota Hai but I was extremely disappointed with Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. I think Karan is capable but his last two films have disappointed me as an audience.
What has been your most satisfying performance as an actor?
(Thinks hard) It's a very tough question. It's very difficult to be objective. I'm happier with my last four-five films like Rang De Basanti, Fanaa, Mangal Pandey, Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan and Sarfarosh. As I grow as an actor, I find I don't like my previous work. I feel there were too many mistakes. It's a process, I guess.
Has there been a performance that makes you cringe?
Oh, there have been quite a few. I'd rather not name the films.