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“I don’t second-guess my audience. I go with what I want”

It’s BOOM time! Mr Perfectionist is all set to break and create new records with his next release, Dhoom 3. Here’s Aamir Khan in an exclusive interview with Vajir Singh

Every time an Aamir Khan movie releases, expectations skyrocket. Now, you’re a part of the third instalment in the popular Dhoom franchise.

Well, high expectations are always a double-edged sword. In one way, it’s a good thing because that means people really loved Dhoom and Dhoom 2, and if they have expectations from my film, it means my earlier films were appreciated. But along with that, especially with a franchise like Dhoom, expectations are very high. I think it’s also exciting for the creative team because we knew there was a lot at stake when we started making the film. It’s a challenge we look forward to, going beyond the expectations of the audience.

What was the thought behind this film? Usually, you take a very long time to green-light a project.

Actually, I don’t take all that long to okay a script. The fact is that when I hear a script, I decide instantly whether I want to do the film or not. I may take a long time to hear a script. I don’t listen to scripts very often because when I am in the middle of a film, I don’t like to hear a script as I don’t like to be distracted. But once I hear a script, I take a decision immediately. In the case of Dhoom 3, the moment I heard the script, I loved it and wanted to do it right away. It didn’t take me more than a couple of seconds to decide that I wanted to do it.

Dhoom was a big film, Dhoom 2 was bigger and Dhoom 3 is expected to be the biggest to date.

(Laughs) I think that’s how life is. The fact that people are expecting Dhoom 3 to be bigger than Dhoom 1 and 2 says a lot about Dhoom 1 and 2. Obviously because people loved Dhoom 2 and because it went beyond Dhoom 1, people have greater expectations from the third instalment. So the higher the expectations from Dhoom 3, the greater the credit to Dhoom 1 and 2.

When the franchise is big and you’re one of the biggest actors we have, expectations soar even further. Were you ever apprehensive about how people would look at this film?

Beyond a point, we can’t think of expectations. I don’t like to second-guess the audience. I like to satisfy myself. I don’t think I am able to second-guess what the audience wants. So I go with what I want. I like to do films that excite me and challenge me, and which I enjoy doing. Dhoom 3 is certainly one of those films that challenged me. It’s one of the toughest roles in my career.

That was supposed to be my next question…

(Laughs) When I heard the script, I found it exciting and really enjoyable. It was great fun. It’s an all-round entertainer with drama, emotion and entertainment. It’s what I think we all look for in a wholesome entertainer.

You say it is the toughest role you’ve ever played. Why is that?

You will know why when you watch the film. I don’t want to get into details, but when I heard the script, I realised that this would be one of the most challenging films I have ever made. I have already portrayed some tough roles and have really enjoyed them. But Dhoom 3 gave me an opportunity to challenge myself in ways that I have not been challenged before. That’s why it was exciting for me to sink my teeth into it.

The trailer launch became a talking point and it trended on Twitter. What is the response you have received and are you happy with it?

I am thrilled with the response. I have been keeping tabs on reactions on social media and a lot of my friends and colleagues from the industry have been texting me to say how much they have loved the trailer. It’s a wonderful response.

In Dhoom, John Abraham did not reveal his identity. In Dhoom 2, Hrithik Roshan wore several disguises. But in this film, you play a magician and a thief. What’s that all about?

Basically, I am a circus artiste in the film. But he also robs a bank. That’s what he does when the lights go out. (Laughs)

You are known to get into the skin of your characters. How did you prepare for this role?

Well, physically, I had to undergo a lot of training. A gymnast has to be very physically fit and they have very little body fat. Mine had to come down to a single digit, 8 or 9 per cent. That was very demanding for me.

Since 2001, when you delivered two big hits in Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai, each film has been bigger than the previous (except for Mangal Pandey). How did you manage that? Not one flop in 12 years and every film bigger than the previous one?

Actually, even Mangal Pandey was bigger than my previous films. If you look at Mangal Pandey’s collections, you will realise that they were higher than those of Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai.

But it was also a more expensive film.

It was costlier than Lagaan but its collections were higher too. I don’t really think in terms of numbers. I am not a business person; I am more of a creative person. So what matters to me is whether I am able to satisfy my audience or surprise them, and whether I am able to give them more than they expected. And the higher the expectations, the bigger the challenge. What excites me is when people buy a ticket for my film and they thoroughly enjoy the film. I want people to get more than they thought they would get.

Do you give credit to the scripts of your films?

Yes, I give credit to the writers and directors of my films because that is the starting point of any film. The writer and the director are the two most important pillars of any film. The writer is where everything begins and the director is the one who narrates the story, so to speak. Sometimes, the writer and director is the same person. So in the case of Lagaan, Ashutosh (Gowariker) wrote and directed the film. Also in the case of Dhoom 3, Victor (Vijay Krishna Acharya) wrote and directed it. Sometimes, the writer and director are two separate entities. But from a creative perspective, according to me, these are the two most important pillars of a film. So, I give credit to the writers and directors of all my films.

Speaking of directors… You have worked with Indra Kumar more than any other director and that’s just three times. Why is that?

I have also worked with Mansoor (Khan) three times. I did QSQT (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak), Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar and Akele Hum Akele Tum with him. So there are only two directors I have done three films with. But that is pure coincidence because I go with my heart. If I like a film, I do it. Raju (Rajkumar Hirani) and I have done two films together. I did 3 Idiots with him and now P.K.

1990 was the only year when you had five releases. After that, you’ve had a maximum of two releases a year. Was that a decision you took?

Yes, that was by design. In the beginning of my career, I signed a lot of films and I was not really happy with them. You will notice that I used to have many releases a year… more than three. But in ’96, I had Raja Hindustani. From 96 onwards, I had only one release a year. In ’97, there was Ishq; in ’98, there was Ghulam; and ’99 Sarfarosh. So, I have had just one film a year. Sometimes, one release in two years, sometimes one release in three years. Mangal Pandey came after four years. The average is now one film in one or two years.

Is it a good thing or not for an actor to have only one release a year? Is that meant to keep the surprise element alive?

I don’t know whether it is good or bad, but I like to do one film at a time. And it takes me time to come across a script that I like. I invest a lot of emotion in my films and it is emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting. So I like to take some time off before I start my next film. I also like to spend time with my family.

Since QSQT, you have been known to be very involved with your films. Can you name any film you’ve done that didn’t do well and that you felt bad about?

Andaz Apna Apna. I really loved the film but it didn’t do well at the box office. It subsequently became a huge hit on home entertainment and by now it has become a cult film and people have watched it four or five times. Now, it is a super-duper success. But when it released, it was a failure. But I really loved the film, so I couldn’t understand why it didn’t work in cinemas. Maybe it was ahead of its time and maybe the following generation appreciated it.

You faced the camera in 1973 as a child artiste. Forty years later, what do you see when you look back at your journey as an actor?

The first time I faced the camera, I was a child. So that doesn’t really count because that was not acting. So the first time I actually faced the camera was for QSQT and I count that as my first film. From then to now, the journey has been quite exciting. I have had the good fortune of working with some very good directors. I am fortunate to have worked with some writers who have written scripts very well. Also, I have had the good fortune to work with some very talented technicians, cameramen, sound recordists, mixing people. I have worked with some fantastic co-stars. So its been a great journey.

What changes have you witnessed in the Hindi film industry?

The changes have been quite dynamic in the last few years. This is the 25th year of my career, so things like the editing machine we used to use would be different. It was all done manually. Now we edit on computers. Earlier, we didn’t have telecams or we didn’t even have a monitor. So when the director okayed a shot, we couldn’t even check. You had to go with your judgment. The director would see the shot with the naked eye and okay it or ask for one more take.

In terms of technology, things have changed. In terms of production, things have become more streamlined. We now have sync sound, which is a great thing. We shoot films in one go whereas, we wouldn’t do that earlier. Also, we now have a variety of films being made. Earlier, the industry was ruled by commercial films. Films outside the mainstream were strictly art house. Now, the bandwidth of mainstream cinema has broadened. We are making many films that we didn’t conventionally understand as mainstream but they are now becoming mainstream. The audience now likes unusual stories. The taste of the audience is changing; the variety of the audience is changing.

What’s next from Aamir Khan Productions?

We are working on Season 2 of Satyamev Jayate. And on the film front, there is a film I am working on. We are still at the writing stage, so I can’t talk about it. Kiran is also working on her own project, which she will direct but she has to dedicate all her time to Azad so her writing process has slowed. I am going to produce her next film, which she will direct and I am going to feature in the film that is being written.

When will we see you directing another film?

Not right now. Right now, I am concentrating on being an actor.


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