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My name is
And i m not just a STAR
Born to producer Tahir Hussain, Aamir Khan's debut film Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak refashioned filmdom's lingua franca and his latest 3 Idiots rewrote the numbers game! This 22-year journey has had 32 films in between -- with almost a dozen astounding hits and mind-blowing performances. The journey has been an uncompromising one - paced at his will and whim -- with controversy, awards, friends and fights strewn along the way. As he turnen 45 on March 14, here's a look at his best roles unadulterated.
A video still that allegedly shows actress Ranjitha and Swami Nityananda indulging in acts of intimacy.
He quit studies after Class XII at Mumbai's N.M. College much to his parents' horror, choosing to work as an assistant director for four years. After his pin-up worthy debut in 1988, he wept every day coming home from work, convinced that the nine films he had signed in a rush would crash his career. Then in 2002, after he separated from Reena, his wife of 16 years, he drank a bottle of Bacardi every day for a year-and-a-half, except for the six hours a week and every alternative weekend he would see his children. Not what you would call the perfect ingredients for success. But Aamir Hussain Khan, all 44 years and 5 ft 7 inches of him, his wife's diamond studs twinkling in ears pierced for Lagaan, has always swum against the tide. Only now the tide seems to be swimming with him. He's just starred in 3 Idiots, a film that has been breaking box office records at home and abroad, making Rs 240 crore in 10 days and still counting. His last four films, released over three successive years, Rang De Basanti, Fanaa,
QAYAMAT SE QAYAMAT TAK, 1988 Director: Mansoor Khan Made at the height of the disco era, it was a breath of fresh air, heralding Sooraj Barjatya's Maine Pyar Kiya and Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. "When we shot it, I was 21 and when it released, I was 23. We would wonder who will watch the film in the theatres.” Aamir Khan's effervescent debut made him an overnight sensation. His portrayal of a teenage-lover was everything giggly girls wanted to see on-screen. His dramatisation of 'Raj' was of the boy-next-door without cockiness but charisma, without smarts but heart and of silence rather than verbose dialogue.
Taare Zameen Par and Ghajini, made a collective box office revenue of over Rs 590 crore. He makes an average of Rs 10 crore a year from each of the six brands he endorses. The way he marketed Ghajini will now be taught as part of a course in film marketing at IIM-Ahmedabad. The profit he is contemplating from 3 Idiots, as a result of a wise decision to forego his fees and split the profit three ways between producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, director Raju Hirani and himself, will be over Rs 20 crore. But more than that, his films have consistently hit a nerve with audiences, either getting them to participate in candlelight vigils inspired by Rang De Basanti, treat children with greater sensitivity as in Taare Zameen Par or even cause them to bulk up their bodies as in Ghajini. In an industry ripped apart by camps, he is his own institution, working with untested new directors (Farhan Akhtar in Dil Chahta Hai) and even failed filmmakers (Ashutosh Gowariker, who had two flops behind him, in Lagaan). He's been a producer for the smash hit Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na which starred his nephew and made Rs 115 crore at the box office, a director for Taare Zameen Par and even the unofficial CEO of Ghajini Inc. He shuns the awards circus and has never been seen in public performing song and dance routines. Yet his decision to act in one movie at a time is now a mass mantra and a sure career cure. His help was sought in resolving the two-month stand-off with multiplexes last year. And equally, his move to not charge a fee for 3 Idiots could set off a trend of stars putting their talent where their mouth is in these leaner,
RANGEELA, 1995 Director: Ram Gopal Varma "Ramu had four flops before this. Urmila (Matondkar) had eight. The film had no story," he says. But his loveable tapori Munna became the template for Sanjay Dutt's Munnabhai. Aamir Khan's tapori Munna set off a slew of characters. Like Aamir recounts in an interview: "Ramu had four flops before this. Urmila (Matondkar) had eight. The film had no story." And yet it spiraled all their careers into the fast-track! His street smart tapori's claim to love and good life had an unbelievably soppy
Straight from the heart
"I feel I'm a special person and if someone does something to me, I just remove myself from that person's life." "My brain is like a computer in its memory for scripts. It just soaks everything in and then it's in my head at all times. I'm often thinking of the part and it starts coming to me. Then I start collecting the information. Often it's not thought out.""The two mistakes I made early on was signing nine films within six months of my debut and giving too much importance to scripts, not directors."
"A star's dependability is measured by his unsuccessful films. Whatever business it does is because of him."”I was 16 when I realised I wanted to be an actor. My school friend Aditya Bhattacharya decided to cast me in a 40-minute silent film called Paranoia, financed with Rs 8,000 from actor Shriram Lagoo. Making that film convinced me that this is where I belonged. Shabana Azmi saw it and told my parents. All hell broke loose.""Seeing my father go bankrupt when his film Locket was stuck for eight years taught me to be responsible to the market.""My first instinct when I go home is to pick up a book, not the remote. I've been reading since I was six."
Yet as he sits folded up in his favourite chair in the projection room of his home, two floors below his mother's home where he was born and brought up, it is hard to think of the word superstar. He exudes an aura, but the room is more suited to that of a messy student, with books such as Katherine Frank's Indira to Abraham Verghese's The Tennis Partner sharing shelf space with PC games and Bob Dylan and Sufi qawwali CDs. The make-up room is stacked with the tools of his trade, from spare costumes to a wigmaker's dummy. And the terminal above his computer has chronologically labelled scripts. The actor himself is on his fourth coffee, talking about how he lost weight for his role of Rancho in 3 Idiots, which director Rajkumar Hirani rewrote for Khan. He speaks of how he modelled the 17-year-old on the boyish director of Ghajini, A.R. Murugadoss, and his 14-year-old nephew Pablo, who can never sit still. He jumps up to demonstrate, as he often does in his exuberance, contorting his body like an over-active teenager. "But Rancho was also dangerous because he is without a flaw. The audience's heart doesn't go out to such a guy. So I made him curious rather than cocky," he says. Thinking deeply about his character is something Khan has done increasingly, whether it is Bhuvan's stance in Lagaan, with his weight evenly distributed on his legs to suggest inner strength, or Aakash's darting eyes in Dil Chahta Hai indicating what a shallow layabout he is.
GHULAM, 1998 Director: Vikram Bhatt "It was one of the first films at that time about disenchanted youth. This supposed hero had such sham bravado. He was a macho guy who became almost cerebral." Khan says it took a little time for the market to understand that it would not lose money on his films.
Khan thinks in close-up, wide shot and mid-shot, in total physicality, says film scholar Nasreen Munni Kabir. He borrows a lot of his technique from observation--for one scene where Mona Singh slaps him while he is helping her deliver in 3 Idiots, he cheerfully admits to copying from his ex-wife Reena's difficult labour for their first born. And even more cheerfully says he loves talking to interesting new people. "Sometimes I feel like sucking their brains out.” Khan is a star who doesn't play himself in every film, as Amitabh Bachchan did at the height of his fame or Shah Rukh Khan tends to do. He plays the character, which may be why he tends to work with new directors, who help in creating a fresh persona every time. "Audiences now expect an element of surprise from him," points out Kabir. "Like a magician, they want him to conjure up a new character." Once he has identified the perfect script, a director whose vision he shares, and a producer who will back it, Khan surrenders himself to the moment. There's no spillover, no hangover. Everything apart from the movie goes into soft focus. "When I read a script, it just goes straight to my brain," he says. "It's like a computer in its memory. It just soaks everything in and then it's in my head at all times," he adds, even as he acts out the first part he got in a play in Class XII. It was a line as a painter in a Gujarati play, a role he couldn't actually perform because he was sacked for missing a day of rehearsals. The line remains etched in his hard drive. He repeats it now: "Bloody hell, no one marries me. I wish his mother gets married to a dog."On the sets, Khan is a trooper. He will hang out even when he doesn't have lines, or just play Scrabble with the assistants. He will promote the film across the country on every media he can find. And he will just not want to go home. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who directed him in Rang De Basanti, and has been a friend since, says, "He makes himself completely accessible to the filmmaker." Kunal Kohli, who directed him in Fanaa, recalls how Khan was apologetic even asking him for four days off in the middle of the shoot in Mumbai in 2005 because he wanted to get married to Kiran Rao, a highly rated assistant director whose debut feature Dhobi Ghat will release this year. "He's there whether it is for readings or costume trials," adds Kohli. "And he's just incredibly intelligent. How many people do you know who can solve the Rubik's cube with one hand?" Khan calls this quality "obsessive" and regrets that he cannot spend more time with his children, Junaid, 16, and Ira, 11, when he is acting in a film. His cousin, Nuzhat Hussain, a psychoanalyst, who lives in the building next door, has been close to him since he was 10 and she 15. She says the level of professionalism in his work where each person is given due respect is reflected in his personal life as well, where he is fastidious about his honesty. He simply cannot tell a lie. "But he is not superhuman. He does make mistakes. He hurts himself. But he is totally open to learning and feeling new things, which I think is an act of courage," says Hussain. Khan does have selfdoubts. Personally, yes, and also professionally. But he refuses to compromise on his films. He says he learnt that lesson early on when he signed a spate of films in a hurry on the basis of their scripts and then realised the director's vision was completely different from his. He recalls that when he was at his lowest point, having been dismissed as a one film wonder, it was Mahesh Bhatt who offered him a hand, discussing a script with him, which as luck would have it, he didn't like it.
SARFAROSH, 1999 Director: John Mathew Mathan Mathan was unknown when he came to Khan with Sarfarosh but the movie, with its tough guy police officer, ACP Rathore, and anti terrorist theme "really shocked people as it came out of the blue". He says it marked the turning point for the trade's belief in his bankability. Aamir played an upright cop ACP Rathore in this Bollywood drama with a difference. With sexy Sonali Bendra in tow, Aamir combined action, romance and dialogue in the seamless way only he can! The actor lent his ACP Rathore a suaveness with gravity! It's not surprising that Aamir counts this amongst his favourite films.
"He was at the peak of his talent, having just done Saaransh, Arth and Naam and I didn't know how I could tell him I didn't like his script. So I bought time, came home and asked Reena. She told me to follow my heart. I did, telling Bhattsaab that I wanted to do instead was a remake of one of my favourite films, Roman Holiday, with Sridevi. He listened but then took out a screenplay of Frank Capra's 1934 film It Happened One Night. Six months later, we would do the film together as Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin." That's a lesson of following his happiness that he hasn't forgotten since then. It's taught him to do things his way, to go with his gut instinct even when every practical sense is screaming no, as it did when Mehra narrated Rang De Basanti to him, which was coming on the heels of four Bhagat Singh flops. And if he still needs advice, he turns to Hussain, who is producer Nasir Hussain's daughter, and actor Imran Khan's mother. "She's one person I go to when I need to talk about anything," he says warmly. "She's a great thinker." Stardom sits simply on him. Yes, there are the six bodyguards who travel everywhere with him. His man Friday Sachin, his girl Friday Sarita, and his manager Binki seem to stay awake all night. There is also the flashy Toyota Landcruiser and the Rs 10-crore sprawling house in Panchgani. But Khan is essentially a middleclass man, who thinks nothing of upturning the Body Shop shower gel to catch the last drop or blindly trusting his accountant of 20 years to invest his money well. It's ingrained in him because his most formative years, eight to 14, were spent in the shadow of his father, producer Tahir Hussain's imminent bankruptcy. "My father spent eight years making a film called Locket which was stalled because actors wouldn't give him dates," he says now. "For five years, I remember him getting calls from creditors every day asking him when he would return their money. And my father would always say I'm trying my best. One night, he woke up in the middle of the night, looking for his graduation certificate so he could get a job and feed us. Our fees would always be late and our names would be called out in school," he says of himself and his three siblings, sisters Nikhat and Farhat, and brother Faisal. They survived only because a film their father did in between, Dulha Bikta Hai on dowry, became a surprise hit. That was also the time Khan was devoted to tennis, playing five hours a day at the Khar Gymkhana, travelling all over from Kolhapur to Pune, sharing rooms in lodges with seven other children, becoming Maharashtra No. 1 in boys. But then one day when he was 14, his father, something of a tyrant, announced to his mother that Khan should give up tennis because his marks were falling. "My marks stayed where they were but my tennis stopped," recalls Khan. He learnt two valuable life lessons from his childhood. One was how to tell a story, as he would sit in a corner of his drawing room listening fascinatedly to writers and directors pitching their narrations to his father. "My father would say things like 'tell me the story in one line please', 'what is your premise' or 'but where's the conflict?'," remembers Khan, things he now knows are taught in film schools. He also learnt the importance of making money for the producers and distributors of his films. "As an actor it is my responsibility to ensure the producer makes his money back and the audience gets its money worth," he says. It's one reason the cerebral actor, who gets excited by Rajmohan Gandhi's biography of Gandhi, also proudly admits to reading Bollywood trade papers. After all, as a child, his father would make him write down box office collections of his films on the phone from places such as Amravati and Aurangabad. LAGAAN, 2001 Director: Ashutosh Gowariker Khan says, "When I told the late Jhamu Sughand, who was a very hardcore businessman, that I'm doing this film with Gowariker and it will cost a lot of money, he didn't blink. He never asked me are you sure? 1893 and cricket? Sports films haven't worked in India. But he didn't question me.” Khan set up Aamir Khan productions for Ashutosh Gowarikar's Lagaan. The rest they say is history. Everything that can be said about the Oscarnominated film has been said before. Khan states in an interview with India Today, of the time he asked the producer, Jhamu Sughand for the money, 'Even when I told him it will cost a lot of money, he didn't blink. He never asked me are you sure? 1893 and cricket?
As much as he is an individualist, Khan needs his family around him. He's close to his mother, Zeenat, now 74, who lives in Pune and whom he is now persuading to return and live with him. There are things she taught him he will never forget. "I remember I would come back from my tennis matches and tell her I'd won, and she would congratulate me while making tea for me. And then ask, but what of the boy who lost? His ammi must be very upset. That would be enough to depress me." It taught him empathy and he started regarding his rival as a human being, whom he would share a cold drink with or an after-match vada pav. There are other things she taught him well--he's probably the only star who knocks before entering a room in his own home and who remembers to show visitors the washroom while they wait for him to freshen up.He also seems to be looking better than ever. Khan attributes it to his dietician Vinod Dhurandhar who brought his weight down to 68 kg while making 3 Idiots. He slept eight hours a day at least and also started playing badminton, sometimes two hours a day, with students at IIM-Bangalore where they shot for 3 Idiots for over a month. He drinks four litres of water a day. And while friends say he is not above binge drinking, being able to put away several Bacardis for four days in a row, he has stopped smoking for over a year now."I just went cold turkey," he says. "I realised this with the three-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week training I did for Ghajini for over a year. The human mind is a very powerful tool. If it wants something badly, the body will give it. It's like what yogis say." Yet for such a sober individual, Khan can be a fun person, who enjoys learning skiing with his children in Canada as much as he takes pleasure in the piano lessons his wife Kiran gives him. He adores Calvin & Hobbes and as is obvious from his well aimed barbs at Shah Rukh, he revels in a little light mischief. The best part about him, says long-time friend, ad man Prasoon Joshi who's worked with him on several campaigns and written songs for some of his films, he doesn't take himself too seriously.Amit Khanna, chairman of Reliance Entertainment which distributed 3 Idiots, believes Khan is a throwback to the Dilip Kumar-Raj Kapoor-Dev Anand era when filmmakers lived for cinema and believed it had a higher social purpose beyond making money. "Yet he's as savvy as the new kids on the block, up to speed with Facebook and blogging." Khan doesn't quite put it so grandly. "Money doesn't excite me. It gives me comfort but it's not what makes me tick. Neither does throwing my weight around, or making a noisy entry or making a scene. Give me a great book or a great script any day." Given his anointment as the new box office guru of gyaan, there should be no shortage of the latter.
RANG DE BASANTI, 2006 Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra "I told my sister, who is in New York, that I was making the fifth remake of Bhagat Singh. The first four had flopped. She told me you've got to be kidding." The film's nihilism set off debates and its emotional activism sparked candlelight marches but Khan's flashy DJ was memorable. To use his words, "so nice".
This year Khan intends to focus onhis three home productions DHOBI GHAT It's his wife Kiran Rao's first feature film, based on her script, with multiple concurrent stories, all set in Mumbai. Khan plays a divorced painter while Prateik Babbar is the protagonist. PEEPLI LIVE A comic view of a farmer's life directed by former journalist Anusha Rizvi, based on her own script. It's one of the first films from India to be selected in the competitive section of the Sundance Film Festival. Khan has high hopes from it. DELHI BELLY An urban comedy about three strugglers, starring Imran Khan, stand up comics Vir Das and Kunal Roy Kapoor. Is directed by ad filmmaker Abhinay Deo. Khan will be sitting in on its post-production and will then plan the marketing.
TAARE ZAMEEN PAR, 2007 Director: Aamir Khan It was written by Amole Gupte who directed it for a week, until Khan, the producer, took over from him. He made a simple story of a dyslexic child into a timely movie questioning the education system, which turned out to be a surprise hit. "I would be heartbroken if Taare Zameen Par doesn't work." That's what Aamir Khan stated in an interview of his simple story of a dyslexic child, and one which questioned the education system. Direction was always on Aamir Khan's radar and it was always as he stated on many occasions, a matter of when than why! Playing art-school teacher Ram Shankar Nikhumb, he highlighted in the second half of the film, what a great school teacher can do for a student. The film was racked with controversy especially when writer Amol Gupte raised questions about who really directed the film.
Amir turns older
3 IDIOTS, 2009 Director: Rajkumar Hirani "My character Rancho was written in a dangerous way. He had no flaws. Your heart doesn't go out to him. It's the flaws that make you loveable. When I realised that very early on, I told Hirani I don't want to play it in a heroic manner as he will get on people's nerves. I didn't want to play it smart but naturally curious." The role required him to lose 10 kg, act like a 17-year-old, terrorise a principal, deliver a baby, and break off an engagement.
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