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    Kal Ho Na Ho
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    Aug 2008


    Default 'Salman and I have COME CLOSER' : Aamir

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    Aamir Khan talks to Abhijit Majumder about playing a kid half his age in 3 Idiots, choosing a script, Kiran Bedi, Salman Khan, and his favourite Shah Rukh film.

    "Pablo is never still."

    Aamir Khan gets up, fidgets, shifts from this feet to that, maunders, bites nails, plonks right back into the sofa absentmindedly sticking up a gawky foot in the air, lifts this and that distractedly...

    He broke into an engrossed, elaborate acting sequence in the middle of the interview on Thursday, mimicking his teenage nephew, Mansoor Khan's son Pablo.

    It was a rare, unexpected glimpse of how Bollywood's best-known perfectionist perfects his role, hacking variously into the world of a tough cop, revolutionary, killing machine or, in this case, the turbid mind of a brat.

    Pablo is one of his two muses for 3 Idiots, which opens on December 24. In the movie, 44-year-old Aamir plays a 22-year-old student. The other, surprisingly, is A R Murugadoss, director of Ghajini.

    "Murugadoss is in his mid-thirties, but he is so boyish. He's amazed by everything, there's always curiosity in his eyes," said Aamir, chatting over tea and sandwiches at his nephew Imran's Pali Hill bungalow, allowing a peek into his chaotic world of obsessive, compulsive order. Excerpts:

    An offer at 44 to act 22... and you took it up?
    [Starts laughing] Very valid question. I have been asking myself that. Audacious step... in keeping with all my mad decisions in the past. After four films on Bhagat Singh, for instance, we went and made the fifth one, Rang De Basanti. Or when people were making films in Switzerland wearing DKNY, we went and shot Lagaan in dhoti in a small village.

    In 3 Idiots, age was the challenge. I told Raju [director, Rajkumar Hirani], 'Why waste time on me when you can use a 22-year-old?' He said, 'Rancho is what you are in real life... unconventional, always goes against the tide, breaks rules.' He wanted that belief to come through.

    What did you have to do to physically overcome the age barrier?

    I had to get rid of all the muscle I had built for Ghajini. I had to become smaller. Stopped training, went on a strict diet, drank lots of water, did cardio, played badminton 1-2 hours every day before shooting. When you sweat it out, your face looks fresher, younger.

    So, I'd text poor IIM-Bangalore [3 Idiots was being shot on campus] students to come at 3 am or 4 am to play badminton. [Chuckles] I destroyed their sleep pattern.

    That's the difficult part. Every pore needs to feel you are 22. It's difficult to bring back the innocence. To unlearn. You have gone through so much experience that your response is automatically different.

    Did Kiran's terminated pregnancy affect you while you were shooting?
    Yes, of course. In fact there's a moment in the film...but anyway, let people watch it [trails off distractedly].
    Fortunately, it happened when I was not shooting. There was just one song left. Kiran and I took a couple of months off together. If I were shooting, I'd have had to absorb it. It is very difficult for me to cancel shooting. The financial repercussions, even the creative repercussions of cancelling are huge.

    How do you choose your scripts?

    Three things. One, it should excite me. Two, the director should make me confident. Three, the producer has to back the team up, market the film well.

    Beyond that, filmmaking is storytelling with a lot more tools. Two things become important: what is the story, and how is one telling it. When one has a compelling story to tell, it will grab your attention.

    There's one flop in the last 8-9 years. Mangal Pandey...

    Yes, we got some things wrong. It should not have centred around me. It's a story of two friends, and not exclusively that of Mangal Pandey. There shouldn't have been posters with just me in them. But my film was hitting screens after four years after Dil Chahta Hai, and there were a lot of expectations. I got carried away. The pitch was wrong. We were not totally honest. We put too many songs to make a difficult film palatable to a larger audience.

    Having said that, few know that Mangal Pandey grossed more than a lot of hit films. It made a surprising amount of money despite underachieving in creative terms.

    You have been very critical of the media. Do you see media doing a good job?
    I think so. There are different kinds of people in all walks of life, journalism is no exception and I've come to accept it. But because of the power media wields, it has brought in a lot of accountability. It has become much more difficult for people in the government, administration or elsewhere to misuse power.

    Have you liked any film lately?
    I am not a big film viewer. Embarrassing when people ask when I've seen a movie last. It could be two years ago.

    Haven't you watched anything lately?

    A couple of films. But there's nothing to say [smiles]. Jaane do na.

    Apparently there was a time many years ago when Shah Rukh, Salman and you used to meet as a trio, hang out together. What happened?
    Yes, we used to hang out together. Over the years, Salman and I have come closer. We have grown fond of each other. We have respect and regard for each other. We enjoy each other's company. In fact, we hang out more than we used to earlier. Not daily, but often.

    Shah Rukh and I have, over the years, not hung out together so much. We meet every now and then. Again, I have a lot of respect for Shah Rukh as a star, and find his films entertaining.

    What's your favourite Shah Rukh movie?
    Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. My clear favourite.

    Why did you stick your neck out for Kiran Bedi as Right To Information (RTI) chief?
    This is one Act, which can really empower us as a democracy. So it is well worth it for each Indian, even the prime minister, to protect it fiercely. No one should be able to mess with that.

    We are suggesting that the RTI chief be Kiran Bedi. If not, tell us why not she and why somebody else. Our concern is that the method in which currently the RTI chief is selected now is not that transparent and inclusive. We must invite public debate on this.

    Will you ever be an activist, full-time?

    No. My passion is storytelling. But I'll speak up whenever I feel I should.



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