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Thread: Aamir: I do what makes me happy
01-17-2010, 02:00 PM #1
Aamir: I do what makes me happy
This decade has been kind to Aamir Khan, and yet somewhat cruel too. The actor unwinds to Vinita Dawra Nangia, introspecting on different aspects
of his work, life and journey so far.
To transform from the average-guy body of Nikumbh Sir in Taare Zameen Par to a sculpted eight-pack hunk in Ghajini, and then metamorphose into a fresh looking 20-year-old ‘small guy’ for 3 Idiots is not the work of an ordinary mind. And yes, it is to the mind that Aamir Khan ascribes this achievement.
“When you want something with intensity, the mind kicks in and makes it possible,” says the actor sitting comfortably cross-legged on a couch in his Bandra apartment living room. “We don’t realise what a powerful tool the human mind is. I cannot explain how I managed the Ghajini body in just a year’s time. Or the 20-year-old look for 3 Idiots either. Of course, I applied myself to it, did workouts, and ate right. But many people do that, so this was something beyond. I believe that all my mental energies focused on this one desire, multiplying my efforts manifold. And the impossible was achieved!”
It is noon and Aamir is served breakfast in a tray on his lap, a meager perfect circle of an omelet with a slice of brown bread. Solicitously he offers me a plate of sandwiches, then proceeds to fold up his omelet and bread into a sandwich and bite in. Tea in a transparent cup accompanies the meal.
Wide spaces and open windows bring in a whiff of nature into the modest but comfortably decorated room. On the wall opposite me, a Manjit Bawa holds pride of place, while behind me are abstracts by a French artist couple, handpicked by Aamir and wife Kiran their last trip to France.
In the next room hang three dramatic frames that actor-friend Salman Khan painted of Aamir during the Ghajini days. Do they look like Aamir? I stare awhile and find one seems like a cross between Aamir and Salman himself! “Omigod,” declares Binky, Aamir’s manager, “That’s rather dangerous!” She scuttles out of the room soon after...
Years of intense performances, one super hit after another, and one of the most capable shoulders on which the entertainment industry’s fortunes rest — what influences the choices of this, one of the greatest actors of our times? Aamir, still ensconced on his off-white couch, thinks in silence for a moment before he fixes me again with that intense tawny-chocolate gaze. I gradually discover this is his wont. “I do what makes me happy,” he declares conclusively. All my decisions are dictated by that, be it films or my personal life. I may make mistakes but at least the mistakes are all mine. I have never allowed myself to be pressurised by anyone. Even as a child, I was strong enough to resist the fears of people who loved me and go for what made me happy.
“When my mother resisted my decision to start working as an assistant in Bollywood at age 16, I told her I wasn’t stopping my education, I was just beginning it. I was always very clear about what I wanted.”
Dignity, self-respect and a constant sensitivity to others undermine Aamir’s quest for happiness. Especially sensitivity. Aamir smiles with a fond, faraway look in his eyes. “I was Maharashtra No 1 in sub-juniors Tennis. Whenever I would emerge after a game, Ammi would be waiting outside to ask, ‘Jeete ya hare?’ I would invariably have won. She would smile, then get a pensive look and say, ‘Jo haara, uski ammi ko kitna kharaab laga hoga...’ Then she would start worrying about the mother of the guy who lost to me. I guess this taught me to be sensitive to all around.” Aamir is happy, lost in memories. I give him a moment.
This last decade has seen Aamir cross many milestones. The launch of his production house, his first directorial and production ventures, awards for acting, directing and movies, nomination for Oscars and some of his greatest successes, all happened this decade. What has the journey been like?
“As an actor, the last 10 years I have opened up much more, “ says Aamir, breaking out of one reverie into another. “I am eager and more excited to experiment. And, more layered in my performances.” A pause during which he stares out of the window. I am getting used to these little silences and resist filling them up. Gazing back at me.
Aamir says, “Over the last 20 years I have grown to look more and more inwards. As an actor you are taught acting is emoting externally. If you are happy, you smile; if sad, you cry. In real life we are far more complicated than that. Not everyone necessarily smiles when happy or cries when sad. So today, I no longer focus on showing the joy; my effort is to feel it, to feel what the character I am playing would feel. What comes out of me is very complex and layered.”
On the personal front, the decade saw his separation and divorce with wife Reena, mother of his two kids, and remarriage with Kiran Rao. Aamir took four years off from work during which he dealt with regaining his emotional health by being with himself, his children, and even seeking professional help. “I gave a lot of value to my marriage and felt very emotionally damaged when it broke. I was in no state to work in those years. This was also the time I realised however dedicated I may be to work, at the core I need emotional anchoring; being rooted in family is very important to me.”
And that is what he feels he has lost out on in all the intense focusing on work and the various avatars he has had to evolve and metamorphose into. Too little time for family. “I am constantly trying to balance that,” he says. “That’s why I do one film at a time.” True to his word, now right after 3 Idiots, Aamir plans an eight-month break from films soon as the marketing blitzkrieg is over.
Aamir Khan’s choice of directors has always been a matter of keen gossip. He is said to choose directors (Rakeysh Mehra, Ashutosh Gowariker, etc) who haven’t been doing too well. And he goes on to deliver all-time great hits with them. As a result, common belief is that Aamir chooses “flop directors” and ghost directs all his movies with them.
“Not true at all,” he asserts. “Why would I give another person credit if the work is mine? On the other hand, why would I take away another’s credit? The truth is I choose to work with directors whom I consider talented, whether or not they have delivered hits.”
Not only does Aamir not ‘ghost direct’ his films, he claims he doesn’t even interfere with the director’s work. “When I listen to the script, if I don’t love what I hear, I don’t take it up; if I love it, there’s nothing to change! I discuss, may question, but ultimately I go along with what the director wants.”
If Aamir chooses his directors for their talent, the choice of movies is more instinctive. On the face of it, each of the stories he has figured in has been unique and dissimilar to the others. Aamir walks down memory lane. “The only common pattern has been that each of these stories moved me emotionally. I become the audience when I hear the scripts.”
If you think Aamir knows outright that he has a winner on hand, that’s not true. He confirms. “I make the most impractical decisions. And commercial success is the last thing on my mind when I’m working on a film. My mind doesn’t go in that direction; I just focus on enjoying the process and the work. If I thought of success, I would never have taken up any of my films — Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai, TZP, Rang de Basanti, Mangal Pandey or 3 Idiots!”
The years have seen Aamir ease up and chill. He admits to having consciously worked on all troubled relationships in his life, including with media. “I learnt a lot as a result of Taare Zameen Par; that movie changed me and I became even more sensitive to people and their realities. A psychiatrist I met during research for TZP told me all children need Security, Trust & Faith, Dignity & Self-respect, and Love. I realised I need the same things and so does everybody around. I decided to apply this learning to all relationships and this is what helped me understand and interact better with media as well.”
Time has flown as we talk and I have stayed much beyond what I intended. Aamir doesn’t mind and smiles as he walks me to the door. Barefoot in jeans and shirt, he still retains the ‘Rancho’ look. I wonder what he will become for the next film. For, in this actor’s case, he doesn’t walk into or don a role with the help of make-up and acting; he actually becomes it!