Hero No. 1: Aamir Khan

Hero No. 1: Aamir Khan
PHOTO: IANS

In a league of his own, Aamir Khan is making and breaking records in Bollywood.

He is not one to rest on his laurels.

In week three of its release, Dangal has minted over Rs 356 crores (S$75 million) and continues to go from strength to strength.

The biopic that tells the story of Olympian wrestling sisters Geeta and Babita and their father Mahavir Phogat has cornered all box office records to become the highest grossing Hindi film ever.

Instead of celebrating this milestone, Aamir is holed up in an undisclosed location prepping for his next film.

"I am in a boot camp. All I do the whole day is exercise. I do weight training, boxing and spinning. I also go on treks and cycle," the actor tells tabla! during a video-conference.

The celebrations would have to wait for now.

"Once I am back in Mumbai, I am hoping to meet the cast and crew of the film and celebrate with them. This film has been a wonderful journey for all of us."

On the surface, it might seem as if Dangal might have brought the demonetisation drought to an end at the box office.

Still, the actor believes it might have affected the film's takings.

Setting new benchmarks...Actors Zaira Wasim, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Sanya Malhotra and Suhani Bhatnagar during a press conference to promote the film Dangal.Photo: IANS

"I'm sure there might have been some effect in the smaller centres, but it can't be calculated. Regardless of that, I have to say that I am overwhelmed with the response the film has got. Its very rarely that the audience embraces a film like they have this one. I've had tears in my eyes while reading people's responses on social media."

There was one reaction in particular that has meant more to the superstar.

"Rishi (Kapoor) gave me the highest compliment that I could have imagined. He said I was the Raj Kapoor of today. I was over the moon when I read that. There's no way that I can compare myself to Raj Kapoor, but the fact that this thought came to Raj's son meant a lot to me," says the 51-year-old actor.

Talking about reactions on social media about Dangal, Salman Khan had tweeted "love you personally, but hate you professionally".

Ask Aamir about this and he laughs.

"It's actually a very loving tweet. The fact that he is saying this publically is a huge compliment from a colleague. I don't think there's even an iota of hate in his 'hate'."

Whether it's a current release or previous films like PK or Dhoom 3, Aamir's films have been setting new benchmarks with every release.

"I am not trying to set any benchmarks. When we sign a film, we don't know if it is going to work; if it would touch people's hearts and minds. I only pick a film based on my gut reactions. No one can predict it's fate. I just make films that make me happy."

With box office numbers going up with every film, the pressure to surpass the collections from his previous films must get to him?

"Honestly, numbers is not a game I have ever been interested in. When I think of all the films I love like Pyaasa, Do Aankhen Barah Haath, Teesri Manzil, Mother India or Mughal e Azam, it doesn't matter how much money they made or if they didn't make any money. We love films and not how they perform at the box office."

Aamir doesn't let audience expectations or industry naysayers get in the way of his telling a good story.

"I was told that I shouldn't make Dangal because Salman is making Sultan. Then there is no romance in the film. I was told that no one would want to see me being old and fat. This film doesn't have any romantic songs.

"I was given so many reasons for not making this film. But I had only one reason for making it. I loved the script. For me, it was as simple as that."

After a long time, Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir have all been nominated in the Best Actor category for the Filmfare Awards this year.

For years, Aamir has stayed away from popular awards and it's not going to change.

"The biggest award for me is the love we'd received from the audience. Popular awards are not of any value to me."

In the film, Mahavir pushes his daughters to realise his dream of winning for the country.

In 3 Idiots, the message that the audience walked away with was that one shouldn't push their children into careers they don't love.

As a parent (he has three children), Aamir believes in giving "my kids the freedom to choose whatever they are interested in".

"We support them completely. But that doesn't mean that parents should not guide or suggest things to their children. Only don't force them.

"In Dangal, Mahavir does push his daughters towards realising his dream, but you have to remember that Geeta and Babita have the passion and the drive to make his dreams come true.

"If they didn't, they wouldn't have succeeded. You can't force someone to excel at something. That passion has come from the individual. It can't be taught or forced. This was a true-life story so I had to follow Mahavir's story."

Babita and Geeta's real life coach didn't appreciate how their coach in the film was made the villain.

Aamir explains: "There's a disclaimer right at the beginning of the film that states that Dangal is the story of Babita, Gita and Mahavir Phogat. All other characters are fictitious. The coach in the film has a fictitious name. even the cousin in the film Omkar is fictitious.

"The girls have three-four cousins who they could wrestle with. Nitesh (Tiwari, director) thought it would have more impact if there was one cousin. We had to take cinematic liberties for drama and conflict. All biopic mention that some liberties have been taken to dramatise and that's what we've done."

Both Kiran Rao (wife) and your mother weren't very happy with your physical transformation for the film because it harms your health. Would you ever do it again?

"Don't tell them but if the role and the film is exciting enough, I will do it," Aamir says with a laugh before signing off.

Aamir’s plans for 2017

The actor is looking forward to realising a long-cherished dream of making a film with Amitabh Bachchan.

The duo star in the period drama Thugs of Hindoostan and the film goes on the floor some time in March.

"I am also looking forward to the release of a very special film called Secret Superstar that we've made. It's a very different film and my role is going to shock people," he says with a laugh, "its quite chatpata".

tabla@sph.com.sg


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