Working on a hot Sunday afternoon isn’t exciting at all but when there’s an interview with Aamir Khan, you can’t afford it miss it. So there I was at 2:30 pm outside Aamir’s residence in Bandra, with a bunch of journalists, waiting to meet him and have a group interaction. Like every time, there were samosas, sandwiches and khaman arranged for us. We all settle down in his living room and soon Aamir walks in and greets us with a hello and excuses himself saying he’ll be back in a couple of minutes. There was something different about him this time, the hair was trimmed short and instead of the grown beard, only the stubble remained. He looked much younger and lean, and once he was back, we told him and he did have a big smile on his face. “You know in Thugs I was in very good shape but after my shooting gets over then I tend to relax a bit. Yesterday I had gone to Shah Rukh’s (Khan) place and everyone was telling me that I was looking young. I started eating and drinking so I have put on a little weight. After Diwali again I will go on a strict diet. Diwali ke mahol mein diet nahi hoti. Actually who lambe baal or mooch gaye toh bohot farak padta hai,” he said. He was dressed in a kurta this time unlike casuals, which he normally prefers every time. Says Aamir, “So I was going to wear that and my team shouted at me and said Diwali hai.” Besides this, Mr. Perfectionist also spoke about his upcoming film Thugs Of Hindostan, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and much more in this fun interaction.
Are you nervous or excited about Thugs Of Hindostan?
Both. You know 2 years have gone into making this film so I hope people it.
Are you happy?
I’m happy. I think it’s an ideal release for Diwali. It doesn’t have any social message, it is a film you are meant to enjoy and have a good time. There’s great action, it’s got a very big scale and canvas. Amit ji (Amitabh Bachchan) and I are coming for the first time.
Thugs Of Hindostan is going to catering to both masses and classes?
I hope so, it’s a pretty universal film and it’s a very child-friendly film. Like there’s action but no serious action. So it’s a family film, it’s a universal film.
You do very few films and in the last 10 years, besides Rajkumar Hirani, Vijay Krishna Acharya (Victor) is the second director you’ve worked with twice. Any particular reason?
I didn’t notice that. It just happened, I don’t think I planned it like that. It just happened that both Raju and Victor came up with stories I liked. In this film (TOH), the character of Firangi Mallah is so attractive that I just had to play it. It is a very well written part and Victor has written some beautiful lines.
You dedicate almost 2 years to every film. During this time, do you ever feel you are losing out on other projects?
No, because those 2 years is a journey I’m enjoying. Actually, nothing else comes into my vision when I’m doing something, so I have never felt that. Even when I was doing Dangal it took me 2 years. I really believe that at the end of the day in films, each film roughly takes 2 years of my life and we don’t know what the end result is going to be but what we have in our control is the journey. So if you work on films that excite you, people you get along well with and people who challenge you and excite you then the journey becomes a wonderful journey and you hope that the film also does well. For me the journey is very important and a lot of value.
Why do you call this role your toughest till today?
You know it was a tough role because it was a very thin line I had to walk on because Phirangi is a character who is very unreliable and when he’s talking to you he’s winning your trust and of course at some point, he will stab you in your back. When he’s winning your trust, I have to be very sincere. I have to make you believe. If I am too real I won’t be enjoyable. You have to be real for the characters and at the same time the audience has to enjoy what you are doing. He’s (Aamir’s character) an enjoyable guy but not a good guy. He’s not a guy you want around you as a friend, you want to watch him from far.
Did you find any similarities between Jack Sparrow and Firangi?
You know intrinsically they both are similar characters. But I am hoping that when you see Firangi you forget Jack Sparrow. I don’t think Victor wrote is based on Jack Sparrow.
How was it working with Mr Bachchan?
I was very excited to be working with him but I was also very nervous. I didn’t know how it would be working with him. Would I not be able to perform properly? I remember the first shot, it’s in the trailer actually where we are circling each other and I salute him. I was very nervous for the first shot. It went off alright and then I got a little comfortable with him. Amit ji is a very warm and generous person. He makes you comfortable, he’s very easy to work with. He has got a very dry sense of humour so you don’t know whether he’s joking or he’s serious. You take a little time to understand that.
You said you were nervous about meeting Mr Bachchan, did you talk to anybody regarding how to get over the nervousness? Share some anecdotes.
I spoke to Shah Rukh because I am a smoker; earlier I used to smoke cigarettes and now I’ve switched to pipes. So I went to meet Shah Rukh, he was shooting in the same studio and I said Shah, tu Amit ji ke samne cigarette peeta hai? How does it work, are you allowed to smoke in front of him? So he said no problem, you can smoke, I smoke in front of him. I asked him have you ever asked Amit ji? He’s like no I haven’t asked him but he’s never stopped me. I told him I was nervous. So Shah told me ‘Pehle tu thoda dur shuru kar phir har din thoda nazdeek aa. So smoothly get into it.
So you actually did that?
The funny part is when we were having this conversation, Avinash Gowariker, he’s a still photographer, was also there. So what happened one day when we were shooting in Malta was that after shooting, I went to Amit ji’s room and told him let’s go for a film. He asked which film to which I said we’ll go to the theatre and figure. Since we had packed up, the cars were sent back so I suggested that we’d walk to the theatre. Fatty (Fatima Sana Shaikh) Amit ji and me walked to the theatre as it was close by. While going there he was telling me that Aamir I heard you had gone to meet Shah Rukh and you were asking him if you could smoke in front of me. I asked him how did he find out and he told me that he had met Avinash. He was most amused. I said sir toh aapka answer kya hai? He’s like you can smoke in front of me of course but it’s not good for your health. I asked him if he smoked cigarettes before and he said he did.
Which movie did you guys see?
We saw Wonder Woman.
Were you intimidated at any point?
Not intimidated, he’s too well behaved and warm to intimidate anyone. His sense of humour is very dry so you don’t know when he’s joking and when he’s not. But other than that I was not intimated. I was a little nervous on the first day of shooting.
Did Mr Bachchan compliment you?
Yes. He saw the film and then called me and we spoke for half an hour. He said ‘according to me it’s the best performance of your life. You’ve caught the accent really well, you’ve pitched the film perfectly. I feel like seeing the film a couple of times only for the 12-15 scenes of yours which are my favourite’. I was really thrilled that he was so warm and he loved my work so much.
Did you share any personal memories of your childhood?
Yes, all the time. I have one very bizarre memory of Mr. Bachchan. I come from a film family so when we were kids, there was some magazine that had come in and they had put a double spread in which there were these passport size photos of a lot of people who wanted to act. So me and my siblings- Faisal, Nikhat were looking at those photos and laughing and one of them was Mr. Bachchan. We were very young then, I don’t remember the age, but why I remember this episode is because we had particularly laughed about. And then we realised that soon enough he became an actor and we were all huge fans of his and I used to remind my siblings that you remember we used to laugh. I told him the story and told that it is an embarrassing one and that he went on to become the biggest star India has ever seen. I have a lot of memories of him as a fan, as a person watching his movies. I have seen Namak Halal and I remember watching the film and I loved him. I came out of the theatre, went to the box office and bought a ticket and watched the second show again.
How was it working with Katrina Kaif?
Katrina is a dream to work with. She’s really wonderful to work with. She dances so well I get zapped.
You also have a dance number with Katrina.
For me dancing is very easy (smiles). The fact is actually luckily, I was not dancing much in the song Suraiyya. When I saw the rehearsal, I was like yeh toh gayi, yeh isse nahi hone wala because Prabhudheva had choreographed that song and it was very tough. But I think she’s an alien, koi aur gole se aayi hai.
How much progress have you seen in Fatima’s performance?
She’s done really well. Actually, she has some really tough action scenes in the movie. She’s really hardworking and I am so happy for her and Sanya, who has got 2 releases.
Have you seen her films?
No I have not but I want to watch Badhaai Ho and Pataakha also. I am hoping that Fatty also does really well in life. Zaira (Wasim) is also doing another film. When I see these girls doing really well, I feel very happy.
Is the proud daddy feeling?
I wish they treated me like a daddy. They treat me with utmost disrespect. Have you seen them with me?
After you had to leave Saare Jahan Se Accha, did you suggest Shah Rukh’s name to the makers?
Let me tell you this much, it’s a great script and I loved it. The story of Mr. Sharma is fascinating. It is also true I called up Shah Rukh and said you should hear the script, it’s a fantastic script, it would be right for you if you like it. So I’m glad he liked it and he’s doing it. I thought he would be right for it.
Shah Rukh recently mentioned that he feels like a loser and under-confident and while speaking to you, he figured you also somehow feel the same.
No, actually I don’t know whether he meant that. I don’t see myself as a star but I see Shah Rukh very much like a star. Everything about him, he is so handsome, charming, so well dressed. I have been to Shah Rukh’s house when it was new and he took me to his wardrobe. His wardrobe is as big as my house, aur line se suits, shirts and what not. Everything is so organised. I was like wow man, yeh hota hai star ka ghar. Mera aise nahi hai, mera sab confusion. Salman ka wardrobe maine nahi dekha hai.
Yes. Actually, the way it happened was when I was in the second standard there was a boy who had just joined school and when he walked in we were all zapped because he was wearing a nose ring, it was a stud actually. We were kids and we were fascinated. That thing was stuck in my head. When I heard the script of Thugs and I was thinking of Firangi’s character, I remembered that and thought that a nose stud would be apt. It brings a certain namak to the character. So I just felt it’s right. So I called my friend, Ramu and asked him if he had a photo of the nath he wore in childhood. He didn’t have the photo but I discussed with him it was a flower shaped nath and it was made of stones, emeralds and ruby. So I drew it out and I actually got it made.
Any plans for the next season of Satyamev Jayate?
No, because the entire team is working in Paani foundation so we don’t have the bandwidth to do the show.
The ticket prices of TOH are going to be more expensive than other films. Do you think it will alienate a certain section of the audience?
I personally believe that ticket price should be cheaper and cheaper and believe that we should have theatres which are more economy theatres so that no matter which financial bracket you are in, you should be able to watch the film in a theatre. That’s my dream. I also see the point and can understand why the distribution of Yash Raj may have done that- one, it’s a very expensive film and two, I don’t think Indian audiences have seen a spectacle like this. I have a feeling that it will be worth the money.
You mentioned that Thugs is a child-friendly. Did you show it to Azad?
Azad has seen half the film. I have realised that Azad is not into films. He likes to watch cartoons, so maybe when he turns a little older. He saw half the film and enjoyed it a lot and he said, “Papa why is he called Azad”. I said because he is trying to copy you.
After the interview, Aamir obliged all of us with pictures after which we began gorging on the food. While we were busy eating, Aamir made an exit and made sure to say a goodbye to us. That was very sweet of him. There was another interesting instance that happened during the interview- a journalist, who is pregnant, was sitting right next to Aamir during the interaction. Aamir decided not to smoke at all. Now, how sweet is that?