Aamir Khan: My popularity in China happened by accident..

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By HT

Mumbai, March 13 -- While we're still discussing Rs100200 crore films as benchmarks of success, Dangal and Secret Superstar have already made Rs2,000 crore and Rs750 crore in China. Explain the phenomenon.

 

Aamir: My popularity in China happened by accident. Not many people know that it all started with 3 Idiots (2009), which reached Chinese homes through piracy. I guess they really related with the subject of the education system. Then they followed my work, including PK, and even the TV show Satyamev Jayate. 

 

When Dangal released in China, they already knew me and my work. Also, the reason why the films did such business in China is the sheer number of screens. In India, we have around 5,000 theatres, while in China there are 45,000. Even though there isn't as much difference in the population of the two countries (approx 1.35 billion in India and 1.4 billion in China). I play a cameo in Secret Superstar, even then the film was released by the exhibitors in 11,000 theatres in China. Just imagine the scale!

 

Such crazy following in the two most populous countries makes you a global superstar already...

 

I've never even ever felt like India's superstar! I'm just someone who is excited about my work, and it thrills me that people all over the world enjoy my work. In my head, I'm just a creative person. Yes, it's a fact that since India and China have the maximum number of people, if you're popular in these two countries, you already have close to three billion people liking you, which is half the world's population. America has around 650 million people, and all of Europe put together has around 750 million people. There's no comparison when it comes to India and China. On numbers, the West can't beat us.

 

What has been your experience with the fans on your visits to China to promote your films?

 

Unbelievable! They have been so amazing. Also, as I said, my earlier films had reached them through piracy almost a year before they released. When I was promoting the formal release of my film, I asked the audience if anyone had already seen it. They all raised their hand. I was like, 'What am I promoting, then? Please watch it in the theatres'. Their love has been overwhelming, perhaps because our emotional frequency matches. They react to films exactly like Indians. They have a culture of giving gifts when they meet a celebrity. I got so many. While visiting the Shanghai film school, a young girl gifted me a miniature doll of my character in PK. I asked her where it's available so I can buy more from, and she said, 'Nowhere. Because I made it myself.' It's the cutest thing ever. I don't even know her name, but [I] wish I could thank her enough.

 

Does the possibility that the release of your next film, Thugs of Hindostan, may clash with Rajinikanth-Akshay starrer 2.0 on Diwali weekend, bother you as an actor-producer?

 

See, it comes back to the same problem that we have only 5,000 screens in India. Any producer of a big film would want the maximum screens for it. So, a clash definitely affects the films. As far as possible, that should be avoided. But sometimes, it isn't possible to avoid. Ab main Diwali pe aa raha hoon. Nahi aa paata toh kab aaoon? There are already films lined up for Christmas. Meri bhi majboori hai. Given a choice, no one would want to clash. That said, I am very flexible, when it concerns. There's no ego that I just have to release on a certain date. Agar mein hatt sakta hoon, toh hatt jaaoonga. Because a clash affects both films equally. Ultimately, we are all friends in the industry. So if we can help each other, we do. When Secret Superstar released, we clashed with Rohit Shetty's Golmaal Again. When the first day collections came, I realised they were doing much better than us. I called Rohit the same evening and offered him screens that I'm not using. Mujhe screens rakh ke achaar thoda banana hai.

 

You recently posted a heartwarming tribute to late Sridevi. Tell us more

 

I've been an absolutely huge fan of Sridevi. She was my number 1 favourite. I told Boney [Kapoor] fairly recently that when I was new in the industry, a magazine asked me to do a shoot with Sridevi. I can't tell you how nervous I was. In my heart, I was so afraid that when I would come in front of her, she would understand in two seconds that this boy is in love with her. I was smitten, totally.

 

How involved are your children in your craft?

 

My son Junaid (24) has just started interning with me. Not just in my films, but in everything I do, including my NGO Paani Foundation. My daughter Ira (20) is studying liberal arts at the Utrecht University in Netherlands. She's a fantastic painter. I keep asking her to pursue it seriously. But, bachchey sunte nahi hain. My youngest, Azaad, is six now. He's totally mast. He likes spending time with me, but I suspect that he doesn't miss me much even when I can't.

 

You turn 53 this March 14. What are the birthday plans?

 

It is going to be [a] working birthday for me. I'd be shooting in Jodhpur for the last schedule of Thugs of Hindostan. I'm very excited about how the film is shaping up, though none of us has seen the bits we've shot. Let's see how it turns out.