Interview - I’m probably the actor who earns the least in the industry: Aamir Khan

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It has been a great year for Bollywood with several projects bringing in the moolah at the box office. But before the year ends, one Khan is yet to leave a mark. Aamir Khan, who is ready with his next, Dhoom: 3 (D3), is an anxious man these days.

“I’m very nervous,” he says, adding, “Before my film releases, I get anxious.” His anxiety levels are so high that Aamir has been having sleepless nights. “If I don’t like my film, then I’m not worried. But it’s when I like what we’ve made that I worry if people will like it or not,” says the actor.

Aamir, who introduced the industry to the coveted Rs. 100 crore club, feels a film is like one’s baby. However, he adds that money doesn’t matter as much as seeing people’s faces light up after watching his film.

In this interview, the actor discusses how he’s not competitive by nature, why he doesn’t believe in launching people and shares fond memories from his recent trip to Assam.

You are called a marketing genius, but this time you’ve barely promoted D3. Why is that?
I don’t see myself as a marketing genius. I am a part of films that I am passionate about. Marketing is just a part of filmmaking. I want people to watch my movies. My work doesn’t end with making a project, but extends into inviting people to watch it. When I’m doing a film, I’m concerned about it. But there are a lot of other people involved in it. We sit with the distribution team to figure out a plan. The overarching thought with D3 is less is more. It is a big franchise, Katrina (Kaif) and I are coming together for the first time and Abhishek (Bachchan), Uday (Chopra) and I are coming together for the first time too. I have my own goodwill that I’m bringing to the film. This package is such that the less we give; the more you will want as an audience. We are confident about our creative and material. Our biggest strength is our film.

Filmmakers are going overboard with marketing gimmicks and using TV shows in a big way. What’s your take on it?
I don’t want to comment on other people’s strategies, I know they believe in quantity and I believe in quality. During 3 Idiots (2009), I was travelling across the country, but I gave only six or eight interviews. However, I think there is a lot of advantage in going to TV shows, especially if it is a small film like Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na (2008) or Peepli Live (2010). TV shows help create awareness that you can’t do by buying promos because you don’t have that kind of money. However, I don’t think it helps a big film. Also, all of us discussed and we felt that we don’t want to make noise because we respect the intelligence of the audience.

You introduced people to the Rs. 100 crore club with Ghajini (2008) and the Rs. 200 crore club with 3 Idiots. Please comment.
That wasn’t my intention. I wanted to make a good film and I’m happy that they earned a lot of money and people loved them so much. See, when it comes to a film that you love, you’re not interested in what it earns. Unless you’re the producer, you’re not interested in the numbers. As far as the audience and people creating it go, the film should be memorable. It should entertain and go down as a film they remember and always go back to. I’m not a businessman. If I was, I’d be doing four films and 20 ads a year.

You have never kept Azad away from the paparazzi. Why?
In an ideal world, I would have liked to keep him protected. More so, because I don’t want him to grow up thinking he is a star’s son. I don’t want to shower special attention on him until he earns it for himself. I am happy with the way Ira and Junaid have turned out. Reena (his first wife) has done a great job with them, as have I. Hopefully, it will happen with Azad too.

Is Junaid set to enter the industry with a bang?
Whenever he makes up his mind, he will tell us. I’ll be happy if Junaid wants to join films in any capacity or even Ira or Azad, because they would enter the line that I am so close to. An opportunity to work with them would be fun.

And your daughter?
You have to remember that I have done 3 Idiots, so I am not a father who dictates his children over what they should do.

Since Dhoom is a big franchise and had two successful instalments, do you feel any pressure?
I don’t think of all that. I loved the script, that’s why I did it. I am just hoping when the lights go out in the theatre, the audience should say, ‘Wow! We’ve really seen something astounding; something that has taken our breath away; something that has been very engaging, and we’ve loved all the performances and the music.’

You spent almost 50 days learning tap-dance. Was it difficult?
It’s very difficult because the pace is quite fast and with that you have to remember the routine; and to perform those patterns quickly is tough.

Tap-dancing is a specialised dance form and it takes two years to learn any dance genre. I just had a few months, so I did the best I could. This is modern, harsh, grunge and not the light-footed tap that Fred Astaire used to do.

Now, Rs. 100 and Rs. 200 crore seems to have become the yardstick to judge the success of a film. Do you feel that’s the right way?
I don’t think that is an accurate yardstick and I’m coining a term now, social audit. How do people talk about a film? How much they love it? When I do a film and people love it, they talk about my character Even when I’m passing by, they address me with the name of my character. With social media, you instantly get to know what people think. We must not just look at the collections, I never do. The formula is whatever your weekend is, the first three days, you take that and you take the total collections that the film ultimately does. For example, 3 Idiots (2009) made Rs. 202 crore in India, with weekend collections of Rs. 40 crores, I think. 40 multiplied by 5 is 200. That indicates to me that it was a very well loved film.

But as an actor who indulges in profit sharing, shouldn’t it be of interest to you?
My only interest with numbers is that the project I am attached to should be economically viable. That’s where my concern stops. I’m probably the actor who earns the least in the industry because I do less work and very few ads. I spent a-year-and-a-half doing Satyamev Jayate, which from an economic perspective is not a feasible option and I can earn much more.

What’s the status of the second season of Satyamev Jayate?
I’m working on it and the research is in the advanced stage. We pushed it to January as I told Satya (Satyajit Bhatkal, director) that I won’t be in the right state of mind to shoot. It’s not the right time as the show requires concentration and just before the release, I’m a nervous wreck.

Wouldn’t that affect P.K. in any way?
The talking part in P.K. is over. There’s one song that’s left and for that I’ll be travelling all over. It will require around seven to 10 more days.
Aamir Khan with wife Kiran Rao

Kiran is presenting smaller films. Are there chances that the two of you would do that together?
My bandwidth is already taken up by the work that I’m doing. So I won’t be able to and I think Kiran is happy doing this in her space. I advise her. Even during Ship Of Theseus, I would sit with the team and give them suggestions. But I can’t be actively involved in it right now and be unfair to my films.

And any chances that she would direct you?
I would love that. She’s working on a script, but it’s in the initial stage. I will definitely produce it if I like it. If I don’t like something, I can’t do it. But either way, I’ll support her. As her partner, I’ll support her in anything she wants to do. And if it’s something that I can act in, I’ll be really happy as she’s a fine director and working with her has been one of my best experiences.

People expect your films to be sensible and successful at the box-office. Does that pressurise you?
No. I’m aware that people have expectations from me and I’m happy about that. It shows they’ve liked my earlier work. I give two years of my life to a film. So, I want to be happy in that time. The process of making a film is important. If I was concerned with numbers, I would not have done Taare Zameen Par (2007), Rang De Basanti (2006) or Talaash (2012).

At public events, Shah Rukh, Salman and you are often asked to comment on each other. Is that annoying?
I don’t get annoyed as I understand the media is curious. We happened to be around for almost the same period of time and we are equally popular and successful. We have our own fan base. I understand why the media wants to know about us and pitch us against each other. I am non-competitive. When I watch a film, where Shah Rukh has done well, I enjoy watching it. When I see Salman’s films doing well, I feel happy for his success, and I think he feels the same way.

Is there any film you regret doing?
I never regret any of my films, whether they have been flops or hits. Whatever I’m today is due to those films. The maximum I have learnt in my life has been through my mistakes. I value my failures as much as my success.

How do you make time for your kids?
I try to spend time with Azad every morning because by the time I reach home, he is asleep. He has just started going to play school, but earlier, whenever I used to leave, he would start bawling and not let me go. Junaid is so busy himself that he doesn’t have time for me.

3 idiots is a cult film. Would you like to work in a similar kind of film in the future?
I don’t want to do the same thing again, unless Raju (Rajkumar Hirani) comes up with a script like he did for Munna Bhai, with a perfect mood transition and take the story forward in a beautiful way.

It’s a perception that you do not have many friends in the industry except Salman?
I have made some amazing friends like Raju, Atul (Kulkarni), Kunal (Kapoor), Sharman (Joshi), Madhavan, Anil (Kapoor), Jackie (Shroff), Rani (Mukherji) and tons of them.

Among all the characters you have played, who is the real Aamir Khan?
It’s a tough question to answer. Often I get lost in my work and start living with a character for a long time. Over the past few years, I have noticed that my physicality changes. When I was playing Phunsuk Wangdu, something happened to me in that period, but I am not sure what the change was. When I was doing Ghajini (2008), whoever met me got scared of me. I was not making any efforts; I was just being myself.

You launched Darsheel (Safary) in Taare Zameen Par (2007). Now he's 17 and has expressed a desire to direct. Will you launch him?
I don't believe in launching anyone, even Imran (Khan) had to go through a number of screen tests before he was cast in Jaane Tu… He had to go through screen tests before he was cast in Delhi Belly (2011). Darsheel is a bright boy and I'm sure he will go far in life. If he ever has a script and has the talent to direct a film, I'd be happy to work with him. But I don't launch anyone

You recently went to Assam and there were reports that you took an interest in finding out about the rhinos there. Any plans to make a movie on the extinction of rhinos there?
I learnt about rhinos because of my visit to Kaziranga National Park recently. The forest minister requested me to do a film and if a script comes up, I'll be happy to explore it. I wanted to surprise Kiran on her 40th birthday and I wanted to explore the North-East because I had heard so much about it. Kiran didn't know that I had invited her friends, most of who were from her university, Jamia Millia Islamia, her school and people she's still close to. So it was a nice surprise and a fantastic experience. I
think Assam is a beautiful place. There was a variety of amazing food that I tried.