Any attempt to introduce Aamir Khan seems pointless. Reams of pages have already been devoted to the actor in his various avatars — and yet, no one truly understands how his mind works or how he lives his life.
But we were fortunate to have caught the actor in a very candid mood. Or is Aamir Khan a changed man today? Is he more open now than he’s ever been before?
These were the questions we pondered over after our interview with the man at a five star hotel. It had been a very long day for him, he told us, and he was exhausted. But he showed no signs of it. Perhaps the fact that he was taking his wife, Kiran, out for a candlelight dinner after our interview had revitalised him. He is a romantic, he confessed.
So, looking as fit as ever, and munching on a bowl of vegetables, rice and chicken ("I have six small meals a day and my food is accurately measured. So I know how many calories I am consuming," he says), Aamir Khan let us into his life, talking about everything from his personal and work-related relationships to his upcoming films and season 2 of Satyamev Jayate.
You’ve just returned from the Haj. What was it like?
It was a moving and spiritually overawing experience. A very emotional and introspective moment for me. At the same time, I felt very close to God. The character and beauty of the place has a surreal feeling. Especially when you go to the maidaan (ground) of Arafat — that’s the most important moment of the trip. Because it’s here that you spend the whole day recalling your mistakes, your offences and the people affected by them, and then ask God for forgiveness. A sense of catharsis overtook me.
You mean you felt lighter?
I suppose I did. Actually, ‘lighter’ is not the right word. The correct phrase would be would be ‘at peace’. Yes, I am much happier and at peace then I used to be. I pray that all Muslims who intend to go for the Haj should make their trip there unfailingly.
You can be called a Haji now.
Yes I am a Haji, but what’s important is what I feel within, not how I am addressed. I have become more spiritual than I ever was.
How did the trip happen?
Ammi (Aamir’s mother Zeenat Hussain) had been wanting to go there for a while. But somehow our plans weren’t falling in place because I wasn’t able to give the time. In Islam, a woman has to be accompanied by either her brother, husband or son if she wishes to go to Mecca. Ammi doesn’t have her husband now; she doesn’t have a brother either, so Faizal (Aamir’s brother) or I could have taken her for the trip. So I told her to block the dates and then I locked my time. I told Aditya Chopra about it much before I started shooting for Dhoom:3.
Has the trip done anything specific for you? Have you turned wiser today?
I wouldn’t call it wiser, but I certainly want to lead a noble or good life where hopefully I won’t commit mistakes like I have done in the past. I will try to live as honestly as I have lived in the past, without having to compromise with anything and without hurting anyone. I want to live a life of caring and sharing and full of happiness. This is the life I always wanted and my search for a good life will continue.‘I have discovered that what you eat is what you are!’
The promotions for your film Talaash are very low-key. Is that by choice or by chance?
It’s certainly by choice. A lot of thought and effort has gone into how to promote the film. It’s a suspense drama, and if we aggressively promote it, the impact may be hampered. I can put up 10,000 posters to create a buzz, but if the design of the poster is not good enough, then the whole effort is pointless. I have always emphasised quality over quantity and I will continue doing so even if the movie doesn’t have a buzz. We know what we are doing.
And it’s an Aamir Khan film, so it doesn’t need much promotion...
I don’t see it like that. Aamir Khan is not someone so special. I am just one of the many integral components of the film. I react to and await other people’s films. I really look forward to a Raju Hirani film. I remember how I waited for Munnabhai M.B.B.S. (2003) and Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006).
But what do you have to say about ghost-directing your films?
Honestly, every label accorded to me is by the media and hugely inaccurate. So I don’t have much to say about monikers like ‘perfectionist’, or ‘ghost-director’. If somebody wants to cast aspersions on my relationship with my directors, then it is their lookout. However, by saying that I ghost-direct, the media has overlooked the contributions of my directors in my movies. I have always said that I have worked with hugely talented directors and have learnt a lot from them.
How much of Aamir Khan the director we will see in Talaash?
Nothing. I am just an actor in it. It’s Reema Kagti’s baby and her vision. She’s done a wonderful job and now it’s there for everyone to see. I am really happy that what Reema had narrated to me is exactly out there now. We have managed to make the film that we had set out to do.
What’s it like to work with Rani Mukerjee and Kareena Kapoor?
It’s always been great working with Rani. She’s a very instinctive and talented actror. The same applies to Kareena. They are two of the finest actors in the country. Honestly, it’s a great joy to work with them.
How is life at 47? Have your priorities changed over time?
I am very thankful to God for the life I am currently leading. But I am not sure my priorities have changed. I am still as honest as I used to be and I am still leading the same life without having to compromise anything, be it my personal or professional life.
You are perceived as a strong family man…
I have continuously been a family man, very close to my family. They have always been the most important thing in my life. My personal life has always been very private and it’s the same even now. I spent 16 lovely years with Reena, and the time now that I am with Kiran or my siblings and my children, every moment has been important for me.
Your son Junaid is an assistant director to Raju Hirani, right?
Yes. It was my suggestion that he learns something about cinema and gets a new experience in life before he makes his choices. It will help him in the long run. Let him discover it and tell us what he wants to do in the future. Once he has a little understanding of the craft, let him choose. It’s too early to assume that he will end up in movies. It could be acting or directing; everything is going to be his choice. He is doing his B.Com now.
And Ira, has she ever expressed any desire to act?
She’s only in the 9th standard. So far she hasn’t said anything. But the choice is open to her as well. I will support whatever she chooses.
Tell us the secret of your youthful looks.
Thanks to my parents, I guess it’s in my genes. A lot of people ask me if I have gone under the knife. No, I haven’t. You don’t need to. That’s the short cut and the effects are temporary. In the last five years, I have discovered that you are what you eat. So I am very particular about my diet, work out and sleep. I have a balanced diet. And unlike earlier years, I am religious about my workouts and yes, I unfailingly sleep for eight hours and drink about four litres of water every day. I maintain a very positive and balanced life. That’s my secret.
Actors are pretty lucky. They get to romance much younger actresses all the time!
I guess I am fortunate to have a long innings in movies. Next year I will have been in the industry for 25 years, so naturally when you keep working for so long, people keep on changing, be it younger directors or younger actresses. But I genuinely feel an actor’s peak time is about eight to 10 years maximum. Be it a female actor or a male actor, this is when they can make it. And they shine in that period. Everyone in the course of their time has their moment of sunshine. If it’s me today, someone else will be there tomorrow.
Do you realise that most of the actresses you’ll be working with today are taller than you?
Oh! Really? I never noticed that. But that’s fine. Height was never an issue with me. I just know that they are all very talented people. Be it Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Katrina Kaif and Priyanka Chopra. I think Priyanka was awesome in Barfi.
We heard that Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan patched up at the after party of the Jab Tak Hai Jaan premiere and you were apparently instrumental in reviving this friendship.
It’s not my place to comment on other people’s personal lives and relationships. But what I can say is that Adi (Aditya Chopra) had organised a lovely evening in memory of his father Yash
(Yash Chopra), and I am glad that so many from the film fraternity came and interacted with each other warmly. It was a wonderful night.
A movie with the three Khans would be wonderful…
I would love to work with both (the other Khans). And why three Khans only? I haven’t worked with Amit
and Akshay Kumar, I would want to work with these people as well. It’ll be great if someone casts us in a movie.
Amongst the younger lot, do you see any potential Aamir Khan?
Today’s youngsters have unique individuality and they are highly talented. They are great the way they are. And they don’t need to be like any of us. I think Imran Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Ranvir Singh are good.
If any of your films were to have sequels, which would you choose?
Sarfarosh (1999) and Andaz Apna Apna (1994) for sure. These are good films and had interesting endings.
Aamir’s 5 best moments
When Junaid, Ira and Azad were born.
My relationship with Reena.
My relationship with Kiran.
My relationship with my mother.
My Haj trip.