He has just delivered the highest-earning Hindi film ever. But interestingly, instead of basking in the glory, Aamir Khan quietly flew out to an undisclosed location. “I try not to reveal where I am, as people will start coming here too. Right now, I am trying to be alone (laughs),” says the superstar, as he talks about his career and his latest blockbuster, Dangal.
As A-list celebrities, including Hollywood actors Robert de Niro and Alec Baldwin, Oscar-winning director Michael Moore and singer Cher, joined several thousand protesters on the streets of New York on Thursday night to protest against Donald Trump on the eve of the incoming Republican president’s inauguration, Aamir also opened up about actress Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes targetting Trump. Speaking about the beauty of American democracy, calling it vibrant, the Dangal actor said that in that in the US everyone is equal, they can say what they want and voice their opinions: They can make fun of the President, make comments or criticise what he is doing.
In one of your first-ever interviews (from the ’80s) you said, ‘My performance will be my publicity…’, which holds true even now…
I have always believed that your work speaks for you. And if you work consistently and in a particular manner over time, it has an impact on people. As an actor, that’s all you need to do.
In the same interview, you also said that being typecast can make you feel claustrophobic…
Yes, it will be very boring for me. Same role kitni baar karunga? (How many times will I play the same role?) I don’t like to be stuck in any one image. I want to change myself, surprise my audiences, and even myself. In fact, I want to challenge myself, so I don’t like to do the same things again.
This year, you will complete 29 years in the industry, since your debut with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (QSQT; 1988). Do you look back at your journey?
Yes, I do. I think I have been very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to work with wonderful writers and directors, who came to me with their unique scripts. And I also got to learn so much from them. So, it’s my good fortune to have worked in films such as Lagaan (2001), Taare Zameen Par (2007), Rang De Basanti (2006), 3 Idiots (2009), PK (2014), QSQT, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992) and Sarfarosh (1999). It has been a very exciting and fulfilling journey. When I look back at my career, all my decisions — on the face of it — have mostly been impractical and risky, with the latest instance being Dangal (2016). I feel someone up there is looking out for me because I am certainly not looking out for myself (laughs). Also, I have been able to do [the kind of] work that I believe in. Not all of us are lucky enough to be in the position where you can choose to do what you want. I feel very grateful to be in that position. I am able to do the work that I love.
Recently, Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes started a discussion about Indian stars not talking openly about real issues…
I feel America, as a democracy, has always been a vibrant one from this point of view. People have been free to air their opinions on anything (topic) or anyone including the President. Stand-up comics can often make fun of the President, make comments or criticise what he is doing. And that’s the beauty of the democracy, where everyone is equal, where you can say what you want and voice your opinions. People may or may not agree but that’s how democracies ought to be and should be.
A number of exhibitors and distributors are ecstatic with the response to your latest film. They have, in fact, also sent you letters…
It’s very humbling. And it’s satisfying to see everyone in the system happy vis-à-vis money is concerned. I feel all these things are byproducts of a good film. But I don’t do films keeping numbers in mind. As an actor, I don’t even know the business of the films that I have seen, such as Pyaasa (1957), Teesri Manzil (1966), Mother India (1957), Mughal-E-Azam (1960) and Do Aankhen Bara Haath (1957). I am not interested in numbers.
A few weeks back, incidents such as the Bangalore molestation shocked many. Is women safety a concern for you too?
Of course, such incidents are disturbing and unfortunate. It’s shameful that they happen. My heart goes out to the girls who had to go through such awful behaviour. More importantly, we should realise that the person who is a survivor – the girls in this case – have done nothing wrong. People who committed these acts need to be ashamed of what they have done.
Coming back to films, due to the high expectations from you, do you ever feel pressurised?
When I sign a film, the pressure [of expectation] isn’t on me. I pick films based on how I react to a script. When a script interests me, I don’t think of the box office [collections]; and the case in point being Taare Zameen Par (2007) or Dangal (2016). They are unusual and not conventional, mainstream films. I don’t think of money or the box office [collections] when I decide to do a film. However, the last couple of weeks before a film releases, are nerve-wracking and pressurising. It’s then that I start realising that the expectations are high. I am unaware of what people are expecting or imagining. But I can’t do anything about it later, as I have already made the film that I wanted to.
Watch Dangal trailer
Do you pay heed to the comparisons drawn between films starring Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and you?
No, I don’t because I feel every film is unique. I don’t believe in comparing as I am not a very competitive person from that point of view. When I see my colleagues doing good work, it doesn’t make me feel like, ‘Arrey, usne mere se better kiya hai (oh, he did a better job than me) so, I need to be even better.’ When I see good work, I feel happy for my colleagues, including Ranveer (Singh) or Ranbir (Kapoor). I also loved Sanju (Sanjay Dutt) in the Munna Bhai series. It makes you feel so proud and happy to see that your colleagues are doing so well. If I am competing with anyone at all, it’s myself. I want to better myself and do better than what I did last time. I want to learn and grow as an actor.
You started all the ‘crore clubs’ — Rs 100 crore with Ghajini (2008); Rs 200 crore with 3 Idiots (2009); Rs 250 crore with Dhoom:3 (2013) and Rs 300 crore with PK (2014)…
I haven’t started any club (laughs). It’s the media that has started all of it. It’s a coincidence and I never even think about it. Let me put it this way: I am doing films that I love doing. I am enjoying my work. Whatever else is happening is a byproduct of it. Plus, it’s happening on its own. I believe in what Rancho says in 3 Idiots, ‘Chase excellence and success will follow you’.