I have the highest regard for Amitji (Amitabh Bachchan). He is a gentleman and loves me too much. I refuse to believe that he could say anything damaging about my film or me,” says Aamir Khan, on being questioned on a recent post on Bachchan’s blog that supposedly lashes out at Delhi Belly producer’s “immodesty”.
The actor-producer however admits that there is a section of conservative purists, who have been running down his film. He reasons, “Anyone who’s a youth icon — Elvis Preseley and the Beatles or Madonna and Michael Jackson — has been panned. Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chugtai had criminal cases lodged against them for obscenity. But I refuse to believe that Amitji’s is one of these voices.”
Pakistan has refused to allow screenings of Delhi Belly. Aamir’s not surprised, as it doesn’t have the “artistic freedom of a democracy”. For him it’s enough that the collections are great in the UK, US, Australia and the Gulf. Back home too, the footfalls have been higher on Monday and Tuesday as compared to Friday. “Going by numbers, Rs 5.65 crore (Monday’s figures) and Rs 5.40 core (Tuesday’s collections) are lower than Rs 7.15 crore (Friday’s gross), but ticket prices drop by 1/3 on weekdays. However, thanks to the strong word-of-mouth, viewers are flocking to theatres even on weekdays, some returning for a repeat. That’s never happened with me in my entire career.”
Some allege that he’s been manipulating figures. He laughs, “Numbers speak for themselves and you can’t manipulate them. The film is a hit not just in the metros, multiplexes and overseas, but even in single screen theatres in the interiors of Gujarat, Punjab, Bengal, Bihar, CPCI, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. You can’t get more heartland than that,” says a relieved and thrilled Aamir.
Mahesh Bhatt believes the ‘adult’ certification used as a forbidden carrot is pulling in the crowds. Aamir disagrees, “An ‘A’ certificate is never a guarantee for a hit. If anything, it reduced my audience by half. I lost out on the eight to 18 year segment, that’s my biggest fan base and their parents too. Abusive language doesn’t make a film successful, not does action or item numbers,” he argues. “There’s been talk about our colourful vocabulary, but this is not the first time people have heard such words. That’s why it’s an adult film.”
How much does Delhi Belly owe its success to Aamir’s marketing genius? He says, “I can get people to come for the first or second show through hype, but if they are returning for more, it’s because the film works for them.” Will he now be encouraged to take bigger risks? “All six films from Aamir Khan Productions in 10 years have been risks and we’ve earned on all of them. I don’t make a film because it’s a risk, but because I believe in it,” he argues. Should AB Corp and Viacom 18 have pushed forward the release of Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap by a week or two? Says Aamir, “Two, three even four films coming together don’t affect the success of one or the other. We were never competition for Amitji, he’s too big a star!.”
DB sequel on? Aamir smiles
According to recent news reports, Aamir Khan’s next production, to be directed by wife Kiran Rao, could be a sequel to Delhi Belly. It’s likely to star the film’s comic trio – Imran Khan, Vir Das, Kunal Roy Kapoor – besides Aamir himself as Disco Fighter (his ‘item role’ from the first part). In Delhi Belly itself, if you recall, when Aamir’s character appears at the end, a freeze frame announces his next film titled ‘Disco Fighter’, slated for Christmas, 2011 release. When asked to comment, Aamir says, “I’m not saying this is true or false. I’m only smiling. Kiran’s working on a script, till it's locked, I can’t comment.”