Is a 45th birthday a life-altering one?
I don’t think age has had an impact on my way of thinking. It’s learning new things, realising certain things and going through some experiences that have changed the course of your life in the past.
When you see yourself when you look at your 16-year-old son, Junaid?
No, I don’t. Junaid is his own person. Reena and I are very happy with the way our son is conducting his life.
How about your daughter Ira?
(Smiles) She’s still in school and doing very well.
And your brother Faisal, the bonding between you seems to have strengthened over the last year.
Faisal is a strong person, and I’m proud of what he has achieved. He’s been working with me over the past year and I value our closeness.
So what are your plans for the coming months?
I want to learn cooking from my mother. She makes wonderful kebabs and biryani. Then, I want to learn Urdu, my mother tongue, and Marathi, my state language. I’m ashamed that I don’t know these languages well. I can read Marathi because I’ve studied it in school, but I’d like to speak it fluently. I can speak Urdu but I can’t read it.
After three blockbusters over the last three years, I’m told we will have no Aamir Khan starrer to look forward to in 2010 after 3 Idiots.
You’re right. I respect the audience’s emotions but hey, I may not be acting in it, but Peepli Live is still an Aamir Khan film, I’m creatively involved with all three films — Peepli Live, Delhi Belly and Dhobi Ghat — that I’m producing. I can’t neglect my responsibilities. I was busy with 3 Idiots earlier, so these productions were put on hold. The directors waited for me patiently. Now that I’ve fulfilled all my acting commitments, I want to give them all my time and attention.
Buzz is that you’re not happy with Delhi Belly and want to re-shoot it but director Abhinay Deo is busy with his next film featuring Farhan Akhtar.
Like I said, I was busy with 3 Idiots earlier and couldn’t devote time to any of my productions, including Delhi Belly. Abhinay and I spoke about it. I’m happy that he’s doing another film in the interim. I didn’t want his time to be wasted. By the time he finishes the film with Farhan, I’ll have finished with the other two films and we can get together for Delhi Belly. There are no issues between us.
Your nephew, Imran Khan, hasn’t had a good run commercially after Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na, with both Kidnap and Luck failing at the box-office. Can Delhi Belly resurrect his career?
Imran is a talented young boy with a bright future. I don’t think one or two films will make any difference to him in the long term. All of us have had hits and flops. In the early stages of our careers, we all go through trying times. It’s part of the learning process. What I am today is largely because of my failures. Failure is a big learning experience.
Priyadarshan wants to do a film on AIDS with you. But though you’ve seemingly approved of the idea, you will decide only after listening to the final script.
At the moment, I can’t take up any film. I have to complete my three productions first. Priyan had spoken to me about the film a couple of years ago. But if he wants to start it right away, I’m not free. Once I okay a script, I give it all my time and attention. Presently, I’m completely focussed on Peepli Live.
Even before its release, My Name Is Khan released was hyped as the next big blockbuster. Apparently, Twentieth Century Fox first issued a release stating that the film grossed Rs 85 crore worldwide in the first three days...But later they sent another release claiming that MNIK grossed Rs 90.2 crore surpassing 3 Idiots’ Rs 90 crore. Subsequently, at Rs 175 crore it’s said to be fast catching up with 3 Idiots’ box-office record. Is this one more instance of one-upmanship between Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan?
(laughs). All this doesn’t matter to me. Whether a film succeeds or fails, it’s out there for everyone to see. Fudging trade figures doesn’t get you anywhere, I’m talking from 20 years of experience. I don’t want to comment on others but if my film works, it’s the audience who say that, not me. And whenever a film hasn’t worked, I’ve always accepted the fact. Period.
There was plenty of animosity between the two of you when you were promoting Ghajini and Shah Rukh was reportedly hyping Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi as a love story that would soothe people after the 26/11 terror attack. Is this proxy war for box-office supremacy an extension of that?
That’s not for me to say. As far as I’m concerned, my priority is my passion towards cinema. I don’t think success is in our hands. I believe that if the film is good and the audience likes it, it will work. Otherwise it won’t, no matter what you do. You can try and fool people for a day or two, but eventually the truth will come out.
Apparently, Avatar filmmaker James Cameron agreed to a panel discussion on cinema on the condition that you were a participant too. Comment.
I’m not aware of that but I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’ve seen his films, Terminator 2 and Titanic. He’s an extremely talented filmmaker, very passionate about his work. It will be a wonderful experience interacting with him.
What points will you raise?
I haven’t thought about it, it would depend on the course of the discussion. I’m keen to know what James thinks and what he has to say. Since he’s a very experienced filmmaker, there’s a lot one can learn from interacting with him.He gave 10 plus years of his life to Avatar because he believed in the subject strongly.
You’ve also stuck to your convictions and backed off-beat projects you believed in. There’s a lot in common between you two.
I don’t know about that but yes, the fact that James gave so many years to realise his dream, speaks a lot about his passion and dedication. I haven’t seen Avatar yet, but I’ll watch it this week.
Looking back, any film you regret doing? Or do you wish it had been made differently?
It’s so easy for me to say that about the films that didn’t do well. But I own up to my mistakes and I value them for all that they taught me.
‘All three films are extremely unusual’
On his next home productions
A lot of films do well at the box-office. What excites me is when a film comes along and changes the way you think. Films like Sarfarosh and Lagaan, more recently, Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par and 3 Idiots have made an impact socially and that results in a sense of satisfaction and achievement.
This year, I have three films and they are all extremely unusual in their own way. First is Peepli Live. Satires are not common in India and this one is set in a village. It is essentially a humorous film with a strain of sadness. I’m not acting in it but it’s still my film. Writer-director Anusha Rizvi and her team have done a fabulous job.
I don’t expect Peepli Live to compete on box-office collections with 3 Idiots. It’s a small film with some actors who are facing the camera for the first time. The ability of the team to connect is what will determine its success. Given its budget it, I think it will do well. For me though, “well” is defined by whether the audience is wowed by it.
Delhi Belly, directed by Abhinay Deo, is an English film. Even before its release, we are ruling out the non-English speaking audience. And Kiran’s (Wife Kiran Rao) film, Dhobhi Ghaat, is half in English. Another experimental film made because I liked the story. And before you ask, she’s the director in charge. I’m merely the producer and actor in it.
‘I’ve suddenly realised how fragile life is’
My father’s death was a personal loss that is hard to come to terms with. You have to give yourself time to grieve. In fact, one of the reasons why I don’t want to take on any acting assignments in the near future is because I want to spend time with my family.
In the last year, I’ve suddenly realised how fragile life is. I want to stop and spend time with my mom. I want to learn cooking from her. I want to be with my kids.
Kiran and I have accepted the loss of our baby. As human beings, life is not in our hands. We should be thankful to God for what we have and learn to cherish it.
‘This is my reward for the last 20 years’
I’ve always taken my work very seriously and with due responsibility. So I don’t think the award adds to that. But yes, I’m honoured and humbled by the Padma Bhushan. This is my reward for my contribution to art in the last 20 years.
The first thought that flashed into my mind when I heard about the Padma Bhushan was that my parents would be really happy. Unfortunately, my dad is not around to see me receive it. But at least he was there to hear about it.
I was in the US at that time and spoke to dad over the phone. He was thrilled. The national honour gives a lot of joy to people who love me. And I’m happy for my fans and family.
‘I can’t second guess the audience’
Yes, the audience has certain expectations from me. But still, I’ll only do a film if I like the script. When I took on Taare Zameen Par, it was a very small film.
That it went on to do a business of over Rs 100 crores is a separate story. We didn’t know that it would do this kind of business, I don’t think anyone expected it to.
My choice of films is not based on how much the previous one has earned at the box-office. I’m not interested in breaking records. I’m more interested in being a part of cinema that excites me. I can’t second-guess the audience. It’s a relief if I know my own mind.