Almost four months after the release of Taare Zameen Par. its writer Amol Gupte talks about his disappointment. He says he was both surprised and hurt when Aamir Khan said he was the director of the movie.
The film about dyslexia, which had Darsheel Safary in the key role and won many awards, was Aamir's directorial debut and everyone felt that he had created a perfect winner with the film.
Excerpts from an interview:
How much of Taare Zameen Par (TZP) is actually yours?
(Ponders) Does it really matter? It has paid back in multiples. Whatever happened, let's drown it in the Ganga and move on. Aamir has been on the shoot with me for 109 days and he has acknowledged I was there throughout. Now let's leave it behind.
The project was with you for many years?
I've been involved with children's projects for many, many years. In fact, I used to have a kids' show on Sony called Bindaas Bol, which addressed itself to the parent-child relationship, peer pressure and related issues. I've since then became a surrogate-parent to children everywhere. I'm like a one-man Suvidha (children's shelter). TZP was an extension of an ongoing affinity to children's issues. I share a lifelong affinity to juvenile problems. Imagine a sixth standard girl carrying a six-kilogram schoolbag! What does it do to her tender back?
<b1>Did you anticipate such an overwhelming response to TZP?
Actually, this was just a part of the ongoing children's projects that my wife Deepa Bhatia and I share. For us Project Child is a journey. TZP was an important part of that project. We waited two years for Aamir to just listen to our script. I knew Aamir from our college and theatre days. After that he shot a short film with me in the lead. So did Aamir's cousin Mansoor. So I've been associated with his family for many decades.
I didn't know you were an actor!
But I wasn't the Khan family's favourite actor for sure. Otherwise, I'd have done Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. Jokes aside, I didn't have the courage to ask Aamir to work in my film. I wasn't that ambitious. I asked him to help me talk to Akshaye Khanna because I had seen Akhaye portray a sensitive painter in Dil Chahta Hai. But when Aamir heard my script was about children, he said he wanted to hear the narration. That took a long time.
Even I got busy playing father to my son who was born in 2001. I put him in school and tried to be as much part of his schooling as possible. Finally, in September 2004 he heard TZP. The very next week he proposed to produce the film. Then again there was a delay because Aamir got busy with Mangal Pandey and his personal life.
So what exactly went wrong between you and Aamir?
I'm trying to put it behind me... Let me just say, right from choosing all the kids for the parts to the final editing, I was right there on board... I wanted to preserve the kids' natural innocence. So I never auditioned them. I used to engage them in discussions and workshops with the camera held out of their vision by an assistant.
Where did your creative inputs in
They ended when Aamir, his wife, my wife and I saw the film's first edit. It's misreported that I didn't like the edited version of
. There was no question of not liking the edited version because my wife Deepa was editing the material in Panchgani as we were shooting. We were all very proud of the film. Then we had a wrap-up party. And that's when Aamir announced he was the director of the film. That's when I got to know of his intentions.
Has this betrayal made you stronger and wiser?
It has made me question myself. Where did I go wrong? Had I not been there throughout the shooting for every take including Aamir's wonderful performance, I'd have understood that I've gone wrong somewhere. But I've enacted lines for all the actors in
. It hurt a lot. But I didn't want a confrontation.
How different is the final film from what you shot?
What I shot and what you saw aren't different at all. My narration is the same as the married print. Of course, Aamir was there with me throughout.
And he didn't shoot anything on his own?
Yes, he re-shot the first six days' material. I didn't participate in that because I stood by the rushes of my first six days' shooting. However, what he shot wasn't radically different from my style.
The standard inference is that the project was taken over from you?
I don't understand this business of taking over. When I was around how could the project be taken over? What would any competent director be doing for 109 shooting days? It makes no sense at all.