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In a new direction

entertainment Updated: Dec 15, 2007 13:22 IST
Abhijit Majumder
Abhijit Majumder
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Done! Have finally crossed all the 't's and dotted all the 'i's... I think.
Aamir Khan's December 11, 2007 entry on his blog

One can paint that on a tin board and hang it outside his gate. Beware of the perfectionist. The eight-year-old seen on screen flashing his little finger to excuse himself to the loo in Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973) has kind of completed a full karmic cycle: starting out, 34 years later, as a director of a film who tells the story of a nine-year-old daydreamer.

Khan wears several hats: the reluctant superstar; the reclusive entertainer, the clerically particular artiste, the media-shunning activist, the face of intelligent Bollywood — a fascinating flotsam of oxymoron.

Standing at the sunrise point of his directorial career (Taare Zameen Par will release this Friday) the father of two told HT: "The film has changed the way I look at my own kids. And mind you, I have always been very close to my children."

He spoke about his experiences while shooting the film, about the wonderful intuitiveness of children; their spontaneity and their exasperatingly short attention spans.

Barely a week away from mass testing sessions by audiences across the world, his blog pronounces the movie as "the most important film on children to come out of India" in terms of content.

Second childhood



"

TZP

is a film about children, not a children's film. It is aimed primarily at parents and potential parents…Sure there are some fun moments for them (children) like a couple of animation sequences and the

Bum Bum Bole song

…but in essence the film speaks to an eight-years-and-above audience," he writes on the blog, where he usually expresses himself more candidly than he does in interviews.



"As we take on the burdens of adulthood we often gradually distance ourselves from our children, even our own childhood. This script brought it all back into sharp focus."



The film is about eight-year-old Ishaan Awasthi who does so poorly in studies that his parents pack him off to a boarding school. Here he meets an art teacher, played by Khan, who brings colour back to his drawing-book world of fish, dogs and kites.



Khan took the decision to take over the direction from scriptwriter Amol Gupte within 48 hours following "creative differences". Not before giving Gupte the choice to go to another producer, which he declined.


For a person who is rumoured to be averse to risks (people still talk about how he had declined to do the negative role in

Darr

(1993) in which Shah Rukh Khan k..k..k..ed to dazzle, the decision was swift. Aamir Khan feared that if he delayed the shooting, the protagonist would grow up and be lost forever.



The story so far


In 1984, a frail young man flitted across the arthouse as a hostel rowdy in Ketan Mehta's

Holi

, a role few remember.



But it was on April 29, 1988, that — borrowing Joan Baez's phrase — "the unwashed phenomenon" burst on to the scene with another newcomer Juhi Chawla in

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak

. From a quiet, 'un-hyped' beginning, the film soon rocked Bollywood history like a Harley, gathering enthralled audiences and stories.



With

Raakh

, a year later, he swerved away from commercial mainstream, but then on, almost every film has been for the box office (even if one takes Deepa Mehta's

1947 Earth

as an exception). Some who had imagined him as the counterpoint to formulaic Bollywood after

Holi

have called him a "sell-out", but Khan asks: "What would you call a film like

Rang De Basanti

, or

Sarfarosh

, or

Dil Chahta Hai

?


Aren't they very bold experiments within the commercial framework?"



Somewhere along the way, Khan started changing the paradigm of superstardom. He started taking up one film a year; became notorious for being a nagging perfectionist; shunned all film award events; turned down a Rs 20-crore film offer because there was no script; and even politely declined an offer to be at Madame Tussauds.



"Being at Tussauds does not really interest me," he explained.



Turbulent times


Between the time

Lagaan

, with its big cinematic canvas, hitting the theatres and the opening of

The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey

, Khan's personal life went through turbulent times. His marriage to college sweetheart Reema was rocked by rumours of an affair and eventually ended in a divorce.



He then married assistant director of

Lagaan

, Kiran Rao, at a function which kept the media out. His relationship with the media has been turbulent. "I think very few journalists today live up to their primary responsibility of reporting facts accurately and responsibly. About 90 per cent of the stuff written about me is made up. I see interviews which I never gave," he said.



He has always lent himself to social activism. He supported, morally and financially, outspoken media vehicles like the Tehelka and Communalism Combat. He also declared his support for Medha Patkar's Narmada Bachao Andolan, earning the ire of the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government. More recently, he was pulled up by a court for allegedly disrespecting the Indian flag at the opening of a car showroom in Indore. Criticism has seldom bogged him down.



Aamir Khan is more worried about his pierced ear getting fused. So, he sports two tiny earrings now.