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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Happy birthday Aamir Khan: How Thugs of Hindostan was just one of the few blips in his long, successful career

Aamir Khan celebrates his 54th birthday on Thursday and to celebrate it, we revisit some of the biggest milestones in his 3 decade long career.

bollywood Updated: Mar 13, 2019 17:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aamir Khan has worked in stellar films like Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan and Dangal.
Aamir Khan has worked in stellar films like Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan and Dangal.

On his latest appearance on Koffee With Karan, host Karan Johar asked Aamir Khan a question that is often asked of actors—how does he choose a project. Over the years, different actors have given different answers to this question. Some hunt for a lead role, others want a big pay cheque, while some—like Shah Rukh Khan—say yes to the director rather than a script. However, Aamir’s answer was so spot-on, it puts his entire career in movies into perspective.

Karan asked Aamir about how he always chooses to do socially relevant films. Aamir quickly corrected him that even with a film like Dangal, his priority was not to spread a positive message across society but he chose the film because it was a good project. “My fundamental responsibility as an actor is to be excited about what I am doing,” he said, and that is essentially what makes Aamir the money-minting movie machine that the entire world has come to respect.

From small towns to metropolises, from multiplexes to single screens, from Indians to Chinese, Aamir’s films find an audience everywhere they go for their big heart and his ability to get it beating with a flawless performance every time. With four ‘most successful Indian movies ever’ titles acquired in a career spanning over three decades, Aamir appeared to have decoded what it takes to make a film that speaks to people and to all the people. However, a lot of fans and movie buffs appear to have lost their faith in Aamir after his latest film, Thugs of Hindostan, failed to perform well at the box office.

Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit in a still from Dil.
Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit in a still from Dil.

Made with a budget of almost Rs 300 crore, the film just about manages to touch the figure in its collections at the box office. It was panned heavily by critics and became a butt of internet jokes. Many even though that its failure harkens the end of the reign of the Khans.

However, Aamir is no stranger to failure. His career has been a roller coster ride of great movies and a few disappointing one. But each time, Aamir has been able to put the failure behind him and learn from it. To those who still need to be reminded of his sheer talent and impressive career, here’s a refresher:

After appearing as the ‘little boy who needed to pee’ in Yaadon Ki Baaraat, Aamir made his debut in Holi, which was as uneventful a welcome into Bollywood as you could imagine. Soon he got his second chance to prove himself with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak in 1988 and the film launched him as the one star to watch out for. Over the next decade, he gave hits like Dil, Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahi, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar and Raja Hindustani—which went on to become the most successful Hindi film ever in 1996. However, there were also disappointments like Isi Ka Naam Zindagi and Daulat Ki Jung.

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Up until the end of this era, Aamir was still taking the road oft travelled, the goody chocolate hero starring in romantic dramas. Sure, there were a few slight deviations from the norm here and there with roles like Rangeela or Ghulam, Aamir didn’t break out of his image until 1999’s Sarfarosh. The film earned him great critical acclaim and was the one true push he needed to shed the romantic loverboy image and hunt after more meaty roles in a variety of genres.

Naseeruddin Shah and Aamir Khan in Sarfarosh.
Naseeruddin Shah and Aamir Khan in Sarfarosh.

What followed after the slight hiccup of films like Mela and Mann, was the one film that will forever be counted as among the greatest Hindi films ever made, Lagaan. The Oscar nominated film was what Aamir needed to let the world know that he has arrived. It was quite evidently the film he was excited about the story, the script and the film as a whole and carried that thought with him in all the projects that followed it.

From the earnest Bhuvan in Lagaan, Aamir took a 180 degree turn to transform into the goofball with a goatee in Dil Chahta Hai as Akaash. A coming of age film for young men living in the urban India, it was unlike anything we had ever seen in Bollywood. Aamir knew it was the one film to give his time and energy to and it paid off spectacularly. I personally believe these two films to be Aamir’s most spectacular work.

Aamir took a break of four years from movies after his divorce with Reena Dutta. He made a comeback in 2005 with Mangal Pandey. The film also received polarised reviews but still managed to be one of the most successful movies of the year. With his new-found confidence, Aamir peddled one mega hit after another. Immediately after Mangal Pandey’s raging sepoy, Aamir transformed himself into the carefree, careless and very reluctant Delhi University alumnus in Rang De Basanti, again a film that touched a million hearts. It was again a massive hit.

His next two films, Fanaa and Taare Zameer Par also made a tonne of money and the latter—which also marked Aamir’s venture into direction—made an entire nation of grown ups cry thinking about their moms. Taare Zameen Par was sensitive, beautiful and a brilliant example of art with a purpose.

Kajol and Aamir Khan in a still from Aamir Khan.
Kajol and Aamir Khan in a still from Aamir Khan.

However, he was yet to take that big long soak in the Rs 100 crore club which came with his very next film, Ghajini. It became the very first Indian film to break the barrier and gave him his second ‘most successful Indian movie ever.’ The film was a romantic action film and a remake of Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Aamir gave not only his mind but also his body to the role as he gained a tremendous amount of weight and muscle to portray a killing machine out for vengeance.

The sports drama about a strict father and his daughters saw an international success unlike any Bollywood film had ever seen before. Aamir’s devoted fan base in China and the film’s great story and performances helped it become the most successful Indian movie ever made, by a stretch. It made Rs 2,100 crore worldwide.

Aamir Khan in Thugs of Hindostan.
Aamir Khan in Thugs of Hindostan.

Over the years, Aamir appeared to have found the recipe to making the perfect film. Great, authentic performances, a story that touches hearts, served with oodles of entertainment. However, he had confessed on Koffee With Karan that Thugs of Hindostan is the only film which he says he chose because he fell for his character. Perhaps not a wise decision in retrospect.

Of course, there wasn’t any underlying message to Thugs of Hindostan other than what was being sold as wholesome entertainment. This new strategy of choosing roles proved dangerous for Aamir but it isn’t something he cannot recover from. He has done it before and he can very well do it again.

Aamir is now expected to play Lord Krishna in an upcoming web series on Mahabharata which is still in early stages of development. He is also rumoured to play Osho in a film which just might star Alia Bhatt as his Ma Anand Sheila. If the project ever comes to life, it might just be what the audience wants to see him as.

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First Published: Mar 13, 2019 17:20 IST