It is never an easy decision for a successful actor to change the rules at the top of his game and take a chance on experimenting with roles and his career. But Indian superstar Aamir Khan seems to be braver than most. Emirates Business met up with the actor who was in Dubai for the Star Middle East premiere of his film Taare Zameen Par.
You just turned director with Taare Zameen Par (TZP), which you have also produced and acted in. Were you worried this may turn into a case of Jack of all trades and master of none?
—I’m aware of what people think, but such things don’t worry me. A lot is riding on my shoulders, but I know that my previous work as an actor and producer has been loved, so higher expectations from people are justified.
Was branching out into production a way to ensure your future was secure in Bollywood? After all, not everyone can be an Amitabh Bachchan who still has roles specially written for him at the age of 65.
—I can’t speak on behalf of other people, but it was Lagaan’s script that really drew me into production. It was a very difficult film to make and whoever produced that film had to be extremely committed to the project.
Plus, the situation was very unusual because the director [Ashutosh Gowariker] already had two flops to his credit. Any producer would have thought twice before backing the film, and I liked the challenge.
How much of your own money is invested into producing TZP? Is it easy to raise funds from banks or institutions?
—You can either use your own money or aim for a partnership. For TZP, I tied up with PVR Pictures, an exhibition chain that invested in my film and co-produced it.
I could have opted for a bank loan, but money wasn’t the primary decision-maker. I was looking for financers who could bring something else to the film rather than just money. My strength is exciting the people enough to watch my film, but my weakness is distribution. PVR Pictures run a distribution network throughout India and that added extra value to our partnership.
Aggressive promoting and marketing blitzkriegs are tactics that filmmakers are adopting today to keep their films in the spotlight. Do such gimmicks really work?
—Depending on the movie, it can either work thanks to all that carpet-bombing or it could work because it has strong content. Personally, I feel if a film is good then even minimum promotion won’t stop it from becoming a huge commercial success.
Your refusal of accepting mainstream film awards is well known. But why don’t you want London’s Madame Tussauds to display your wax figure?
—I want to clarify that I have received no official invitation or letter from Madame Tussauds. The person representing it in India has asked to meet me a couple of times, but I have been too busy with my films to see him. When we both find the time, we will discuss the matter further.
Your opinion on the Narmada Dam construction project in Gujarat created a lot of furore in the media, resulting in protests and your film Fanaa being banned in the state. Have things calmed down now?
—I have always had only love and respect in my heart for the people of Gujarat; in fact, for the people of my country. And Darsheel Safary [his co-star in TZP] also happens to be a Gujarati. What happened was politically motivated. My job is to make films. I don’t have the power or the strength to ensure their release and distribution. I hope TZP is released in Gujarat.
There was a lot of speculation that TZP’s first director, Amole Gupte, and you had a falling out, citing creative differences. Can you set the record straight?
—Amole has written a beautiful script and he was originally directing the film. But after a week of shooting, I saw the rushes and I wasn’t very happy. Because he had penned the script, I offered to remove myself as producer and actor, and let him work with a different team.
But Amole decided that he would much rather have me provide a bigger platform for his script that he may not be able to give. This decision was entirely his.
Have you settled your differences with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Amitabh Bachchan over your comments about Black, where you criticised the film, saying that it encouraged child abuse?
—I have the deepest respect for Mr Bachchan. But as a viewer, I am entitled to my personal opinions and I stand by every word that I have earlier said or written on my blog.
Actor, Producer and Director
Aamir Khan is India’s highest paid actor, demanding a salary of Rs100million (Dh9.09m) per film.
Khan first appeared on the silver screen as a child in the 1973 hit Yaadon Ki Baaraat. But rather than pursuing starry dreams, he moved away from acting to try his hand at sport. He also eloped with college sweetheart, Reena, but they kept their marriage a secret. The tremendous success of his 1988 film, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, revived his acting career and spilled the beans on his marital status. Unfazed by the tension in his personal life, Khan continued to deliver hits. It was the 1998 film, 1947 Earth, which really gained him international recognition. The star turned producer with the Oscar-nominated Lagaan, during the shooting of which he met his current wife, Kiran Rao.