A look at Aamir Khan's journey towards perfection

A look at Aamir Khans journey towards perfection

As he turns 54 on March 14 we examine the choices that catapulted him into superstardom


Khalid Mohamed

Published: Thu 7 Mar 2019, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 8 Mar 2019, 1:00 AM

Come the Ides of March, or nearly, and Aamir Khan will usher in his 54th birthday on March 14. The eldest of the three superstar Khans by a few months - Shah Rukh and Salman Khan were born on November 2 and December 27, 1965, respectively - Aamir has quite clearly proved to be the biggest risk-taker of the trinity.

This is apparent, especially, in his capacity as a film producer, who's constantly looking out for offbeat scripts, which simultaneously have something purposeful to state besides providing entertainment.

His track record as a producer asserts that claim. Consider Taare Zameen Par (2007) that dealt with the subject of dyslexic children, Peepli [Live] (2010) on the exploitation of the underprivileged in rural areas, Dhobi Ghat (2011) on the inequities of city life, Dangal (2016), a biopic on the struggle of two young women wrestlers, and Secret Superstar (2017) on the aspirations of a teenage singer who has to contest her family's orthodox objections. Not to forget, the risqué-yet-hilarious comedy Delhi Belly (2011), which commented on the attempts of three young men to subsist within the greed-oriented topsy turvy world of the nation's capital.

In fact, in his role as a producer, Aamir reminds you quite distinctly of Shashi Kapoor. While he was an uber successful star, Kapoor's production banner Film-Valas had bankrolled several memorable films, including Aparna Sen's 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981) and Shyam Benegal's Junoon (1978) as well as Kalyug (1981). Those memorable films, however, hadn't recouped their investment.

Fortuitously, Aamir's unconventional films have struck a chord with the ticket-buying audiences as well as the critics. Consequently, he invites scripts from freshers, which are carefully studied by his team.

As an actor, he's been way more picky than the other two Khans, which explains why he isn't as prolific as you would like him to be. There have been gross miscalculations - endemic perhaps in every actor's career - like last year's Thugs of Hindostan. You were left with the question: but why did he ever agree to do a Johnny Depp-like Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise?

Presumably, the wrong choice was impelled by the fact that the opus, set on the high seas, was produced by the Yash Raj Films helmed by Aditya Chopra, and directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya, who had bunged together the blockbuster Dhoom 3 (2013).
If his calculations have gone wrong occasionally, he's been astute too. Take Ghajini (2008), which was replete with excessive violence. On record, he may not have responded to the ensuing flak for glorifying the theme of blood-soaked vendetta. However, since the spin-off from Christian Nolan's Memento (2000) - which had already spawned a Tamil remake - was a huge hit, the criticism had subsided.

Right from his oeuvre of approximately 50 films, beginning as a child actor in his uncle Nasir Hussain's Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973) and then as a hero with the launch project Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), it was apparent that he was an all-rounder, shifting from the spry romantic Romeo incarnations and ticklish comedies a la Andaz Apna Apna (1994) and dramedies like Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992) and Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995) to the opponent of the British Raj in Lagaan (2001).

Neither has he been averse to experimental projects, be it a cameo in Holi (1984) or the central protagonist in the edgy Raakh (1989). That said, Aamir has been the quintessential Bollywood hero who has been quite at home in making the incredible seem credible. At the outset, he had said in an interview with me that his directors as well as his fan-base would always expect him to flaunt the trademark Aamir Khan smile, which reaches up to his eyes. "Yes, that's become an avoidable mannerism," he had conceded. "But I can live with it."

That smile lingers on to date. Gratifyingly, it isn't obtrusive. Also, look closely, and if he has to shed a tear for a scene, he doesn't opt for the convenience of glycerine eye-drops. The tears start welling in the midst of the shot, in difficult long takes.
Among his other assets is to look forever young. This Peter Pan-quality was especially evident in Dil Chahta Hai (2001), 3 Idiots (2009) and PK (2014) in which he portrayed characters below his age, without jarring.

In real life, he can be as serious as he is about his craft. Be it a photoshoot or a lengthy interview, he won't stop till he's personally satisfied. Despite ongoing demands, though, he hasn't assented to an authorised biography yet. Books may have hit the shelves, analysing his performances replete with quotes from his film industry colleagues and critics, but that's it.
Could this be because Aamir guards his private life fiercely? Perhaps. Reports about his fleeting liaisons, a formal separation from his ex-wife Reena Dutta and his second marriage to Kiran Rao, are common knowledge. Any attempt to probe into his off-screen persona are met with polite silence, as also his disenchantment with awards. Unfairly, he lost out on the Best Actor award for Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992). Ever since, his absenteeism at award functions has been non-negotiable.

Still, this isn't a case of being stubborn. He has strong values and won't alter them. When a famous director was 'outed' by the #MeToo movement last year, he immediately dropped out of a high-profile movie - a biopic on the slain music baron Gulshan Kumar - titled Moghul.

Indeed, that's the essence of Aamir Khan, an actor who has evolved and improved with time - which is why the very mention of his name brings a smile on the faces of everyone, from the millennials to the senior generation.

Currently, word is awaited on his next project. Could it be a reprise of his TV show Satyamev Jayate? There has also been talk about him portraying the godman Osho in a remake of the documentary Wild Wild Country, co-starring Alia Bhatt. It's also being conjectured that he's keen to make a mega-series on the epic Mahabharata.

At 54, life's just beginning for the actor with the magnificent obsession of doing the right thing.

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