I first met Aamir during the screening of my film Munnabhai MBBS. When we invited him for the premiere, he couldn’t make it because he was busy shooting for one of his films. Obviously, we wanted him to watch the film and see what he had to say. So we arranged a special screening for him at Ketnav Studio in Bandra.
After the screening, he told me he really liked the film and asked me if I had some scripts for him so that we could work together. I was very excited because here was this superstar and he was telling me that he wanted to work with me! I did have a script which I was working on, and I told him I had something in mind. He said, “Fantastic! I am going out of town for two to three months, so let’s meet once I am back.”
I told him that in the meantime, I would fine-tune the script and bring him the first draft once he was back. The concept I had in mind for Aamir was about a man who hallucinates about Mahatama Gandhi. This was actually the concept of Lage Raho Munnabhai. But during those months, as I continued to write and develop the story, I realised that the tone of the film wasn’t what I had in mind. I felt the message would be better conveyed through humour and it had a better potential to be tuned into another Munnabhai film.
Aamir had worked on a lot of historical films like Lagaan and that’s why I thought this character would suit him even more. I was planning to set the film in the 1940s, pre-Independence India and was initially planning to make the film a tad grim but that wasn’t really working out and I infused humour into my story instead.
In the meantime, Aamir returned from his vacation and called me to ask if I was ready with my script. When I met him, very honestly, I told him the film would be better as a Munnabhai franchise and thankfully he agreed. It was only years later when we were to start shooting for
3 Idiots that he remembered this incident and said, “Saale, tu uss din bina koi film leke mere ghar pe aaya tha!” We had a good laugh. But what I am trying to point out is just how gracious he is. We know what the industry is like and there are many other actors who might have taken offence. But Aamir is a very understanding person, who always puts the film ahead of himself.
When I decided to make 3 Idiots, we were to cast four new actors for the lead roles. Back then, we didn’t have this new brigade of actors that we have today. Ranbir Kapoor had only had one release, so we lacked young actors for the film and cast newcomers. But during the auditions, their camaraderie wasn’t coming across very well. So we thought of casting Aamir in the role.
The only problem was that Aamir was shooting for Ghajini at the time and he had really bulked up. But once he took up the role, he literally tore himself down and lost so much weight for 3 Idiots that we managed to make a 44-year-old look like a 20-something college kid!
While I was filming 3 Idiots, I told him that I wanted him to work on my next film PK and narrated the idea of PK to him. He said he would read the script first. I approached him for the role because we wanted someone with an innocent face to play the alien in the film and I thought he would do full justice to it – and that’s what he did!
I have spent enough time with Aamir personally to know that he is a very considerate human being. He is very polite and makes sure he doesn’t hurt anyone. He measures his words and makes sure that even his jokes never hurt anyone’s sentiments. Humility of this kind is a great quality in an actor as well as a human being. He is also very methodical and follows a system even when he is not working. He has his set points for everything that he does, whether gaining weight for a role or exercising to get in shape for a film. He is an organised person in real life, which is why his films benefit too.
As an actor, Aamir is a director’s delight! He works a hell of a lot on his roles, and likes to come to the set knowing exactly what we will be doing on that day. He perfected Bhojpuri for PK and even during 3 Idiots, he rehearsed with Boman (Irani) well in advance, thanks to which there were no surprises for me as the director. Since he has been a producer too, he values both time and money and believes that pre planning is very important for a film. Since there is so much thought that is put into the planning stage, you don’t end up wasting time and money during the shoot.
Aamir has an immense body of work but, for me, Lagaan is one of his finest works. I think there were two distinct phases in his career – pre-Lagaan and post-Lagaan. He started with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and went on to do films like Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander and he kept the mix interesting with Dil, Ishq and so on. But post-Lagaan, Aamir took the characters that he portrayed to another level. He played with his roles and made the correct choices too. If I were to rate my three favourite Aamir Khan films, they would have to be Lagaan, Rangeela and Sarfarosh. As an actor, his ability to transform into any role is commendable.
Take Rangeela, for instance. As a director, I would have not thought of casting Aamir as a tapori. Perhaps Sanjay Dutt or Anil Kapoor would have suited those roles better because they had done similar stuff in films at that time. But Aamir got into the skin of his character and his capacity to transform surprised everyone. Even for Ghajini, he underwent such a drastic change.
It has been a great journey for Aamir. I wish him success and love in the years to come. I know he wants to make something on the lines of Mahabharat but I hope more actors imbibe his capability to transform. He should keep playing diverse roles, choose different scripts as courageously as he has been doing and I do hope we get many more chances to work together again.