Like hundreds of millions of moviegoers in India, I too grew up on a staple diet of Hindi cinema.
I was only 11 years old when the family began to own the Priya cinema in New Delhi; one could say my affinity for films was perhaps a shade more than others as I was spending most of my evenings watching the same movies over and over again. Therefore, my association with Hindi films and within that with Aamir, much before I knew him, has been both as part of the film industry as well as wearing the proverbial hat of a typical Hindi movie buff!
What I want to say about Aamir keeps this duality in mind. And there’s something else- it’s uncanny how the important milestones at PVR have coincided with some of Aamir’s most iconic, path-breaking films.
The first milestone, not surprisingly, was when his first film was released; it was the year of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (QSQT). We, on our part, had just renovated Priya. We couldn’t show the film at Priya as we had some Hollywood film commitments there, (I, meanwhile had quietly seen the film at Regal in Connaught Place) but what struck me about the film was palpably clear. While every filmmaker wanted to make movies that offered an experience that was on par with the rest of the world, Aamir had found his unique, fresh voice- growing up in a family of distinguished filmmakers he understood this burnished truism- the importance of the script. The result? QSQT was a massive hit and along with that there had been a paradigm shift in filmmaking.
More landmarks were to follow; soon came the mighty ‘Lagaan’. Priya was showing Western films as we had become a sort of leader in that genre but the incredible buzz about Lagaan was so intense, that we made the shift to showing this incredible film- it was a no brainer. We chose correctly between Gadar-Ek Prem Katha and Lagaan and lived to tell a great tale – one of supremacy of script and execution and perfection. We had only one cinema at that time but we felt so strongly associated with the success of the film as it mirrored, in a small way, our success. I had no doubt that more greatness would follow from Aamir’s great vision.
By the time Dil Chahta Hai came we knew, that cinemas need to be vibrant, colourful and technologically far superior to any other format to watch films. Dil Chahta Hai addressed something remarkable – today’s youth wanted to watch movies in modern, clean, sophisticated environs. No dank, dirty cinemas. Those became resolutely of the past.
Meanwhile, while I knew what was good for my business, as a movie buff I was ever so keen to meet Aamir. I sought a meeting with him during the promotions of Rang De Basanti (RDB). In all that push and shove of media activity and screaming fans, Aamir, being the true gentleman that he is, kept his commitment and met me on the sidelines. I had been profoundly affected by RDB and this I told him immediately. And then, out of the blue, I blurted out that I wanted to produce a film with him!!! He looked at me and said just one word- why?
My mumbled answer must have pleased him as after a few weeks, despite having no experience in films, I got a call from Aamir that he was keen to do a two-picture-deal with PVR Pictures provided I heard and liked the script and was okay with the budget .
The two pictures were Taare Zameen Par and Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na. These again were milestone events in the PVR journey, since our first foray itself into production both brought critical acclaim as well as box office success. It was during this time that I really got to know Aamir better; it’s been a little over a decade since I have known him.
I have had several interactions with him as a friend and for work. When people say he is an extraordinary human being and an exceptional movie star – it is no exaggeration.
The fact that he is one of the most socially conscientious celebrities is evident from his choosing to do Satyamev Jayateover anything else for the small screen. He is also an exceptionally fair, equitable and transparent person when you deal with him. He is extremely motivated and disciplined – when it comes to getting into the perfect shape, the sacrifices on eating the right food and following a regimen is mind-boggling.
He also understands his craft very well. He challenges himself and constantly strives for excellence in each and every film that he is involved in. The movies can be of any genre but they must be impactful. There are only a handful of people who really understand what 1.2 billion people are looking for as their entertainment. I think it takes a genius to be able to address that sizeable a market consistently with hit after hit. Such deep understanding of what will work with the audience is the mark of a great visionary, of genuine empathy for the audience. Right from choosing the right scripts to its flawless execution from Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai, Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots, PK, Talaash and many more is not easy.
I share a very good rapport with Aamir as a friend and he never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge on a variety of subjects. Cricket, books, music, politics, movies of course – nothing is beyond him. His passion is exceptional.
My friendship with him is a very important one and one that I cherish very much.
On his 50th I wish him the very best on all facets of life and wish him to further take the Indian entertainment industry to greater heights.