Entertainment – Q&A Aamir Khan
Meenakshi Verma Ambwani
Aamir Khan is in a relaxed mood these days after the stupendous success of Three Idiots, the biggest Indian blockbuster of all times. The 44-year-old actor was in the capital recently on an invitation from the finance ministry to speak at a three-day retreat organised for its senior officials. He spoke to ET in a free-wheeling interview on subjects close to his heart . Excerpts:
Congratulations on the success of Three Idiots, which has grossed over Rs 300 crore worldwide within 17-18 days of its release. Did you actually think the film would be such a big hit?
You can never imagine that. Actually I was just hoping it would cross Ghajini, because Ghajini itself is so huge and to try and come close to it itself is a huge task. I was happy with the way the film had turned out. But I never imagined that it would be so big. The movie is still running and its gross revenues can go anywhere between one-and-a-half to two times more than Ghajini’s revenues.
A lot has been said about the unconventional marketing that you did for Three Idiots. How important is marketing for a movie? Have blogs and Twitter become indispensable for Indian actors as marketing tools?
Film making is all about communication. You are telling a story to someone. So once you are ready with the story, you will have to tell people that you are making this story and would they like to hear this. That’s what marketing is at the end of the day So if I don’t tell anyone that I am about to tell a story how will people know? So certainly marketing is important. But the best that marketing can do is to get you a good opening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Big stars or the goodwill of a director can only get you a good opening. Ultimately, what’s going to take your film forward is the film itself.
You have responded to the Chetan Bhagat controversy on your blog. You have also written that it is important for everyone to distance from this incident to be unemotional and objective.
I would like to speak about this, but as I said in my blog, not right now. The details and facts will not change in a month from now and I would rather discuss it then.
Do you think the rolling credits should be shown in the beginning of the movie rather than the end?
All I want to say are the four facts of the case. The producers in this case have officially bought the rights through a legal contract from the writer of the book. The writer has been paid his money. The writer has been given credit exactly how he asked for it in the contract. He has got a bonus also. I don’t want to say anything beyond this right now.
The movie has done extremely well in some international markets like the UK and Australia? How important are international revenues for Indian films?
In the US, it was huge and has done revenues that are double of what the previous best movie earned. I am not a numbers person, but I can tell you that my audience is important to me no matter what part of the world they live in, whether its Varanasi or Chanderi (the places that I went to for the film’s promotion ). I want the man living there to like my film and I also want a person living in Paris to like it as well. I would like to reach out to more and more people and engage them.
What do you think contributed to a huge repeat audience for the movie – something that we rarely see these days?
First of all the kind of humour there is in the film, especially the one-liners that Raju (Hirani) and Abhijat (Joshi) have written. The film is entertaining and engaging, when it is not making you laugh, it is making you cry. And it is also enriching since it is teaching you so much. All of these things have contributed to the film’s big success and repeat audience. But I think above all this is one factor, that is Raju Hirani. In my opinion his innate goodness as a human being comes through in his work and that intangible quality he has, which gets into his films, is what is taking it beyond. Even when he is showing his negative characters, he looks at them with warmth. That is the kind of person he is and that is what takes the film beyond.
You say you are not a numbers person, but surely numbers define a movie’s commercial success. Would you have been disappointed if 3i didn’t turn out to be as big a hit as Ghajini?
Numbers do not excite me. If I wanted to earn more money, I would have done four films in a year and multiplied my earnings. For me numbers is a yardstick. They tell me how many people have seen the film, how many times have people seen it and how many times the tickets have been sold. Numbers tell me how much the audience have loved the film.
In the future would we see you more often as a producer, an actor or a director?
You would see me in all these three roles. In fact my next film which I have produced is called Peepli Live. It has been written and directed by Anusha Rizvi who is making her first film. She has written a story which I really loved. It is a satire, a kind of black comedy on rural life of India, administration on local politics, society, and media. A satire on all of us. It is a film that makes you laugh and also breaks your heart. It will release mid-year. As a director and actor I will start reading scripts after two months. As an actor I have another film called Dhobi Ghat that will be come out by the end of the year and it’s written and directed by my wife Kiran. It is too early to say when exactly it will release.
What are your future plans for production company Aamir Khan films? Would you look at listing it?
Aamir Khan Films will work as an independent production house. I see myself and my company as a handloom weaver (smiles). We are not a factory, but a small unit that makes films out of passion and love. And it is not purely a business for us. We would like to make films that we believe in and make them economically viable, no doubt. Our thrust of selection of films will be based on our emotions. That is how I have worked for the last 22 years as an actor and that is how my company will operate.
I am not a businessman, but a film maker. When we need money we will raise it in the best possible way. But I don’t feel the need to go public or sell shares. What will I do with all that money? Raising funds would also depend on project to project. While I would like to fund some of the projects myself, for others I would like to get a partner. But for me a partner would not just bring in money but also certain value to the film.
You have also produced some commercials. Would you look at it as a serious business?
We do not produce commercials. That is not our business. In the past some of the people who were involved in the endorsement side asked us to make the advertisements. I have produced most of the Coke ads. We do it as a one off assignment, if someone requested us. I enjoy doing advertisements. Some of the stories in these advertisements were challenging stories like what I have done for Tata Sky.
Would Aamir Khan Films look at content production for television?
I don’t know. I have not thought about it. Right now I am only looking into making films. But I am not close minded about something. If something exciting comes up we will look into it.
We have seen a lot of actors owning teams of the Indian Premier League. Would you consider bidding for it?
I enjoy watching cricket but I am not looking at bidding for IPL. I would like to stick to what makes me happy. Making films and telling stories is what makes me happy and that is how I would like to spend my time.
What do you look into a brand before you sign for its endorsement and what does brand Aamir Khan stands for?
I look for reliability, energy, integrity, dignity, honesty and if it has the ability to engage.
You have taken a dig at the education system in India through your films like Tare Zameen Par and 3I. What needs to be changed in this system?
I am not taking a dig at the education system. I am very much part of the society of which the education system is a part of. I am also a parent. So, in my opinion, there are a lot of areas where we can improve. And in my opinion, education minister Kapil Sibal is someone who has lots of progressive thoughts on this issue and seems to be doing a fair amount. And there are a lot of other educationists who are working very hard behind the scenes to take education forward in the right direction. But yes, there are certain things that need to be changed in the education system.
All of us have a first hand experience of the education system since we have been students. So both these films shed a positive light on issues we as creative people have discovered in our research. I’m not interested in taking at dig at something. I’m looking at constructively trying to improve things for our children and ourselves.
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