“I do what my heart says” — Aamir Khan (Throwback)

He is unpretentious, straightforward and humble. He takes criticism seriously but doesn’t crave appreciation. His work is scrutinised with a magnifying glass, and yet he gives one hit after another. He rarely gives interviews, but when he does, he’s unstoppable. Like his films, he tak time to think over every question hurled at him. Interrupt him during the answer and he retorts, “Let me finish what I have started, you can ask me that later.” That’s Aamir Khan, a remarkable combination of enigma and forthrightness. Excerpts from a thought-provoking interview…

Aamir Khan interview

You are an inspiration to millions. Who has been your biggest inspiration in your life?

Aamir Khan: More than inspired, I would say I have been influenced—by actors like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Waheeda Rehman.

After all the success you have achieved, what motivates you and where does your thirst, hunger, inspiration and energy come from?

Aamir Khan: Soon after Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, I signed 8 – 10 films, which didn’t do well at the box office. I would go home and cry about it—I thought it was the end of my career. Then I started declining offers. Even Mahesh Bhatt offered me a role that I refused. He was surprised and he told me that I’m not doing the right thing. But I had made up my mind not to sign films for the sake of money, fame or big banners. I decided that I will work in a film only when I was confident of being a substantial part of it. Then I took up Dil, which became a hit. From then on, I began creating my own path instead of following what the other actors were doing.

I have never worked for money and I think that is one of my biggest strengths. It’s not that I don’t need money… all of us need it. But according to me, I earn the least among my peers. Yet I am very happy because I do what my heart says—I follow my gut feeling. For instance, Kiran had not liked the script of Rang De Basanti but I didn’t go with her instinct. I liked it and went ahead. At times I go wrong with my instincts but most of the times I get it right.

I never compromise on the quality of work. I strive to do better every time. I work in a medium where you connect to a large number of people and that’s why I try to do something different each time. This want and thirst to do better each time gives me the energy to do more and more.

What are your innermost insecurities and fears at this stage of life?

Aamit Khan: I have a lot of insecurity. I am constantly worried at so many levels. In fact I am called ‘Captain Caution’ by my family. They have also designed a cape for me and call it the ‘life jacket” and they have designed a logo for me. I am constantly worried about losing a person who is close to me and that’s my biggest fear. I am insecure about work too—I fear that I will wake up someday and all my work will go away and I will be the last one to know about it. Which is why I think I take things so seriously. People call me a perfectionist because I put in so much thought and hard work in my films and in everything I do in life. I don’t want to be the last one to know about my work. I give it a lot of value. I absorb, feel and grow. If I feel someone is sharper than me I value it even more. I keep thinking and analysing a lot. I think that if I could go back at this point, I could have done it differently—that’s when I started opening my mind.

Was doing films the default choice for you, considering your family’s film background?

Aamir Khan: When I started acting with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak I never thought I would make it as a star or achieve so much in life. I don’t consider myself a star like Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. I can’t be like them. I consider Salman a star because he can bulldoze his way into anything. About myself, I think it is strange when you think of doing something but land up elsewhere… somewhere you didn’t even expect yourself to be. One mustn’t forget that life can take all these unexpected twists and turns.

What do you think about your cousin Mansoor Khan’s decision of leaving the industry for good and settling down as a farmer?

Aamir Khan: We want Mansoor back to make films but he is happy where he is, in Ooty. We did manage to bring him back as a writer. Mansoor has approved of the concept and is currently working on the script and we are all chipping in with our ideas. But he doesn’t want to take up direction yet.

What motivated you to take up Satyamev Jayate?

Aamir Khan: Celebrating the 25th anniversary of QSQT
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of QSQT

Aamir Khan:The germ of the show was with me even 15 years ago. I used to read a lot of newspapers and met a lot of people.  I was disturbed by what was happening around me. I would be troubled by the injustice that was meted out to people. I used to wonder how things can change and what I can do to bring about that change for those who are less privileged than me. When I started discussing these things with my team, we all decided we could make a show about these current topics and it was very exciting. It was something I had never attempted. We travelled across the country to do extensive research before the show.

Has life changed for you in anyway after doing Satyamev Jayate? Are you planning another season of it?

Aamir Khan: Life has certainly changed. It has been a tremendous learning experience as well as an emotionally charged one. I cried a lot while I was watching some of the incidents. I feel what is happening in the country of late is very sad for girls—it’s traumatic. I am a very emotional person and I get hurt easily. But when I looked at the enormity of their situations, I felt I was in a very happy space. So yes, I got to learn a lot of things that I was not aware of earlier. And as a consequence, I have tried to incorporate a lot of changes in my personal life.

You’ve been supporting a lot of social issues. Have you ever considered contesting elections?

Aamir Khan: No, I think I am not meant for that, so I won’t be joining politics. One need not join politics to serve the society. I feel I am able to do a lot being in the stream that I am in. I can contribute much more through my show Satyamev Jayate and I am happy doing that.

There is a lot of great new talent in the industry now. Do you have your moments of insecurity?

Aamir Khan: No, in fact I love all these young stars. I like Ranbir Kapoor. When I watched Barfi, I asked Kiran what is it that he is doing that I cannot. He has qualities that I don’t have, and I think he is a fantastic actor.

I always strive to do better than other actors. I am genuinely fond of Salman and find him very charming. He’s one star who can run a film on his shoulders. I loved Sanjay Dutt in Munnabhai… Good work gives me great joy and it may not necessarily be mine. I like Shah Rukh in his romantic roles like Diwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I have yet to see Chak De— it’s on my list of films to watch.

Are you at a stage where you can take both criticism and praise with a smile? Does it hurt you when you are not appreciated?

Aamir KhanAamir Khan: I take criticism very seriously but I don’t read too many reviews of my films. There are a few critics I take seriously and few other I choose to ignore always. I often read ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ to gauge their ratings. I have always treated a film review as an opinion of one person and do not see it as a yardstick of how many people have liked the film. If a person has not liked the film, you have to accept that the film did not connect with that person. If 90 per cent of people have liked a film, I am happy with that. I don’t bother about people appreciating only my work. For me, it’s important that the film is appreciated in its entirety.

Would you call yourself a control freak?

Aamir Khan: No, and hope I never will be one. I make sure that I give much freedom to everyone around me. They are free to voice their opinions or give suggestions. If I like it I will imbibe it or else I will explain to them why I think that I am right and they are wrong.

What do you like reading? Any favourite books/authors?

Aamir Khan: I love reading all kinds of books, especially autobiographies and mysteries. I read all the latest books. I read the Harry Hole detective series by Jo Nesbo. Currently I am reading The Bat from that series. The last two books I read were The Lost Boy by Thomas Wolfe and A Child Called ‘It’ by Dave Pelzer.

You’re a parent again now, after almost two decades. How has the experience been so far?

Aamir Khan: I think there’s not much difference between then and now. Unfortunately I don’t get to spend much time with my children. But that doesn’t mean I am a bad father. I try to give as much time I can give Azad these days. I read bed time stories for him. Earlier I would take him to my sets everyday. He used to wake up and see me getting ready for work and he would cling to me. I would take him on the sets and when he was tired he would go off to sleep and by 11am I would send him back home.

Is there any advice you would like to give to the younger generation today?

Aamir Khan: I think the young generation today spends a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter, which may not be required. I also feel that they are sharing all their personal details online, and they need to be more cautious about that.

Finally, what is your recipe for a happy and healthy life?

Aamir Khan: Do what makes you happy; don’t worry about being successful. Be courageous and live life on your terms. Life is full of ups and downs and everyone goes through personal or professional losses. While it is important to mourn that loss, at the same time it’s equally important to take care of yourself. Eat healthy and exercise a lot—fitness is essential for everyone.

This interview originally appeared published in the February 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing magazine.

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