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Aamir Khan As I Knew Him


 I can’t deny Aamir is the most adventurous performer in India.  Aamir has constantly taken risks,  gone against the flow  and generally been more than just  a mega-star.

What’s more,  I’ve  always found him to be extremely true to his word. If he had ideological differences with Ram Gopal Varma and  a fellow-journalist no amount of reasoning would convince him to the contrary…..if he thought popular awards were  rigged, he didn’t change his mind about boycotting them even when Lagaan and Aamir won a truckload of trophies. (Incidentally, Varma and Khan  disagree on everything except on the issue of awards: neither attends awards functions).

   At one point of time very long ago  I was actually close enough to Aamir to reason with him. He seemed to listen to what I had to say, though I suspect he made his own decisions independent  of extraneous opinion.

Aamir was too polite to argue back. But I knew he was capable of fighting back when pushed against the wall.  Here  was a man who would stand by his convictions.  And my admiration  for these qualities spilled over  into my writing….until  The Image and The Man  decided to part ways….

    But oops, we’re jumping the gun.  I got to know Aamir when he was planning Lagaan. It was  the night of Diwali  when the phone rang.  An alien voice  introduced itself. “Hi. I’m Aamir Khan…had to call because Asha Aunty asked me to.”

  He was  referring to my dear friend Asha Parekh, a close friend of the Khan family, whom I had asked for  an introduction.

      I am proud to say I introduced Aamir to the Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar.  She happened to mention to me that Aamir had sung the hit Aati kya khandala  in sur. When I conveyed the compliment  to  Aamir he sounded genuinely  zapped. I arranged for them to meet up. Lataji presented him with an expensive watch. Aamir was overwhelmed. “I’ve to  find some way of  repaying her kindness,” he told me,  mantel-piece – proper to the end.

   Later while  he was shooting for Sarfarosh  in  Kashmir , he bought her a shawl. I never got know   if the gift reached Lataji….Aamir  gradually faded out of my life …..and needless to say , out of   Lataji’s life too.

   For Lagaan   he recorded a  beautiful Bhajan with her. “I get goosebumps every time I hear it,”  he told me.  A few months later he re-recorded a portion of  the Bhajan in another voice without  Lataji’s consent and paid her a courtesy visit along with his director to inform her of  the “technical  necessity” for doing what he  did.

  Initially  Aamir and I hit it  off instantaneously.  I  liked his straightforwardness , his artless candour, I loved the way he  put every incident in his life in perspective , dissected  every dimension of his career graphically and made every  professional decision appear  to be   matter of  life and death.

    I also liked the way he  would defend even the indefensible films in his oeuvre, for example the films of Indra Kumar like  Dil  and  Ishq which, Aamir argued, were targeted at a different audience from the one that watched  1947—Earth (in  my opinion, his best performance to date, though Aamir being Aamir  had quibbles with that one too) . Even the reprehensible Mela got Aamir’s full respect. He even defended a sequence where his boisterous character tricks a  character into drinking urine.  Pee pressure, I guess.

    I liked his conviction, his passion and his commitment to bettering the quality  of Indian cinema, and never mind the aesthetic atrocities in his oeuvre like Pyar Pyar Pyar,  Tum Mere Ho and  Isi Ka  Naam Zindagi.

 Aamir could always look at the bigger picture. He always seemed to go beyond selfinterest. Most important of all he was   extremely candid.  During an interview he called Kajol and Salman Khan undisciplined  actors whom he ‘d never work with .

“Are you sure you want to say that?” I asked him anxiously. “Yes,” replied the man with convictions…and moved on.

 I met him for the first time at his family residence in Bandra  where at the point of time,  he stayed with his wife Reena  and two children. His parents stayed in  another apartment in the same building.  Out of the one hour that he could spare me  half an hour was spent narrating a  script that he wanted to make with Sridevi in the lead. The other half an hour Aamir told me  ‘the truth’ about  an actress who, he said, was more than casually  interested  in  him. Aamir described how he put her in her place.

  I had  no reason to disbelieve him. I  met his courteous wife and son and his rather-nice parents.

    After  the meeting I  told him I was happy to have him as a friend.  “How can you use the term ‘friend’ so loosely?” he harangued me. “It takes a  lot of time and effort for me  to become friends with someone.”

    To our misfortune—or was it just mine?— our rapport    never reached that  stage of evolution.   When all his  personal problems broke out Aamir decided to distance himself completely from me. 

     I thought  we shared  special rapport that went beyond the standard  star-journalist equation. He never said no to me.  Aamir would go out of his way to give me interviews. We both knew he was safe in my hands. There were many publications which he had banned. Aamir  knew I’d keep his voice out of them.
The respect remains from my end. We  met many  years  later  in  his office  for  a possible patch up. He was warm and  amiable. But  we had both  moved on. 

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