By Mohnish Singh
When Aamir Khan, one of the most popular Indian cine-stars across the world, walked into the room at his Carter Road residence in Mumbai, he was nearly unrecognizable. The actor looked much younger than what he did when I met him a couple of months ago at the same place, in the same room.
Khan is presently busy promoting his high-profile film Thugs of Hindostan, bankrolled by Yash Raj Films. Also starring megastar Amitabh Bachchan, Katrina Kaif and Fatima Sana Shaikh in principal roles, the Vijay Krishna Acharya directorial is set in 1795 and sees Aamir in the role of a thug who can go to any length to prove his faithfulness to the expanding British East India Company. The superstar, dubbed ‘Mr. Perfectionist’ says Firangi, his character in the film, has been the toughest role of his career.
Ahead of the release of the big-ticket extravaganza, I got to sit down with the actor for a freewheeling chat. In this exclusive interview for Eastern Eye, Aamir Khan insightfully talked about Thugs of Hindostan, what it was like to work with Amitabh Bachchan for the first time ever, and why he will never, ever, do a movie if his character in it does not excite him. Excerpts…
Aamir, you are looking much younger today…
(Smiles) In Thugs of Hindostan, I was very much in shape. But after my shooting gets over, I tend to relax a bit. But after Diwali, I will start focusing more on fitness because during festive season you just cannot control your diet.
You know, I went to Shah Rukh Khan’s Diwali party the other day. There also was everybody saying I was looking younger. They were asking me what I was doing to get fit. Actually, I have shaved off my long hair and beard which I had sported for Thugs of Hindostan. Maybe because of that I am looking this younger (laughs).
Do you miss the look which you sported for Thugs of Hindostan?
Yes, I do. I really liked the look, actually. For the kind of character I am playing in the movie, it was bang on. Avan (hairstylist) picked the right hairstyle for me.
Strangely, when we were planning the look for the film, I had very short hair; I was shooting for Dangal (2016) at that time. So Avan showed me some references and Victor (Director Vijay Krishna Acharya) and I liked one of the references. The character had curly hair. Avan said ‘you let your hair grow out. Once they are long, I will perm it and make it curly’. I said okay. Surprisingly, my hair grew out curly only. I did not know how it happened. I have never had curly hair in my life. Not only me but all of us were shocked. I didn’t have to do anything; it’s my natural hair which you see in the film.
Generally, you prefer to release your films around Christmas, but Thugs of Hindostan is going to be the first film in last 22 years which will hit the silver screen on Diwali, after Raja Hindustani (1996)? So how does it feel to come back to Diwali after 22 years?
Well, since it is after Raja Hindustani, I am feeling quite good. That was a lucky one. Yeah, I am excited. Let’s see how people like the film.
Thugs of Hindostan is releasing this week. How are you feeling right now – nervous or excited?
Both. You know, two years have gone into making this film. So I hope people like the film. I am happy because I feel it’s an ideal release for Diwali. It’s not a film with a good social message. It’s a film that you can enjoy and have a good time watching. It has action. It has got a very big scale and canvas. Amit Ji (Amitabh Bachchan) and I are coming together for the first time.
You are working with Amitabh Bachchan for the first time in your career. How was the experience?
It was really very amazing. Twice it did not work out in the past, but the third time we were lucky. I was very excited to work with him and, at the same time, very nervous also. I didn’t know how it would be working with him. Would I not be able to perform properly in front of him? The first shot that we did together was the one where we are shuttling with each other. That’s in the trailer also. So that was the first shot. I was very nervous while doing it, but it went off alright. And then I got a little comfortable with him.
Amit Ji is a very warm and generous person, you know. He makes you feel comfortable. He is very easy to work with. He has got a very dry sense of humour. So you don’t know whether he is joking or is serious. You don’t know whether you should laugh or keep quiet. It takes a little time for you to understand whether he is joking or is saying something serious.
What does Thug mean to you?
Well, Thug is a person who is out there to loot you, though our film is not a period drama about loot and all. A lot of people have written it is based on some book and all. It’s not. It’s entirely fiction. It’s an entirely fictional story set in that period. It’s an action-adventure film. So it’s not period or historical. It’s like a Manmohan Desai film, let me put it that way.
There are many people who say the film reminds them of the Dilip Kumar and Manoj Kumar starrer Kranti (1981). What do you have to say about that?
No, it’s not as serious as that film was. My film doesn’t have that much of patriotism in it. In Thugs of Hindostan, we are talking about the freedom of a particular rajwada (kingdom) where these people live, which is a fictitious place like Lagaan (2001). So it’s a fictitious kingdom that the British have taken over. At that time, The East India Company was taking over kingdoms one by one. So, in the film, we show that they have not got the whole India yet. They were in the process of acquiring the whole country. They take over this place called Raunakpur, so the people of that kingdom talk about their own azaadi (freedom). We are not talking about India.
Do you think Thugs of Hindostan will click with both set of the audiences – classes as well as masses?
Yeah, I hope so. It’s a pretty universal film. It’s actually a very children-friendly film. It really is. There is no blood and all. Action is there, but it’s very enjoyable. Serious action is not there. So it’s a family film.
You generally don’t repeat your directors. But in the last decade, four of your films are with two directors – 3 Idiots (2009) and PK (2014) with Rajkumar Hirani and Dhoom 3 (2013) and Thugs of Hindostan with Vijay Krishna Acharya. Any particular reason?
Yeah, I didn’t notice that. You are right. It just happened. I don’t think I planned it that way. It just happened that Raju (Rajkumar Hirani) and Victor (Vijay Krishna Acharya) both came up with stories which I liked a lot. In this film, the character of Firangi Malla is creatively so attractive that I just had to play it. It’s a very well written part. Victor has written some beautiful lines.
Suppose it was not a well-written part, even then you would have done it just to work with Amitabh Bachchan?
No. I wouldn’t have, because I have to be excited by the material first. I would have looked for something else to work with Mr. Bachchan, but I wouldn’t have done the film if it didn’t have a well-written part for me.
Thugs of Hindostan is slated to release on 8th November, 2018.