Aamir Khan opens up over Bollywood industry numbers on PK Dubai visit
Walking into the crowded ballroom at the Grand Hyatt on Monday evening as dozens of cameras pop and photographers jostle for space, Aamir Khan is relaxed and calm.
The 49-year-old star, dressed in jeans, white T-shirt and a soft black woollen jacket, is accompanied by his co-star Anushka Sharma, director Raj Kumar Hirani and producer Vidhu Vinod Sharma. Khan is on a rare trip to Dubai to promote his film PK – his last visit was four years ago, to coincide with the release of his film Peepli Live.
Instead of the squeals and shouts of “I love you” that usually dominate, say, a Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan press conference, there is an awestruck hush in the room. Aamir Khan may be one of India’s finest actors, but he also keeps a low profile, is choosy about his films and, unlike the other Khans, only makes one movie every two years. They invariably strike box-office gold.
As it happens, the press conference turns out to be rather uneventful, mostly because the four celebrities are fearful of giving away the plot, but things get interesting when we meet afterwards for a brief chat.
“Shoot,” says Khan, looking at me expectantly as press aides frown at their watches and burly security men in suits watch us unblinkingly.
I immediately ask him about his infamous nude poster that took India by storm – what did he think about all those furious conservatives who burnt his effigies? He laughs.
“I was expecting that, honestly,” he says. “It’s ingrained in our culture – we are not supposed to show off our bodies. So I didn’t worry too much about the reaction.
“But that poster is crucial to the film – in fact, it is a scene from the film, and I am sure that on watching PK, the very people who condemned the poster will understand why I’m standing there holding a transistor with a dumbstruck look on my face. It was definitely not meant to titillate.
“See, there were two reactions, actually. Some people got mad, but others loved it and looked beyond the nudity to question the silly expression on my face. They didn’t see it as sexual, and it wasn’t meant to be. In the end, a majority of the people liked it a lot.”
His finger has always been firmly on the audience’s pulse – aren’t his box-office successes a testament to the fact?
“No,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s impossible to know what kind of reaction your film is going to get. But for me, it’s all about the script. If I am moved by the writing, then I am in. If my heart is not in it, I say no.
“Having said that, several films that I have turned down have gone on to become hits, like Saajan. But I don’t think too much about box-office collections.”
He is not interested in joining the film industry’s 200-crore club, then?
“Those numbers are fudged,” says Khan without batting an eyelid. “And I am being completely honest with you here – all those claims of films breaking records, it is utter nonsense. In fact, PK is the first film in India to hire the services of Rentrak, a Spain-based company that provides audit services and media measurement. Also, in India, editorial space can be bought, so it’s very easy to have the papers say wonderful things about you. Don’t believe any of it.”
But Khan’s cynical, hardline view of the film industry and the corruption within – he has boycotted all awards ceremonies because he claims they are fixed – hasn’t put him off doing what he loves: making good movies (and headlining a critically acclaimed TV show, Satyamev Jayate, that examines India’s pressing social problems).
“It’s what I do,” he says. “If I believe in it, I give it my all, I am quite focused about that.
“But – and you may not believe me – I get very anxious each time one of my films is about to hit cinemas. I can’t eat or sleep. I just fall to pieces. All I want now is for it to be the 19th and the film to be out and done with.”
• PK opens in cinemas on Friday, December 19. Read our review of the film in Sunday’s Arts&Life
Updated: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM