‘Aamir is deeply patriotic and cares for the country.’
Among those who know Aamir Khan really well is his Rang De Basanti Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.
They may have done just this film together, but the two share a bond that goes beyond the professional.
On Aamir’s 58th birthday on March 14, Mehra chats with Rediff.com, Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya, and tells, “He does not get swayed by trends. He does not weigh decisions based on what is working and what is not. If he likes a subject, he will give his life for it.”
‘What started as a 15-minute meeting went on for four hours’
After the script of Rang De Basanti was locked, I was wondering how to I get to Aamir; he being such a big star and me having done a film (Aks) five years ago.
Finally, I decided that it would be best to approach him directly. So after getting his number, I messaged him to say that I wanted to narrate a subject to him.
Within two minutes he replied, informing me that he was in London but would be back in four-five days.
He didn’t make me wait long.
After Aamir returned, within the next couple of days, I was invited to his office.
I distinctly remember they were editing Lagaan then.
We sat in his room and I started telling him about Rang De Basanti.
What started as a 15-minute meeting went on for four hours.
At the end of it, I got the feeling that he was doing my film.
There was another film, Mangal Pandey, in between.
Once that was done, he started prep for Rang De Basanti.
‘He admitted that every bone was telling him not to do this film’
My first impression of Aamir was that here is someone who listens only to his inner voice.
He does not get swayed by trends.
He does not weigh decisions based on what is working and what is not.
His logic is emotional.
If he likes a subject, he will give his life for it.
Years later, in the afterword to my memoir, The Stranger in the Mirror, Aamir admitted that all through that first meeting, every bone in his body was telling him not to do this film because there were four films on Bhagat Singh already being made.
But then, he heard himself say: ‘Let’s do it!’
‘For seven months, Aamir let his dates go waste’
The schedule of Rang De Basanti was postponed three times.
The earlier producers, before Ronnie Screwvala and UTV moved in and took over the film, were not performing.
We waited for seven months for the film to roll.
During these seven months, Aamir stood by the film, letting his dates go waste at the peak of his career.
At one point, I urged him to pick up another project.
I pointed out to him that if he liked Rang De Basanti so much, we could do it after his next film.
He reasoned that if he backed out then and the weather changed, the film would never get made.
He was like a pillar of strength during this time. He made the film possible.
‘Aamir is deeply patriotic and cares for the country’
Why did I think of Aamir for the dual roles of Daljit ‘DJ’ Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad?
I did it because I knew he believes in equality.
I knew he is deeply patriotic and cares for the country.
I knew his heart bleeds for the people of India.
My film was about a generation that was sleeping but could be awakened.
I was first casting a person, then the character.
Since he is such a great actor, it was a no-brainer that he would interpret the role — not just play the part, but become the part.
When you look at his filmography, you see that towards the second half of his career, he has no longer Aamir Khan, but the character he’s playing.
And that’s what makes a great actor a legend.
‘If I were to describe Aamir as a person, it would be on the lines of DJ’
If I were to describe Aamir as a person, it would be on the lines of his character, DJ: ‘Zindagi jeene ke do hi tarike hote hain, ek jo ho raha haim use hone do, ya zimmedari uthao usse badalne ki (There are two ways of living your life: One is to let what is happening, happen, and the other is to take the responsibility of changing things).’
He makes the difference because he is the difference.
In retrospect, I realise that there’s immense respect for each other and each other’s craft, and it is this respect that glued our bonding and brought us closer.
We have become a part of each other’s Holi and Diwali celebrations.
From friends, we became family friends.
‘Through RDB, I have found a soulmate in Aamir Khan’
The relationship has only evolved with time as we understand each other and what we are trying to do.
Neither of us likes to repeat ourselves; we are always open to new challenges.
Both of us want to step out of our comfort zone and raise the bar.
By writing the afterword of my biography, Aamir has put his signature to this bond which is not just professional, but goes far deeper.
Rang De Basanti brought learning, adulation and a lot of love from people.
And through it, I found a soulmate in Aamir Khan.
‘He told me RBD is like a song and I’ve conducted it like a symphony’
I didn’t see the film after I delivered the final print.
It was only when we were celebrating Rang De Basanti’s 10th anniversary that I saw it again with the whole cast and crew.
Aamir told me, ‘Mehra, I’ve realised that you have made a very lyrical film, it’s almost like a song and you have conducted it like a symphony.’
That’s such a nice thing to say.
It’s his greatness that he makes the other person feel good instead of saying, ‘Dekha maine kya kiya (See, how brilliantly I performed)!’
‘To this day, Aamir hasn’t let me forget that…’
There is a scene in the film when after the MiG crash in which R Madhavan’s character dies. After the cremation and that lovely song Tu Bin Bataayein, Aamir’s character DJ returns home and breaks down.
We were to shoot that scene on a Monday, and all through the weekend, Aamir had prepped for it.
But on the day of the shoot, I confided that I was not ready and we should push it.
Being a method actor, he pleaded with me, saying, ‘Mehra, don’t this, I’m completely up to the brim, the tears have to flow.’
But I wouldn’t listen because I wasn’t feeling the same emotions.
I kept him waiting, doing other scenes, and shot this scene five days later, on Friday.
To this day, Aamir hasn’t let me forget that.
Whenever we meet, we discuss that scene, which is an iconic moment in cinema, and Aamir says with a lot of warmth and humour, ‘Mehra, we should have shot it on Monday.’
‘One of the greatest compliments I got for Delhi-6 was from Aamir’
We are waiting for the right film to come along to collaborate again.
Meanwhile, we talk a lot about each other’s work.
I share my scripts with him, and also the film once it is done.
One of the greatest compliments I got for Delhi-6 was from Aamir.
Once I had done my first cut, I invited him to my studio to see it.
He watched it patiently, then told me that I had gone a step ahead of Rang De Basanti in terms of what I was trying to say.
But the film didn’t work at the box office.
I was a little lost and he reassured me: ‘Mehra, seedhi ghodi pe to sab chadte hain par tu tedi ghodi pe chada aur woh kabhi kabhi gira deti hai.’
Basically, what he was trying to say was that if you mount a rogue horse, you have to be prepared to be thrown off because it is untamed and you cannot control it.
He urged me not to give up, ‘You may fall, but don’t stop trying because this rogue horse that will take you further, so keep climbing on, and one day you will be able to ride it without falling.’
In life, there are fair-weather friends, and there are friends like Aamir who are with you when you need them most.
My heartfelt wishes to him, and not just on this day.
I believe Aamir Khan is born and reborn every day because he believes in change.
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