Happy Birthday Aamir Khan: Nitesh Tiwari remembers the actor’s simplicity, says ‘there is no hierarchy when he is on-set’

On Aamir Khan's 56th birthday, Dangal director Nitesh Tiwari, in an interview with indianexpress.com, describes him as an actor who 'gives it all', a jovial person who is as smitten by cinema as a commoner.

Actor Aamir Khan has emerged as one of the most successful and popular actors in the Hindi film industry in his three decade career. Every time the actor announces a film, there is an expectation from him to bring something new to the table. Indianexpress.com talks to one of the finest filmmakers today, National Award-winning director Nitesh Tiwari who along with Aamir Khan made Dangal in 2016.

Recalling the time when Nitesh was just nursing dreams of approaching Aamir to play Mahavir Singh Phogat for Dangal, he shares, “It was a long-shot, it was overly ambitious of me to think that he would act in my movie. I would wonder why would he do it, why would he want to play a 52-year-old fat man? But, I was very surprised with the way he reacted to the script. I only had an opinion about him as an actor and I wanted him in my film, purely because of the value he brings on the table. He is a great artiste.”

Excerpts from the interview:

What is Aamir Khan’s process? How does he approach a film?

I think first and foremost he needs to be convinced that he wants to be a part of this particular subject. And once he is convinced, he will give it his everything, whatever is required from him. He will not leave any stone unturned, and that’s the level of conviction he brings when he associates himself with a film. That has been my experience with Aamir. It doesn’t matter to him whether it is a big film or the smallest of the films, he will do the best to his ability. He works hard, and if he is needed to work harder on something, he will make sure that he takes that much time in perfecting that. He puts in all his efforts in achieving that. That is the extent to which he goes.

He is a director’s delight, you don’t expect somebody at that stature to be so committed.


You call Aamir a director’s delight. At his stature, how do you think he manages that?

When I went to meet Aamir Sir to give him my script for Dangal, I did not for a moment feel that I was meeting such a big star. Throughout the prep for Dangal and then the shoot, at no point of time, I ever felt that I was dealing with such a big star. He is so down to earth, and he is open to all kinds of suggestions. He has no hang-ups whatsoever. You can pull a prank on him, and he will pull a prank on you, there is no hierarchy as such. Whatever rules were applicable to everybody on the set, were applicable to him also. He never asked for any concession, no conditions whatsoever. This is something very rare today. If my crew was not allowed to do something on the set, he was also not allowed to do that. In fact, on one occasion he was told by my first AD not to do something, and he very obediently did not do it.

For instance, on our set mobile phones were not allowed, and he also was no exception. Usually people find it difficult to stay away from their mobiles, but he followed it. Once, he really needed to use his phone, so he approached my first AD to ask how to get his phone, to which he was told that he will have to step out of the set to use the phone. So he did that.

Aamir is perceived to be a very serious actor. You spoke about pulling pranks on-set. Tell us more.

He is a very jovial person. He’d be pulling pranks, doing masti on-set. When he was putting on weight for Dangal, we were partying together and having a lot of fun. The best thing about him is that he does not mind taking jokes on himself. He will make fun of himself also. He candidly shares his goof-ups and then laughs like a child (chuckles). He doesn’t mind doing that, he is not serious at all. But he is serious when it comes to work.

When we were shooting Mahavir Singh’s fight with his daughter, he got injured and could not continue the shoot. So, we had to pack-up from Punjab. We came back and took a week’s break. He thought he would recover, but his pain did not go. He said, ‘I can’t leave the shoot unattended for so long,’ so he took heavy painkiller injections, resumed the shoot and we went back to finish that particular scene.

People call him Mr Perfectionist, is he really that flawless?

I’d say, more than Mr Perfectionist, he is Mr ‘Give It All’. How does perfection come? It comes by giving something your all. I have seen him go to the minutest details even for the smallest scene. I vividly remember, and can never forget how, once when we were testing the final print of Dangal in a cinema hall at 3 in the night. Now, what normally happens here, is we check whether the print is fine, if the colour is correct, the sound is correct or not. There is a certain place where, if you sit, you can hear the sound properly, and there is a place where you sit, you can see the picture properly. In my opinion I did what I thought was ideal. I went and sat in the middle seat and was looking at the print.

Then I saw Aamir sir, he was going and sitting in every seat in every corner. He went and sat at the left corner, then the back seat. He wanted to make sure that the audio was correct for every seat and not just at those seats where we were sitting. That is something I learnt from him that day, that what it means to be concerned about everybody in the theatre and not just for the collected few who will be able to afford the best possible view. That’s Aamir Khan, the superstar, for you.

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