‘As a director to get the shot’s judgment right while being in front of the camera was the biggest challenge’ – Aamir Khan

Today Aamir Khan – the actor, producer and director – is on Cloud 9. Taare Zameen Par – his directorial debut has opened to a heartwarming response from the audience and critics alike.


In the critical wee hours before the movie’s release, a nail biting Aamir Khan spoke to Businessofcinema.com and fielded questions about the film, his apprehension about how the audience would react to it and more.


His greatest fear of the audience rejecting the film has been put to rest and he has cleared his exam with flying colours – distinction in hand.


Like a proud parent, Aamir holds his newest baby – Taare Zameen Par – close to his heart and talks animatedly about the hard labour that went in until the baby was finally born on 21 December, 2007.


Excerpts from a heart to heart…


What is your opinion of the movie now that it’s complete and ready for release?

I am very excited about the movie. I think it is a very important film and I loved the script when I had heard it first. I am very keen to know the reaction of the audience.


Amongst your contemporaries, you are the first one to produce, direct and act in the same movie. How did you juggle between the three roles and how easy or difficult was it for you?

It was very difficult and it comes with its own demands. But it is not like it hasn’t been done before. A lot of great personalities have done it like Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Shantaram ji just to name a few who have acted and directed successfully. Of course it comes with its own demands and it was difficult.


Well as a producer I had to be involved mostly in the evenings after the shooting got over to discuss production issues for the coming days of shooting. The tough one was acting and directing at the same time. As an actor you come to the sets and go straight to the make up room and get ready. You live with your lines and you’re preparing from the actor’s point of view. You are not concerned with the other crew members or cast. You don’t have to spend the time with them; you are spending time with yourself.


As a director your job is quite contrary to that as you actually have to be on the sets first and not in the makeup room. You have to have discussions with your creative team – the DOP, the production designer, the sound person, the art director and you figure out how you have to plot the scene and take the shot. Then you have spend time with each actor who are in the scene that day, instruct them and get them ready for the scene.


I first went to the sets first and gave instructions. Then I used to go to the makeup room and get ready. Then I came back on the sets again to talk to the actors while the lighting was being set up. It was more like going back and forth. You have to be in two places at the same time.


When you are facing the camera and giving the shot as an actor; the director in you has to judge if the shot and angle is right as you can’t see yourself and the other actors. So you have to be able to sense and judge intuitively whether you got the shot right and managed to capture the moment. I had to judge whether Darsheel or any other actor who was with me did it right. To get that judgment right was a challenge and you have to be very alert. Continued… < Page Break > 

How has this movie helped you as an individual and as a parent?
The concept of the film was not mine, it was Amol’s (Gupte) concept. The dialogues are also written by him so it is his film from scratch. When I heard the story it had a great impact on me. Not only did I find the script brilliant but it was a moving, uplifting and heartwarming script.

Another important thing that happened to me when I heard the script was that it sensitized me more towards my children. And mind you, I think I am a very good father. But even beyond that I felt that this script brought me closer to kids and my kids in particular.


Could you elaborate on how it brought you closer to your kids?

It helped me understand and connect with them better. I give a lot of time to my kids but that is not enough. It is important at what level are you connecting with them and how much are you hearing them out. You have to be alert to their feelings, fears and excitement. It is important to what extent you are able to understand that the child is an individual standing in front of you who has his own thoughts, feelings etc.


In our lives, as adults we have our own responsibilities and worries and we are immersed in our work. Our kids become the soft focus somewhere in the midst of all this. This movie helped me to bring the sharp focus back on my kids.


To complete the answer, when I felt this, I wanted to share this with people and the parents of the country. This is a very important film for parents and for the youth of today who in some years’ time will themselves be parents. And of course it is for kids too as it is about them so many will identify with it.


Is Taare Zameen Par an entertainer or a serious film?

If by entertainment you mean whether it has an item song, short skirts, heroine, romance, action – this film does not have any of these. It does not have the normal ingredients of a film but nonetheless it is an entertaining film. It is very much a mainstream film. By that I mean that no matter how different the subject is, it is my firm belief that this movie is going to be very popular amongst audiences. In the history of Indian cinema, a film like this has never been made before. It has the capacity to touch the cords of many hearts and in that sense it is entertaining and engaging. I don’t know if I am right or wrong. Continued… < Page Break > 

Do you feel that after watching the movie there will be any difference in the way parents look at their children?

I feel that parents will come even closer to their kids. Every parent is close to their kids but after watching the film it will bond them even further.


How important is it for teachers to watch Taare Zameen Par? What is your message to them?

It is extremely important for teachers to watch the film. The teaching profession is extremely significant as teachers are responsible in shaping the future of our country. It’s not easy to teach 40 – 50 kids at the same time and it requires a lot of commitment. But like in every field you have good talented people with a lot of integrity towards their work; you also have people who are not that committed. To narrate my school experience, I used to like only those teachers who taught me and not my pen or pencil in terms of taking notes.  Attention should be given to each and every child and if you are giving more attention to any child it should be because he is weaker and not because he is brighter than the rest.

Another important aspect of teaching is that it should be made fun. Today three year old kids remember the lyrics of the tongue twister song from Fanaa – Chanda Chamke Cham Cham, or for that matter any song from movies like Krrish or Om Shanti Om. If they can by-heart that, why are they failing in school? It’s because they don’t enjoy the learning process in schools. Kids’ minds are like a sponge, if you teach them things in a fun way, they will absorb it instantly. We have to make education exciting.


Today there are very few films being made on children in India. How challenging was it for you to make a film like Taare Zameen Par?

The script came ready to me and I loved it. When we started out to make it I had an inkling that it would be a difficult film to make. Moreover filmmaking is not conducive to children. A lot of time goes into rehearsals and re-takes. Sometimes a scene takes two or three days to shoot. So keeping these things in mind, to sustain the kids’ interest levels and making them do the same things over and over again is very difficult.


We made it a point to be completely ready on our parts so that we could capture the spontaneity and freshness of the kids when they came on to the sets.

How was it to work with your child co-star Darsheel?

When I saw him at the screen test, I knew I had found my actor. His eyes are what drew me to him when I saw him giving his screen test. Darsheel is an extremely good actor. I did not have to teach him much as he was a quick learner. Moreover, his parents also took great care of him and he is a very happy child. As an actor he takes instructions so well and understands things to a T. Continued… < Page Break > 


If the movie ends up winning awards next year, will we see you going to collect them?

The awards are not important to me. The only awards that I respect are the National Awards and I attend only those if I am invited for them. Other than that the audiences’ reaction is most important to me.


Welcome is releasing along with your movie. As a producer, wouldn’t you have rather avoided the clash?

Definitely, as a producer and even as a creative person I would rather have avoided the clash. But that’s not practically possible. So it doesn’t worry me too much. If a film is good and people like it, there is nothing you can do to stop it. At the same time if a film is bad and people don’t like it, there is nothing you can do to save it.


There are a lot of times when multiple films have released together and have gone to become huge hits. For example: Lagaan and Gadar, Dil and Ghayal. Also a lot of times three to four films have released together and have not performed well at the box office. So if both the films are good, they will do well.


Amol Gupte is the creative director on the film. What is the role of a creative director?

When I took on the responsibility of directing the film, I invited Amol to be a part of the film too. His question to me was – ‘In what capacity will I be a part of the film?’ I asked him in what capacity would he like to be in on the film? He said – creative director and I agreed.


In terms of practical reality what it means is that he is someone who gives me feedback on how I am addressing the film and shooting it. He may disagree with what I think and vice versa. When he gives me his responses and feedback, I can choose to either accept it or not.


The tagline of the film is – Every Child is Special. Here – ‘special’ can have two connotations — one being talented, gifted and the other being someone who is challenged. What does it represent in your film?

It is meant to mean both. I believe that all of us have got strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect. So what the film is saying is that with love and care we can deal with and address any weakness – big or small.


We should actually look at strengths in ourselves and our children and help that bloom. That’s what the essence of the film is. Continued… < Page Break >

After Lagaan what took you so long to zero in on your next production venture?

I am not known for my speed. (Laughs).


I think I was waiting for the right kind of film to come along and Taare Zameen Par was the one.


You have also launched your website recently where you constantly interact with your fans through blogs and chats. Is it coincidental that the website came just in time before your movie’s release so that you could be in touch with your ultimate audience or was it a planned promotional strategy to generate buzz?

Actually we had launched a website when the Lagaan DVD was recently released. The DVD was released six years after the film’s theatrical release. Again I’m not known for my speed! This was a new record of sorts!! (Laughs).


Anyway Excel Home Entertainment, which was releasing the DVD, wanted to do something different so as to promote the DVD release and make people aware that the original DVD was finally hitting the market. So the website launched with that in mind. But much to Excel’s dismay, I didn’t talk about Lagaan too much except for the first two or three posts.


After that I started enjoying the blogs and interacting with my audience. I didn’t want to restrict it to only Lagaan. So though it was called LagaaDVD.com, I was talking to my fans about various thoughts that came into my mind. Since I had begun to enjoy the experience, the logical thing was to launch my website where I could do the same. So it was coincidental that my website launched just before my film’s release.


Future plans on direction?

I haven’t thought about it till now. However, this will certainly not be a one off shot at direction on my part. When the right script that excites me comes along I will certainly direct.


As a producer the next film that I will release is called Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na. The shooting of the film is complete and it is written and directed by Abbas Tyrewala. My nephew Imraan is being launched in this film.


Another important thing is that the producer of the film is Mansoor Khan, who had distanced himself from movies a long time ago.

What is the progress on Gajini’s remake?

The film is 50 per cent complete. We begin shooting again in January, which will wrap up by February. So we will look at releasing it somewhere in the second half of next year.


Have you signed any new films?

No as of now I haven’t signed any new film. After Gajini’s shooting is complete I will be taking a break from work for the next six months. I need to spend time with my kids.


You have been successful for a long period of time. How would you define failure?

Failure would be when you have given your entire being to a particular film and on seeing the end product you are completely satisfied with it and you feel you’ve achieved what you’ve set out to achieve – but it gets rejected by the audiences. That would be failure to me.


How would you take it?

I would be heart-broken. So far I’ve been really lucky because whatever I have believed in has worked with the audience.