In a world where its inhabitants prefer to do things half-heartedly, with quarter the effort and minuscule the interest, expecting the marketing juggernaut and the PR machines to propel their drivel to 100-crore, 200-crore and 300-crore clubs, Aamir Khan is, indeed, an anomaly.
The world in question is Bollywood.
For the longest time possible, Aamir Khan has been known to be a ‘perfectionist’. The Oxford Dictionary’s definition for the word is “A person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.” In that regard, it would be, perhaps, unfair to suggest that Aamir’s peers don’t really work hard enough or their love their work enough to not be perfectionists. Then, why has the label stuck with just Aamir Khan?
Is it because Aamir Khan goes the extra mile (read: does the job the way it should be and there is only one way – the right way) to make his characters believable and his films acceptable to the Indian audience? But that is what an actor, on whom crores are riding and from whom his fans and audiences expect the best, should be doing, right?
Except Indian audiences have been subjected to mediocre drivel for so long in the name of Bollywood hai na to chal jayega or Yaha par to aisehi hota hai, that Indian actors kept taking the audience for granted. Why bother to give your fans a version of yourself they have not seen if you can simply continue to exist on screen and expect fans to lap it up?
But the fans do do that. They keep going back to watch their favourite stars provide utter crap on screen because they love the star too much. And the star feels that he has the license to do what he wants because his fans will watch anyway. That’s why when suddenly a big film does not work, you hear actors, directors and producers spout excuses like, “The film audience these days is so unpredictable, yaar.”
Aamir Khan, however, does not believe in unpredictability. He never did. Forgetting the follies of his youth and his early missteps (basically two-thirds of Aamir’s filmography through the ’90s that doesn’t include a Rangeela, a Sarfarosh or a 1947 Earth), Aamir has pretty much been consistent since 2000 as far as the critical assessment and/or box office success of his films are concerned.
Elaborating on this, Aamir once told Open Magazine, “Every bad film of mine has flopped. Imagine if they succeeded. I would be so confused. I would not know why I am here, or what I must do. I would not know why I succeeded. Isn’t that terrible? Not knowing why you have succeeded?”
Which brings us to Dangal and Aamir’s much-talked-about physical transformation for the role of Mahavir Singh Phogat wherein he had to lose weight drastically from 97kg to looking like a He-Man figure complete with a six pack.
Last week, the marketing machine behind Dangal shared a behind-the-scenes video called Fat to Fit depicting Aamir’s rapid weight gain and loss under the strict supervision of his trainer. The video which has got almost 9 million views within a week has sent India’s youth scurrying to find out what exactly Aamir’s diet plan and training schedule was like.
One more time, while Aamir has only done what is necessary to be done to his body to believably portray an akhaada-trained wrestler, his fans and the showbiz media at large is losing it in awe of his perfectionism.
But it’s his job, man! Only in India do we see actors rewarded for doing their job the way it should be done.
Earlier in the year, after the release of Sultan, where Salman played a wrestler, people went nuts about the ‘effort’ he put in to look like a wrestler. Well, to play a wrestler what else can you look like? A driver?
Even Aamir himself does not believe in the ‘perfectionist’ tag. Speaking to The Indian Express, Aamir said, “I am not a perfectionist. Perfection doesn’t exist in real life. It’s a wrong title for me. I am passionate about acting. So I should be called Mr Passionate and not Mr Perfectionist.”
Of course, in a country and in a day and age, when people are so enamoured by ‘method acting’, it would make sense to sell tales of all the mountains an actor has had to break to play a role in a film. On ‘method acting’, or rather, the marketing spin given to ‘going the extra mile’ for a role, Angelica Jade Bastien wrote in the The Atlantic earlier this year, “The prestige of method acting has dimmed – thanks to the technique’s overuse by those seeking award-season glory or a reputation boost, as well as its history of being shaped by destructive ideas of masculinity.”
Nevertheless, Aamir’s efforts in film after film are commendable, if not for anything, then for simply caring enough to get the basics right in a film industry where stars and filmmakers are too apathetic to give the best possible product to the audience. If for that alone, Aamir is put on a pedestal, then, maybe, no harm done provided that never makes Aamir complacent and weaken the good