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Birthday Special: Aamir Khan, First and last of his kind.
When Indian cinema started in 1913 there were only films, no such discrimination like art and commercial tags over a cinematic piece existed till the late 1960s. But with the beginning of the 70s and the rising problems of general mass, escapist cinema took birth which led people to forget their regular stress of work and life as a whole and compelled them to enjoy the heroism of celluloid’s larger than life loud characters and the surrounding melodramatic circumstances. This gave impetus to the famous 1980s art cinema movement in India with filmmakers like Shyam Benegal, Sai Paranjpye, Govind Nihlani and Ketan Mehta to name a few, those films failed most of the times or even never had any proper release but were superb products while commercial films were unreal and repetitive but eventually only out of those some became big hits. In 1988 a young chocolate faced boy who was only seen as an intense good looking actor but in times to come he became a force who worked leaps and bounds to make cinema only cinema and not the art or commercial ones. Aamir Khan is thy name and we all know what he is today.
His 29 years journey as a leading man in the industry can be touted as the greatest achievement for Indian Cinema. Once he said that he wish to be an actor of 1950s and 60s but certainly he made cinema a mode to showcase the passionate art and not only a way to earn money like the early times of Hindi movies. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak toned down the melodrama in commercial cinema and main leads were more of people next door and not larger than life, the male lead was not knocking down people like a man made of iron, he felt the pain and behaved like us, his voice had normal pitch and he never shouted when he was angry in fact he cried in a commercial film like a child. And guess what people loved it, the audiences are always seeking change and that’s why we approved it back then, but how long you can drag the same image and genre, we need change, Aamir also wanted only change and he now is an epitome of transformation. He does not have any image, he always surprise us, he each time surpasses himself. And why is he doing all this? To satisfy himself as an artist and bring back the cinema which is only a mode of storytelling like the good old days or maybe because he is like no other. Remember Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar, when in the 90s a campus film based on cycle race came out with no routine Bollywood drama and since then Aamir worked strongly in this direction and chasing excellence.
His 2nd film, the critically acclaimed Raakh, which fell under the art label was I think the reason that Aamir thought he will not be a Naseeruddin Shah or Farookh Sheikh who despite being greats never got the due success, and Aamir was also keen on not being the next Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna or any other mainstream stars, which his demeanor also never allowed. He also worked in typical masala films which became monster blockbusters to consolidate his place in the industry such as Raja Hindustani, Dil, and Ishq but he made sure to do everything to look the characters in those films too, his intensity in Raja Hindustani was no less than any 1980s art house actor. He worked continuously to bridge the gap between art and commerce with films like Dil Hai Ke Manta Nai, Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar, Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke, Rangeela, Andaz Apna Apna, Baazi, Akele Hum Akele Tum, 1947 Earth, Ghulam, and Sarfarosh. And in 2001 he became a producer and changed the Syntax of Indian cinema upside down. Lagaan is probably the most unusual film ever made, it was off beat yet a blockbuster followed by Dil Chahta Hai which we call India’s answer to Hollywood.
Since 2001, Aamir only grew larger and secured a place for himself which is never been seen by anyone. His commercial films break all records (Fanaa, Ghajini, Dhoom3) and become gigantic hits but his offbeat films become even bigger hits (Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par, Talaash, 3 idiots, PK, Dangal), in fact, biggest of all times. His dedication and passion which was earlier in the 90s referred with the tag of over indulgence, interference, and arrogant professionalism is now the pattern of industry and directors themselves want Aamir to get involved in every aspect of the film-making. Young actors like Hrithik Roshan, Shahid Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, and Tiger Shroff are following his methods of asking for bound scripts, working one film at a time and most importantly preparing for every character they play beforehand. This is his influence on the Indian filmmaking over the years. He continuously backs small different films (Jaane Tu Yaa Jaane Naa, Dhobighat, Delhi Belly, Peepli Live, Ship of Theseus) under his production house and makes them saleable. So, now small filmmakers can also give hits, this belief he has instilled in everyone’s mind. This year also he is supporting a small film called Secret Superstar and we all know it is going to be a brilliant film, this faith he has built over the years. After working for 20 years, since 2008 despite never being a part of the rat race he is the numero uno both as an actor and as a box office force. He hardly made films in last 10 years, 8 to be precise yet he is the one who has been the most successful critically and commercially.
For example his performances in his last 2 films, PK and Dangal are equivalent to the chapters in the bible of acting. And then you feel he has been around from last 3 decades yet how he every time does that? He is the one who never attends any award functions as they are famously rigged yet he wins those, this shows that he is bigger than awards in the country, his films are just stories with no formula yet he delivers the biggest hits, his method for acting is most of the time hazardous for health but he everytime does it to perfection. The word superstar was coined for Rajesh Khanna by the media and megastar for Amitabh Bachchan and we have seen many superstars since then but Aamir is first of his kind, we need to come up with a new celestial adjective for him, maybe ‘SuperSun’ because he does not have stardom, rather he has developed a ‘Trustardom’, (Thanks to my friend, Dishant for coining this term). Some say, he is a fine mix of Dilip Kumar’s acting skills, Raj Kapoor’s vision and showmanship, Sanjeev Kumar’s Transformational expertise and Guru Dutt’s passion, which I feel is somewhat right but hey I already mentioned it, he is first of his kind because it is impossible to have these qualities in one but Aamir made it possible, and quite possibly he is the last too of his kind. We wish him a very happy birthday as he turns 52 today and waiting to see what he’ll do with his next venture ‘Thugs Of Hindostan’.