They say he's difficult. They say he's insufferably competitive. They may be right, but Aamir Khan has heard it all before. He says not a word is true. Simply because at work, he s a fierce, uncompromising man with a powerful drive and strong sentiment. You can't help admiring his sense of perfection so lacking in most people today), the way he pushes things to the limit. He goes farther than anyone to get what he wants. He can do anything, it seems, except reconcile his idea of himself with the idea of others. The struggle gives his work a special poignancy for those legions who know the feeling. Acting is a process of which he demonstrates a sophisticated and battle-hardened understanding. For him it's like investigative reporting where he searches out his character. People like Aamir who are naturals, pick up the techniques of acting very quickly and incorporate them into their own kind of technique. His secret formula seems to be technique-plus-love-equals-perfection. He's very big on love, and develops a great love for his characters.

In his quiet, discreet way, Aamir seems always to be observing and absorbing his surroundings. Two aspects of his mental equipment are truly exceptional: his memory and his insistent rationality. But it seems undeniable that something has changed about his work over the years. He has developed a kind of intense self-consciousness about the acting process that didn't seem to be there before. Today he's a versatile actor too talented to be dismissed as a dilettante.

Aamir has been on a roll ever since his debut, he could fill even the most inane of roles - say, in Awwal Number- with vigorous intelligence. He's sailed smoothly through adult waters where many teen idols before him have capsized and drowned. He knew the teeny bopper image won't last for ever which is why he wisely chose to play people his own age. His magnificently human performances have touched us profoundly, and audiences have always been polishing up superlatives to describe his masterful portraits. He's a success not just on his undeniable boyish appeal but also on his suppleness and intelligence as an actor. His combination of wholesomeness and innocence is so convincing, he's been repeatedly cast as a nice guy.

He has given life to an impressive range of characters - from the romantic loverboy to teenage rebel to highly trained commando to roadside bully to serious, mature husband. In films like Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar and Akele Hum Akele Tum he exuded a raw tenderness most of his peers wouldn't dare to risk. His performance in Akele Hum.... was sensitive and subtle so unlike anything that's ever been attempted in recent times. In fact, it brought back memories of some of the finest works of Rajesh Khanna and Sanjeev Kumar in their heyday. And yet in Baazi, he could transform himself into a burly, bullet-headed commando, with utter conviction. On the other hand, the Rangeela role was pretty extreme material, the kind of thing where one false note could be fatal to a performance. But Aamir's choices in it were so inspired that it was impossible to imagine any of it done any other way. It's a tragedy that there hasn't been more for Aamir, maybe it's our tragedy, not his. This coming month he stars in Raja Hindustani, yet another romantic escapade, with a difference thanks to Aamir,of course. A lot is riding on the film, and a lot is riding on him to give it a high profile.

For someone touching 30, Aamir seems to have been around for an awfully long time. His success has made him wealthy, yet he is unspoiled and almost excessively polite. He believes in good manners and behaviour as the only way for a proper society. He has more charm than many around and yet, he seems to lack the monstrous ego that demoniacally possesses some of his peers. There is something incredibly clean about him. His sincerity is borderline believable. He is earnest, unshowy. He doesn't suggest his talent sprang from extraordinary suffering. What's extraordinary is how regular he seems. He refuses to be larger- than-life. What appeals to women is that he's handsome and intellectually stimulating, and that's what counts most.

Yet today, dressed in a simple shirt and trousers, Aamir does not seem like a figure whose public appearance could transform young women into screaming maniacs. But he still conveys the sort of masculine delicacy that made him a teen idol. His hands occasionally rest on crossed legs, but most of the time they're busy drawing pictures to illustrate his eager chat and tangential anecdotes. Snuggled into a cushiony sofa in his unpretentious house at Pali Hill, he's a fount of sunshine, enthusiastically talking about his forthcoming releases. With his adorable tot, Junaid, darting in and out of the comfy sitting room, Aamir and I plunge into a detailed discussion on films, films and ... more films.

Eager to appraise this paragon for myself, I immediately bring up the topic of his latest film, Raja Hindustani and try to wrench out a handsome dialogue from him about the film. He obliges, "In brief, the film is about a city girl coming on a holiday to a small town and falling in love with a local chap. And the problems they face, form the main story of the film. The subject is not uncommon but the treatment, mark my words, is absolutely fresh." One wonders if it has the Dil Hain Ke Manta Nahin feel to it? "Not at all," he exclaims and continues, "Rather, it is a very earthy film. More Indian in nature. Totally steeped in the Indian culture. In fact, my character is the typical, small town guy, very dominating and possessive. Also extremely emotional. He doesn't hide his emotions and is a very straightforward, honest fellow. Raja Hindustani is a complete family entertainer packed with good music, comedy and emotions." But hasn't the film taken longer than expected? It's indeed strange considering that he hardly does 2 films a year. "Most Hindi films take about two years to complete. But since I'm doing lesser work, your question is quite pertinent. The film was launched in 94 should have been released by Diwali last year. Well, certain unavoidable circumstances led to the unexpected delay. Anyway let's look forward to the release of the film by Diwali this year.''

What's even stranger that a perfectionist like him rested so much faith in a one-film old director like Dharmesh Darshan. After all, Aamir's not so easily satisfied. What prompted him to do so? He smiles his famous smile and explains, "Long before meeting Dharmesh, I had seen his "Lootere". Although the film had a few flaws, on the whole, I liked what I saw. What I liked was the strong presence of the director throughout the film. Dharmesh created strong and interesting moments in the script. He enmeshed the action and romance in his film quite skillfully. Not only did he handle the emotions well, he also proved that he had a good ear for music. The songs of the film were pretty good. When we met, I instinctively vibed well with him. When he narrated the script, it excited me".

Thus, it's not surprising that Aamir has readily agreed to do yet another film, Mela with Dharmesh. Speaking of Mela, it's also the second coming of younger brother, Faisal Khan. It's one of those rare occasions where real-life brothers are pitted against each other. Would he condescend and let Faisal hog the show? After all, it's just the kind of boost Faisal needs in his doddering career. But Aamir has no such intentions. However he has logical reasons for his refusal to tone down his act and it does make a world of sense. He elucidates, "Mela is my film too and I'm going all out to do my best as an actor. I feel that everybody in this industry makes it on his own steam. I can offer a stepping stone to someone, but I can't help him beyond that. I'm certainly not going to cheat on my performance simply to let Faisal overshadow me. That could prove detrimental for the film which in turn could harm me and not help Faisal in any way. If Faisal has it in him, he will stand out on his own, if he doesn't have the goods, he doesn't deserve to be out there.

"Anyway, Dharmesh has cast him in a role that suits his personality to a T, which was not the case in Madhosh. Dharmesh has transformed him completely, you may not even recognize him today. And we felt that since comparisons between brothers are bound to be drawn, being in the same frame could make things easier. If Faisal comes up trumps, he'll have an identity of his own. Thus, it's more of a challenge for Faisal to prove his mettle."

If Aamir's faith in Dharmesh Darshan is unshakable, then his confidence in Indra Kumar too is rock solid. In fact, he admits to refraining from making any sugestions while shooting with the ace director. "I try to be least involved in the goings-on while on his sets as he's fairly confident of his craft. Also his style of cinema is quite different from mine. So I prefer not to contribute and needlessly disturb his work. I may end up hampering his style.

Right now,the two of them are busy doing their best for Ishq. Now how different is Ishq from the other buddy-buddy film like Andaz Apna Apna? "Oh! Ishq is very different," he exclaims. "Not only is the story different but the style of filmmaking of the two directors is totally different. Although it's not an unusual film, yet the sequences in the film are quite fresh. I thoroughly enjoyed shooting for the film. Indu has worked hard on the script and screenplay. And working with Ajay Devgan was fun. Since both of us are quite easygoing, we were extremely comfortable with each other. We hit it off well for we have mutual respect for each other."

Besides Ishq, there's the ABCL film too that Aamir is doing with Indra Kumar. But nothing seems to be happening on this Amitabh Bachchan - Aamir- Madhuri Dixit starrer. The buzz is that the script is far from ready. What's most surprising is that this is one rare occasion when Aamir has signed a film without knowing what the script is like. He clears the air before we speculate any further. "Since Indu is busy completing Ishq, this project has been delayed by a few more months. We were scheduled to start shooting for it from January '97 onwards. But I have my doubts about it now. And yes, the script is yet to be finalised. However, I've signed the film with the understanding that Indu will narrate the entire script to me before we commence shooting. So I can still opt out of the project if I feel so."

Furthermore, he has signed two more films with ABCL recently. "There's one with Mansoor as the director while the other film is being co-produced by my father. ABCL is financing the film. So I'm doing three films for them." Speaking of Mansoor Khan, is he disappointed missing out on Mansoor's new project, Josh? "Frankly, I would love to work in every film that Mansoor makes. Simply because we are very close to each other and know what's happening in each other's lives. But practically that is not possible. Since I'm already busy with three films on the floors so I can't expect him to wait for me. Similarly, he may have his own reasons for not casting me in his film.Maybe he feels I don't suit any of the roles. So it's wise of him to cast someone else who fits the bill. And I feel he should work with other actors too, he'll grow as a director. However, even if I'm not in his film, I'll always be there to help him out in case he wants to discuss the script, music, casting or anything else connected to his film. This is the first film he's making without me but it won't be the last. But frankly, there's one role in the film I would have surely liked to do."

On the other hand, it seems that there's one film he's lost interest in after it got stuck indefinitely. Although the producer is eager to revive Time Machine, Aamir is reluctant to do so. "That's not true," he counters. "I'm certainly disappointed with the way things have shaped up so far. But there are certain terms of mine that remain unchanged. The producer and director rnade some unsavoury statements about me in the past. All I ask for is a public apology to clear my name. Until this is sorted out, I cannot proceed with the film. If they feel I've wronged them or cheated them, they can take me to court. Period."

Statements made against him by Rangeela maker, Ram Gopal Verma were also unwarranted. He shrugs it off nonchalantly, "This is not the first time I've been let down in life: Anyway, the whole thing did leave a bad taste in the mouth. But I've learnt to take it all in my stride."

However, the quintessential family man that he is, he leads a quiet, domestic life, enjoying his home, family and his books. A rather simple lifestyle which reflects in the decor of his house. Most unlike others who love to flaunt their status with a blatant show of wealth. Also he seems to lead one of the happiest and most contented lives in the industry today. There's that brilliant smile again before he states, "My lifestyle reflects my nature. I'm a rather shy person and not a show-off. As you know, I hardly give interviews. I let my work speak for myself. But I'm still not leading my life the way I'd love to. I want to devote more time to my family. Professionally, I'd rather complete one film at a time. Instead of 20 day schedules, l'd rather shoot three months at a stretch for one film and then shift my focus.

"But on the whole, I consider myself fortunate for whatever I have today. Maybe I'm not as rich as many other people but I'm much happier than many others. I'm really grateful to God as there are so many people who don't have even half of what I have."

Even after two hours of conversation, when lesser men would be hissing like a boiling saucepan, Aamir sits perfectly still and continues to make sensible talk. Little Junaid strolls into the room once again, plonks himself on his father's lap, while their canine, Chhoti, yawns lazily at her master's feet. Sheer bliss!

Source : Indozone