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When Ian McKellen, Aamir Khan and Shakespeare came together


The actor was in conversation with Aamir Khan as part of the 'Shakespeare in Film' programme in Mumbai.

Sonal Pandya

Ian McKellen kicked off his global 10-country tour promoting William Shakespeare and his works on film with a masterclass on Monday at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai. The British Council and British Film Institute is presenting 18 British films based on works by the Bard as part of their Shakespeare Lives initiative and the Oscar-nominated actor was chosen as the face of the project.

In a Q&A with actor Aamir Khan, the 77-year-old revealed that he had had no formal training in acting and instead honed his talent in theatre, touring England with several repertory companies. Sir Ian insisted that theatre was the right medium to discover Shakespeare, not just by rote reading which is how most students first come across the playwright.

Khan came unprepared for the conversation and, at one point, began taking cues for his questions from his smartphone. For an event revolving around Shakespeare, the six-time Olivier winner seemed the perfect choice to represent the Bard. However, Aamir Khan failed to recall that Maqbool (2003) was a reimaging of Macbeth. It would have been easier if someone with the right experience and interest in theatre would have interviewed McKellen.

The event was jointly hosted by Jio MAMI with Star as part of their inaugural film club which plans on holding such happenings throughout the year.  Both actors shared their processes, especially their acting challenges in front of the camera. The veteran charmed Khan and the audience with his recollections, especially those of Laurence Olivier. He spoke candidly about coming out as a gay man at 49 and how to deal with failure early on in one's career.

Sir Ian ended the magical evening with a thunderous soliloquy written by Shakespeare for a play on Thomas More.

The conversation was attended by several personalities from the Indian film industry. Kangana Ranaut, Sonam Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Kabir Khan, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Imran Khan all turned up at the event.

McKellen is in Mumbai for the rest of the week. He will introduce a screening of Richard III in which he played the titular character on 24 May and launch the seventh Kashish Mumbai International Film Festival on 25 May.