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Interview Hindi

Wanted audiences to experience Laal Singh Chaddha's innocence, says Aamir Khan

The actor-producer spoke about his preparation for the role of Laal Singh Chaddha, the change made in the remake at the last moment, and why he thinks people with decision-making powers should understand what a larger audience wants to view.

File photo

Keyur Seta

Over the last few weeks, the producer in Aamir Khan has been in full force promoting his upcoming film Laal Singh Chaddha (2022), directed by Advait Chandan. But there was a time when he was consciously running away from the film when actor-turned-screenwriter Atul Kulkarni approached him with the script. 

Khan felt it was a crazy idea to even think of remaking the Hollywood classic Forrest Gump (1994) into Hindi and avoided listening to the script for two years. Of course, things changed drastically later on. 

In a group interview involving Cinestaan.com, Khan spoke about his preparation for the role of Laal Singh Chaddha, the change in the film he made at the last moment and why he thinks people with decision making powers should understand what a larger audience wants to see. Excerpts below: 

What was your preparation like to play this character? 

For the physical aspect, I had to grow my beard. Other than that, getting into the mind of the character was the main job. [I am] now 57. When we started working on the film, I was also in my 50s. But I am playing an 18-year-old and later his age is 20 and so forth. We see the character in different stages. It was very difficult to get that innocence [right] after you have been through so much in life. That was my biggest challenge. 

What quality of the lead character in Forrest Gump appealed to you the most? 

I liked the strength of his innocence. Generally, heroes in our films have physical strength. They beat up 100 people. Else heroes have moral strength and they fight against oppression. But here is a hero whose strength is innocence. But he doesn’t use that strength since he is not aware of it. His strength is such that you put down your weapons in front of him. That is a quality of an innocent person. I wanted the people of India to experience this innocence. That’s why I wanted to make this film.  

You are coming up with a film after four years and a lot has changed in this time. OTT has become big now. Are you concerned about this?

I am always concerned because my films always come after four years and the trend always changes in that time (laughs). So I am always wondering what has changed in this time. 

What do you think about the OTT (over-the-top) boom?

Because of OTT, the audience’s taste has become better. The audience has become much finer; they appreciate finer things. They are less forgiving. In case your screenplay is weak, they quickly go away from your film. They are watching so much of content in various Indian languages. So the audience has evolved. 

A lot of films haven’t worked in the last six months. Do you think the shift in the audience is permanent or do you think this is just a phase?

I don’t see a shift in the phase. Historically, the films which aren’t good are not liked by the public; they don’t do well. This is the trend I see permanently. People liked films like Pushpa The Rise: Part 1 (2021), The Kashmir Files (2022), Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022) and Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (2022), so they did well. 

I feel in the Hindi film industry, people who are in control of what gets made – directors, actors, writers, producers – should know that what is relevant to them is not-so-relevant to a larger audience. So if I like a topic which I know isn’t relevant for a larger audience, I will make it knowing that it’s for a niche audience. But if I want to make something for a mass audience, I will need to check my choice as to whether it is relevant to them. If you pick a topic that isn’t relevant to a large audience, they won’t end up seeing the film. 

It is short-sightedness to think that only action films work. Emotional films work. You connect with the emotion of anger in action films or it provokes the violence in you. And that is a satisfying feeling. 

But isn’t good or bad subjective?

Yes, good is always subjective. It is the audience that decides what is good. It has always been subjective. It’s not that earlier it was objective and now it’s subjective. 

In the era of social media, a remake is compared with the original right after the trailer arrives. The comparison increases once the film releases. How do you deal with this?

That’s true. Comparisons keep happening if you make a film which has been already made before. And it should happen. I can just hope our film is appreciated by people. 

Secret Superstar (2017) was about a bond between a mother and her daughter. Laal Singh Chaddha is about a bond between a mother and her son. Do you think Advait Chandan understands these emotions very well?

I hope so (laughs). I really hope so. No, I think he does. He did a very good job with Secret Superstar. To be quite honest, I think he has done a very good job with Laal Singh Chaddha. Today when we see the film we feel Advait has made a film very close to what we set out to make from Atul Kulkarni’s adaptation. The entire team is happy. 

Chaitanya Akkineni in Laal Singh Chaddha

When the trailer was out, a lot of people started saying on social media that your acting looks very similar to what you did in PK (2014)?

I know. I feel you’ll should see the film and then decide. I will tell you why. There is one similarity between both the characters, which is innocence. It’s a strong quality which both of them possess. In the trailer you might not be able to see the difference which you will see in a whole performance. When you see that, I am hoping you also find him as innocent. But he will appear as a different character. He won’t appear as PK. 

There is news that you were reluctant to hear Atul Kulkarni’s script for this film. Is it true?

Yes. I was a little worried because he had written his first script. He hadn’t written a script before. He asked me to listen to it very enthusiastically. I felt if I listen and don’t like, he would feel bad. Also, a film like Forrest Gump, which is such a cult classic, is very difficult to imagine to adapt into another film. 

Aamir Khan had initially cast son Junaid as Laal Singh Chaddha

That’s why I didn’t listen to his script for two years. I was like, 'How dare you make me read Forrest Gump [remake]?' You can’t even think of making Forrest Gump again. It’s like making Mughal-a-Azam (1960) and Mother India (1957) again. I felt why should I waste my time listening to something I don’t want to make? But when I heard it, I was blown. I felt, yes, he has done it. It was a very moving experience for me. The moment I heard it, I said I want to do this. 

Did you watch Forrest Gump again to ensure you don’t look like imitating Tom Hanks? 

I didn’t watch the film to follow Tom Hanks. It never occurred to me to do that because I had seen the film in the 1990s. I had liked the film. When Atul narrated the script, that became the film to me. So Advait and I never sat to see the original again. During the shooting, we saw one or two moments just to see how they did it when we were wondering what to do. We didn’t see the whole film though. 

During the making of Laal Singh Chaddha

What was the reaction of filmmakers SS Rajamouli, Sukumar and actors Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna and  when you showed the film to them? 

They all liked it. In fact, all four of them reacted in the same way on one point and that made us realize that they are right and we made a change [in the film]. 

Would you be open to doing web-series? 

If the content is such that it requires long-form telling, then why not? 

Did a web-series offer ever come to you? 

It had at one point but it fizzled out. 

But do you get regular offers to debut on the web? 

I don’t actually listen to offers (laughs). I am in the middle of making a film. So how can I listen to other offers? I have to make the film first. So, no I haven’t been listening to offers of any kind. I have only been focussing on Laal Singh Chaddha. 

Your film is clashing at the box office with Akshay Kumar’s Raksha Bandhan.

I hope both the films do well. I have seen the trailer of Raksha Bandhan (2022) and I really liked it. I was asking whether we are making films that are relevant. Here is a film that is relevant. It is a film of a common man who has economic issues. I am hoping the film is well-made. But it’s certainly a topic that is relevant to us. I hope it does well. And I hope our film also does well.