Joined: 12 May 2006
|From lover boy to unlikely winner|
|Abhilasha Ojha / New Delhi June 14, 2008, 5:55 IST|
At a crucial juncture in Raj Kumar Gupta's film Aamir, the protagonist decides to take the reins of fate in his hands. Without giving away the climax, Aamir snatches, from a bunch of local goons, a red-coloured briefcase in a desperate attempt to save his family. It is for the first time in the film that Aamir, a simple, peace-loving, London-returned doctor from a middle-class family with four younger siblings and a mother to support, rebels against the system.
Towards the end of the film, the character moves from being a submissive person to someone who eventually lives up to his nameAamir: leader. There's a slight smirk on his face in the last scene, when he finally defies the powerful and mighty, judging matters for himself and what suits him best.
Come to think of it, Rajeev Khandelwal who plays Aamir in this modest, Rs 2 crore budget film, has done something similar in his real life. A familiar name on Indian television, Khandelwal, with his boy-next-door image, was invariably considered the best choice for romantic roles and, naturally, when the big screen beckoned, the offers were an extension of what he had already done on television.
"I still have a plethora of scripts lying around, all centred around me being a classic, lover boy," says Khandelwal. And though the temptation was great (he was already alienating himself from television), he waited for something better, something different to come his way. "I was getting impatient.
Television wasn't motivating enough for me despite my work getting good TRPs. But movies weren't exciting either," he tells us, sitting in his living room in Mumbai's Lokhandwala.
Aamir's script came to him when Khandelwal was catching a flight from Mumbai to Delhi. "I didn't even look at the pretty airhostesses," he quips, "Aamir had consumed me and by the time I landed, I was begging to be a part of the film."
For most of us who've seen the film, Aamir is a winner. The box office collections shot to 50 per cent in the second week as compared to a meagre 15 per cent when it was first released. Certainly not for the faint-hearted, or for those who believe that a paisa vasool film belongs to the song-and-dance routine.
Aamir's story begins where one usually expects happy endings. A London-returned doc, snoozing on the plane, with goodies in his suitcase for his family members, reaches Mumbai only to find his family missing and a Nokia mobile thrust forcefully into his bare hands. What follows are a host of bizarre instructions from a "private number" barked at Aamir, who is forced to comply for the sake of his family held captive in the hands of the blackmailers.
"This film exposed me to another Mumbai altogether," says Khandelwal, the film's score playing on his sound system in the background. Aamir's Mumbai, set in Behrampara, Navpada and Dongri areas, consists of dumpyards, butcher shops, filthy lanes, mute spectators and traffic snarls.
How did he dive into all this? "I cringed the first few times but the fact is that people live and eat here. I think that made things easier," he says. That apart, he and the film's director, Gupta, along with the rest of the cast and crew underwent a 15-day workshop created specifically for the film.
As part of the workshop they travelled into some of the filthiest bylanes of Mumbai and dissected each and every scene and the way they envisioned it. "Rajeev was so sincere," says Gupta, adding, "There were no vanity vans or AC cars for our hero, only an auto where he could sit between shots."
Shooting in the mean streets of Mumbai also meant hordes of spectators running up to Khandelwal for autographs in the middle of shots. While he crowds were integral to the script, Gupta and his cinematographer, Althonse Roy (an Emmy award winner), decided to shoot 80 per cent of the film with hidden cameras.
"We got into a goods carrier truck, covered it from all sides, and had three small openings fit for cameras on the left, right and the centre of the truck," explains Gupta.
Shot in a linear format for 29 days in a start-to-finish schedule, Aamir,believes Khandelwal, is a crucial film for Indian cinema. All set to begin shooting for his next film ("now, this one's a love story," he grins), Aamir affirms his faith in Hindi cinema.
"There is nothing like a safe debut," says Khandelwal, sipping his green tea, "You don't need a multi-crore film to show yourself off to audiences." Khandelwal, who never called his parents for award functions earlier, made sure they attended Aamir's premiere in Mumbai. "I was truly proud of what I'd done for the first time and wanted them around," he says. "My dad (an ex-army man) and I used to fight a lot about my career. At the premiere, I was happy to make them proud," says Khandelwal.
A chemistry graduate from Ahmedabad, he began his tryst with the entertainment industry by making documentaries for Doordarshan and supplying docu-content for other production houses.
Gupta says he's glad to have "found" Khandelwal as Aamir. "He's a humble guy, comes from a middle-class background, and to play Aamir he just needed to be himself," says the director who will direct his second film with UTV SpotBoy, the production house that backed Aamir.
Gupta is happy that the film has worked for everyone involved. "It was also Anurag Kashyap's first film as creative producer, our music director, Amit Trivedi debuted, and so did our cinematographer and UTV SpotBoy." Aamir, adds Gupta, "is a reaffirmation that a strong script and a good story can be conveyed to audiences without compromising on the production quality, despite budget constraints."
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