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Needless to say, with his clout, he can have just about any role in any script that comes out of any word processor in Bollywood, just by expressing the slightest interest. His Taare Zameen Par too came out of something that interested him; so much so, that he went on to direct it. In this exclusive interview over the phone, Devansh Patel spoke to the quintessential Aamir Khan about his love for kids, what makes him a better father, why he doesn't want to force people to go and watch Taare Zameen Par and much more.
Now with Taare Zameen Par, is it right in saying that now Aamir Khan is on cloud nine?
Not yet. Frankly speaking, I think I am waiting for the response from the audiences and I'm hoping that the people like the film. So, once I know the response, I'll know how to react.
Tell me why and how did the title Taare Zameen Par was selected to be apt for the film?
Taare Zameen Par is a film about children and it's a film which celebrates the abilities of children. Taare Zameen Par is a title, which denotes that aspect. It's a title with a very positive feel to it. All the kids are special and wonderful. They are like stars on earth. This particular aspect gave birth to the title.
But having said that, was Taare Zameen Par the first and the last choice?
The working title was something else, and then I, Amol Gupte and Deepa Bhatia discussed what should be the most suitable title for the film. At this moment, I can't remember which one of us came up with Taare Zameen Par.
Lagaan took you to the Oscars; Rang De Basanti took you to the BAFTA's. Where do you think Taare Zameen Par is going to take you?
(Laughs) I have no idea. I hope that what we've made with so much love and care goes down well with the audience, which has always been my prime concern. I make films for my audience and for me, the audience liking it is the biggest success that I can ask for.
Music has always been an important ingredient of Indian cinema. Don't you think Taare Zameen Par's music is restricted only to the film and not beyond that?
No, I don't think so. Taare Zameen Par has a great soundtrack. I really love the music. I think Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy have done a great job of coming up with very melodious tunes and Prasoon Joshi has written some wonderful lyrics. So I'm really happy with the music. I think that even on it's own it stands really well and I'm sure that when people see it in the cinemas, they'll love it even more.
Which is your favourite track from the film?
That's a tough one for me to decide because I like all of them. I think each one is special and each one is so appropriate for each situation.
Don't you think that as a child, Darsheel Safary who plays the central character in Taare Zameen Par would have lost his focus on studies by being a part of the film?
Well, we took a lot of care on that. I think that Darsheel is a bright kid who has done a great job in the film. But as far as his studies are concerned, we discussed that with his parents, teachers and principal in school. We actually had a tutor with him right through the shoot who was retained for a year and a half after we finished the shooting of the film to make sure that anything he may have missed, he has all the opportunity to catch up on. So, we made sure that he had personal and private attention from the tutor.
The only thing which moves Aamir Khan is the script and you've been a part of brilliantly executed scripts like Lagaan and Rang De Basanti to name a few. Then why choose to direct Taare Zameen Par when you could have directed any good script before?
All the films that you're mentioning and the films that I have done as an actor were offered to me as an actor and the individuals who directed those films were all extremely talented, experienced and well known. I was fortunate to have worked with them. Taare Zameen Par too was not meant to be directed by me. Initially, I was only producing and acting in it and eventually went down to direct it. I have no hesitation in saying that I'm very happy that I've directed Taare Zameen Par because I think it's a film that I can be proud of as an actor, producer and as a director.
What was the crucial factor that made you decide to take over the director's role from Amol Gupte who was the original director of Taare Zameen Par?
Amol is the writer of the film and he was originally directing the film. After the first one week of shoot when I saw the rushes, I had certain reservations about the way it was being shot and I discussed it with him. As it turned out, we both had differences over some things and me being a person who is more creative than being a producer, the first thing I said to him was that if I had reservations, I should step back. In addition to that since he has worked so hard on the script that he has written with such love and care, I'd like to hand it back to him. I did what was fair and correct. Amol then gave it a thought, came back the next day, and told me that he would not like to direct this film and we sat and discussed whom to take on board as a director. Many names cropped up and finally we decided that we needed someone who could pick up from there and start shooting because we were very happy with the child and we did not want to risk delaying the film by the child growing up in the process and start looking for some other child. Taare Zameen Par is a film that can't be made without the correct casting of the child and this was the key factor in me deciding to take on the direction of the film. I jumped on to the deep end and the next day I was on set as a director.
Any fond memories you'd like to share with us while you were on the hot seat directing the film?
Well, the whole process was quite challenging and exciting. I think that working with children comes with it's own challenges. It was great fun but it can be testing at times, especially when you have forty kids with own individuality and characteristics. It was important for us to work around the children and their energy and time constraints. So we made sure that the kids were happy and comfortable. We were pretty much around for them.