Aamir Khan and Zaira Wasim’s Secret Superstar is directed by debutant director Advait Chandan. In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Advait, who has previously worked as Aamir’s manager for almost five years, reveals some fun stories from the sets about working with Aamir and Zaira in the capacity of a director.
Secret Superstar is like a dream-come-true for Advait, and that is why he enjoyed himself every day on the shoot. He shares how he, being a hardcore Aamir fan even from his younger days, came up with the funky character of Shakti Kumaarr and moreover, how he convinced Aamir to do the role.
So, how was it dealing with Aamir — first as a manager, then as a director? Advait says, “Actually, both the times, it was so easy to deal with him because Aamir is such an easy person. He is so straightforward, so no-nonsense, treats everyone like an equal. He is so gentle and so kind. That actually whether you are managing him, you are directing him, or you are his co-actor, it feels like he is making everyone so comfortable. And because he is like that, it becomes easy to direct or manage him. He is a really relaxed, easy, chilled out person.”
Though Aamir appears only in an extended cameo in Secret Superstar, his character Shakti Kumaarr is not one that can be easily forgotten. Contrary to the roles we have seen Aamir essay in the recent past, Shakti is a borderline cheap and flirtatious music director wearing tight flashy t-shirts and sporting blonde highlights. He is sure to remind you of the days Aamir used to do quirky, Bombay tapori characters like the ones in Rangeela, Mela and Ghulam. And in our chat, Advait talks about how this character came into being. How Advait used to be a fan of the ‘tedha’ Aamir Khan characters and wanted to bring that back on screen.
He remarks, “To be honest, I had written the part keeping Aamir in mind, like his dialogue delivery and everything. I have grown up watching all of Aamir’s earlier films like Rangeela, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Andaz Ka Aapna, and they all have a slightly ‘Bombay Tapori’ quality to them. Something that Aamir used to do earlier, they are not ‘doodh ka dhula’, they are slightly ‘tedha’, slightly like ‘teekha.’ And as an Aamir Khan fan, I really enjoy watching that colour on him. So I wanted to create a character who is totally ‘tedha’ because I wanted to watch him like that. I had written Shakti for him but I was scared to pitch it to him. So first I made sure that he likes the script, that he signs me as a director, then I suggested that he do the part.”
So, wasn’t it difficult convincing Aamir do a freaky character like this? Advait tells us how Aamir’s first reaction was ,”Let’s do an audition!” He adds, “So, my very first film and I auditioned him and we saw in the test that he was not disturbing the balance of the film at all, then after the test, he said yes. It was not very difficult to convince him but I had to go through the test.”
Sounds like the test itself was difficult for Advait, but not quite so. Turns out, the test has become one of the most cherished memories for him from the shoot. Here’s what he said, “It was so much fun, I can’t tell you. We were sitting in the room and the assistant who was holding the camera was laughing loudly cause it was so funny. Really fun experience doing that. So Aamir was doing the scene and since we hadn’t found Zaira by then, Mansoor Khan’s daughter (Zayn) was reading the lines with him. I was sitting there, we had an AD and Kiran Ma’am was there and all of us were just laughing loudly. It was so funny to see him say these lines. Because they are not in Aamir Sir’s character. In personal life, he is not like, he doesn’t talk like that, behave like that. It was all the more funnier because it was an award function scene, the one in the trailer.”
Sharing another funny anecdote from the sets, Advait also tells how finalizing Aamir’s funky look in the film was another strenuous task, for him particularly. He quips, “We were trying to find the look for Aamir’s character and I wanted a weird beard on him. And Aamir Sir made them experiment and rehearse all those beards on me, so every day I would have a different beard. Thankfully, he didn’t try the blonde streaks with me.”
Considering the kind of brilliance that Aamir as an actor brings to the screen, it could get pretty difficult to cast someone like him in a supporting role. But Advait feels that Aamir is the perfect person to do that because he always keeps the story/film above him. He says, “Frankly, Aamir Sir is somebody who as an actor, whether or not he is the lead, puts the film above him. He puts the story above him. As can be seen in all of his work, be it Taare Zameen Par or 3 Idiots. The story is what takes prominence with him.”
Backed by Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, Secret Superstar releases on October 19.