The first film of a director without film industry connections can be quite a challenge and Raj Kumar Gupta faced this while trying to get his debut Aamir financed. Released a decade ago on June 6, Aamir chronicled the story of a young Muslim man, Dr Aamir Ali, played by Rajeev Khandelwal, who returns to Mumbai from the United Kingdom and finds himself at the mercy of extremists intending to carry out a bombing in the city.
The film garnered rave reviews and a strong word-of-mouth.
In an interview with PTI, Gupta talks about how a film with several first timers–director, music composer Amit Trivedi, cinematographer Alphonse Roy and even producer– was put together.
“I recall narrating the script to a jeweller in Zaveri Bazaar, in the hope that somebody would finance the film. That is one incident which I remember clearly. Then there was a merchant who I had approached. At that point, you are just hoping that somewhere people exist who wanted to make a film but never got the opportunity and now might come together to make a film. I did all of that,” he says.
People believed that Aamir was adapted from a Filipino film “Cavite but Gupta says it was “neither an official adaptation nor inspired by any film.”
10 years of my first film AAMIR…this day will indeed remain very special. I know whoever was associated with the film wil be proud of it forever.
— Rajeev Khandelwal (@RK1610IsMe) June 6, 2018
Aamir, the director says, was born in the post 9/11 era where the “world was polarised and things had changed even in India.”
“The world was looking at a particular community in a certain way. Between 2001-2004, there were so many things which were happening in India and around the world, the story was born out of those circumstances… It was a very volatile period and I was mostly inspired from the world that existed then.”
Gupta says Aamir was his sixth script and it took him eight-nine months to write it and another two years to find a producer. His vision resonated with filmmaker Vikas Bahl, then the head of UTV Spotboy, who decided to back the film as his first production.
The film was shot in 22 days, between 7AM to 5 PM, on a budget of RS 1.75 crore and a “tight schedule.” “It was all shot on real locations, those were areas which weren’t easy to shoot. To execute that was a challenge but since it was our first film, we were passionate. Everyday I went to shoot, I thought it was my privilege. So I looked forward to that challenge.”
The title Aamir, Gupta says, had a special meaning.
“Aamir means a leader, someone who sets an example. As directors and writers, we are always looking at the depth of a name or a character. While I was writing the script, I was trying to find motivation for the character and his journey so the name came from there.”
The director is proud of how the film has aged and is glad that he did not go with a bigger star at that time. “I was aware that a big actor would not want to work with a newcomer and the script was completely different. The sooner you realise how things work here, the happier and more practical you will be.
“Either you have a big daddy who gets you the cast and makes your film happen or you are on your own and try to go by your talent, hardwork and opportunity. For me, my work had to speak, I had nothing to lose.”