If actors were to be judged on their acting skills by their bodies of work, then among the current crop of Bollywood actors, Aamir Khan is most likely to surface as the finest of the lot. Sure, Shahrukh has a sense of humour which cannot be beaten and Salman has this unique charm which makes him loved by one and all. But when it comes to acting and movies, Aamir is definitely a winner! After all, in recent years, any movie that has had its name associated with Aamir has gone on to be a big hit at the box office (Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na and Peepli Live). And any upcoming flick with Aamir on the star cast tends to enjoy incredible opening at the box office and almost-sure-shot success (Read ‘3 Idiots’). With these facts in mind, it is time to ask what is it about Brand Aamir that turns every movie that he touches into the proverbial gold. And, in the same vein, it is also pertinent to analyze whether Aamir’s movies have done anything positive and productive towards social improvement or whether they primarily have been only about commercial success.
A History of Aamir’s Movies
Romcoms to Social dramas
For answering these questions, it is important that one examines Aamir’s body of work closely. The first movie that Aamir did as an adult was Ketan Mehta’s Holi. This was in 1984. Between 1984 and 2000, Aamir acted in about thirty movies, and the majority of them had him in the lead role. Among these thirty movies, there are some well known names such as Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar, Andaz Apna Apna and Rangeela, and there are also some names that have been forgotten by most now and which are now remembered only by hardcore Aamir Khan fans. Examples of such movies include: Jawani Zindabad, Tum Mere Ho, Time Machine, Sahebzaade, Aatank Hi Aatank, etc. Among all these movies, if the hits were to be pitted against the flops, the balance would be nearly equal.
A period of socially relevant films – Commercial and Critical acclaim galore!
Now, what needs to be noted is that among all flicks of Aamir that were released between 1984 and 2000, most were either comedies or love stories. A 1947: Earth or a Sarfarosh were only rare exceptions. But even such exceptions did not do much as far as social improvement is concerned. No doubt these movies talked about important issues and were at the same time engaging dramas, they were not revolutionary per se, and even if they had such revolutionary content, it never translated into any major social impact or change.
This stands in stark contrast to Aamir’s post-2000 body of work. Between 2001 and 2010, Aamir acted in eight movies and produced two other titles in which he did not act. Of these ten movies, only The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey faired moderately. The rest of the lot were huge commercial hits and were praised by the critics too. Some of the titles were even groundbreaking, in the sense that they were watershed pieces of cinema that redefined Bollywood and helped catapult the industry into the global movie scene.
Rang De Basanti and the Jessica Lal murder case
The point to be noted at this juncture is that, among the aforementioned ten Aamir movies, many played a crucial role in influencing the masses in such an overwhelming way that they went on to bring a considerable social change. The best example to illustrate this point is undoubtedly Rang De Basanti. If one were to assert that RDB has played a major part in conditioning the ideology of a large population of today’s youth, he would not be wrong, because RDB almost awakened the youth from a metaphorical slumber and made it aware of its power. In this sense, the movie was truly revolutionary. And it did effect real social change too, as is discussed below.
When the main convicts in the famous Jessica Lal case were left scot-free due to lack of evidence, it was only with the combined efforts of the media and the protests of the post-RDB revolutionary youth that the case was reopened and reconsidered. RDB, in fact, gave the youth a way of protest: candle-light marches. Such marches were not only heavily used during the Jessica Lal murder case protests, but they have been used repeatedly since then to protest against the state or against other glaring social injustices.
Read the movie review : No One Killed Jessica
Even the recent 3 Idiots, that broke all box office records, deserves a mention in this context. This 2009 Raj Kumar Hirani masterpiece did not bring change at a societal level but it certainly revolutionized the way today’s youth chooses its career options. In this sense, 3 Idiots effected change at an individual level. Taare Zameen Par too attracted social attention towards the plight of dyslexic kids and taught parents to be more accepting of their children. This year’s Oscar entry from India, Peepli Live, too raised important issues such as the deteriorating condition of the hilariously nonsense content of the Indian electronic media as well the grave issue of farmer suicides.
It’s all about
The social impact. You don’t get so many hits without making a few strategies!
Using these examples, it can be concluded that Aamir’s post-2000 cinematic offerings have more been about raising pertinent social and political issues than his 20th century offerings. It is also important to note that these movies actually resulted in real social change than his aforementioned pre-2000 exceptions.
In the case of Aamir, it is important to note that his movies tend to work irrespective of their genre. So, even when Aamir did a Ghajini, which was an out-and-out commercial love story in the first half and a brutally disturbing action flick in the second, it was an enormous success. In spite of the fact that it was lifted from Christopher Nolan’s Memento.
Ditto goes for Jaane…Tu Ya Jaane Na and Dil Chahta Hai. There can be only two explanations to such consistent super-successes:
a) Aamir chooses his movies very wisely and prudently or
b) As is alleged by many in the film industry, once Aamir is on board, he tends to oversee the entire movie process (even if he is just an actor) and gives ‘suggestions’ for further improvement to the director as well as the rest of the crew.
What we feel?
Behind every successful man is a woman
Yep. Part of his success can be attributed to Kiran Rao, his wife and mentor. He met her on the sets of Lagaan following which he took a four year break following which, he married Kiran. His post 2005 movies have usually been way above the Bollywood average of a “successful movie”. He probably became a better and successful actor
All in all, one can see a clear shift in Aamir’s choice of movies in the post-2000 period. It seems that once Aamir had carved a niche for himself between 1984 and 2000, he started picking up unconventional and meaningful movies as he knew his position would not be compromised even after a few flops. And once this risk paid off, there was no looking back for the superstar. Aamir Khan’s latest risk was with Dhobi Ghat in which he teamed up with wife Kiran Rao to produce an art film – a very thing in Bollywood.
We shall now see him in July 2012 in Reema Kagti’s untitled action movie where he plays a cop.