The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Decorum, diction and dedication

Beshi…” He stared studiously at the script and tried to mouth the word, but what came out sounded closer to “boshi”. So Aamir Khan, perfectionist that he is, immediately went over to his colleague from Calcutta for tips on how to roll the tongue over Bengali expressions of anger and affection.

“He was so meticulous about everything. There were quite a few Bengali words in the Hindi script Though there were other Bengalis on the set, they were all Mumbai-based. So Aamir would come to me to make sure he got the pronunciation absolutely right,” laughed Srilekha Mitra, speaking from her room in Ramee Guestline Hotel, in Juhu.

The Tollywood girl is now in Bollywood, busy playing the Lagaan star’s better half in a Coca-Cola commercial under production.

Srilekha confessed on Day III of the ad shoot that she had gone into it a little unsure about whether to expect a starry attitude from the megastar. But it didn’t take long for Aamir to help her chill. “I had completed my make-up and was waiting on the floor. Pradeepda (Pradeep Sarkar, the ad film-maker and director of the commercial) called a meeting and introduced me to Aamir. He was looking the perfect Bangali babu — in dhoti-punjabi (worn with some help from the Calcutta crew), with long moustache and long hair (which he is sporting for the role of Mangal Pandey in 1857: The Rising), oiled and combed. From the first moment, he put me at ease.”

The Aamir fan was struck by the endless rehearsals before they went into the first shot. “This man leaves the world behind when he walks into the set,” said the familiar face on the Bengali small screen. But the sense of humour was always in place, as was the sense of decorum. ‘Throughout the shoot, never did he raise his voice. He also treated me with a lot of respect.” After a shoot, for instance, when Srilekha asked for “a few minutes” to discuss something, it was Aamir who “came over, telling the floor assistants that he wanted to meet me… These small things mean a lot.”

Subtle Aamir tips, too, contributed to “a huge learning experience” for the Ei to Jibon TV star, now awaiting the release of Teen Ekke Teen on the big screen. “Before a shot, when I would ask him if I was getting the expression right, he would help me out,” gushed the girl, eyeing a break in Bollywood after her “very Bengali face” won her screen space alongside Aamir.

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