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Rising over, mutiny on moustache
- Aamir sheds the Mangal Pandey look for new film

Feb. 2: Aamir Khan has missed the World Beard and Moustache Championships by a whisker.

At the launch of Rakesh Mehra's Rang de Basanti, in which he stars opposite Soha Ali Khan, in Mumbai last night, Aamir was back as the chocolate cream hero.

The long locks of The Rising's Mangal Pandey were snipped off and there wasn't a trace of the handlebar moustache that might have won him a place at the championship in Berlin on October 1, if at all he ' or most people in the world ' is aware of such an event.

'The film is about the youth and I play an easy-going character'. I have tried various looks and this one suits the character of the new film,' he explained, girlfriend Kiran Rao, also sporting a hip new hairstyle, by his side.

With no beard, Aamir never had a chance of overthrowing the reigning overall champion, Karl-Heinz Hille, who is defending the trophy he won after beating 122 contestants from nine countries in Nevada in 2003. But he could have tried to topple Gary Hagen, the Californian who walked away with the honours in the handlebar category.

The requirement to enter the handlebar section is, according to the championship guidelines: Bushy, small upward pointing ends; areas past the corner of the mouth must be shaved. Artificial styling aids permitted.

Just like Nathulal, Amitabh Bachchan would recall fondly. 'Moochhen hon to Nathulalji jaisi hon, varna na hon (You should have a moustache like Nathulal or none at all),' he had repeated over and over in Sharaabi, pointing to the moustache sported by co-actor Mukri.

It's an advice that Aamir took seriously. The moustache he had been sporting for months, ever since he took on the role of Mangal Pandey in The Rising, came close to Nathulal's in Sharaabi.

Bachchan and Aamir met today, at the launch of Anupam Kher's acting school, Actor Prepares, where they agreed on more than just moustaches.

Bachchan said one of his biggest regrets was that he never trained to be an actor. 'If I had pursued a course in acting and honed my skills, perhaps it would have stood me in good stead during my career,' said the star who ruled the box office for decades.

Ditto, said Aamir, who has called himself Bollywood's 'ikka' (ace). 'A training definitely helps,' added the actor who had hoped to win an Oscar with Lagaan.

The moustache and beard championship is no Oscar, but it's something. And it's a turf that Indians have not conquered yet. Fifteen years after the awards were instituted at Black Forest in Germany, the championship remains a European bastion, with a few American winners thrown in, just like cricket was a British preserve till Bhuvan came along.

But Aamir is firm: 'I always sport a look that goes with the character of the film.' Since Rang de Basanti is a contemporary film, he has to have a contemporary look.

What about Mangal Pandey then' The Rising is not due for release till June and the promotional tours are still to come. But Rang de Basanti is to roll this month-end, and Aamir wouldn't have had a choice.

Not unless he could have done as American actor Tom Selleck did. Playing the clean-shaven Dwight D. Eisenhower at the same time as he was playing a moustachioed man in another project, Selleck shaved half of his moustache during a TV show so he could turn to the relevant side when he talked about each of his movies.

Maybe he doesn't want a choice. Mutiny hero Mangal Pandey, after all, is not Dil Chahta Hai's Akash, who spawned a million clones. Or maybe, Aamir ' taking another lesson from Bachchan ' is saving his whiskers for another time. Bachchan, in all his years as Bollywood's angry young man, didn't allow even a strand of facial hair to grow on his face, keeping the goatee for his second coming.

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