Aamir Ali on his return to Calcutta to shoot after more than a decade
Aamir Ali, the popular TV actor with chocolate-boy looks and a baritone, was camping in Calcutta with co-stars Mona Singh, Sharad Kelkar and Shamita Shetty, shooting for his second OTT venture. The Telegraph caught up with him as he worked out in his room at Vedic Village Spa Resort.
Belated birthday greetings. How did you spend your special day?
My friends organised a small thing for me. And that’s it. All at home. I have been avoiding everything. Why take a chance?
You shared a cute picture of your daughter Ayra the day before on Instagram. Your birthdays are on consecutive days...
Yes. Hers is on August 30, mine is on September 1. She turned a year old. I made her taste a bit of cake. The only thing I can say is I have been blessed with an angel from heaven and she is the most beautiful girl. I am sure every parent feels that. But she is amazing!
You posted a lot of pictures from Goa recently.
Yes, I was there to shoot for a web show for Zee5. It’s called Naxalbari. I was there for nearly 80 days. I fell in love with Goa. At such a time (of the pandemic), when you travel somewhere you don’t go to places any more. You just enjoy the place. I am feeling the same way about Calcutta also.
Is that show based on the peasant movement in north Bengal?
It is shown to be a Naxal uprising. But (it has) nothing to do with Bengal. They are not going the realistic way and taking names. It’s about a movement and a policeman. What is good and what is bad will be left to the audience to decide. It’s a thriller. Not about anything realistic. It must be based on something but I am not aware of that. I am playing a corporate head who wants to make a project on land where farmers and adivasis and Naxals live. Rajeev Khandelwal plays the cop.
Is shooting over?
The main schedule is over. I have 10-12 days’ work left.
That was your web debut.
Yes, I was really looking forward to it. I wanted to do something interesting. And I am happy I got to do this.
You are a quintessential TV star. How do you perceive the rise of the web platform?
I have worked on both the big screen (most notably in I Hate Luv Storys and the Mithun Chakraborty-starrer Raakh) and the small screen. And now digital. Quality matters the most for me. Web shows are here to stay. Lot of things that could not be done on TV or film, can be done on web.
What is the biggest difference between working in TV serials and in web shows?
It’s the same. An actor has to act. Only thing is in web shows, you can concentrate a little more as the shooting days are less. In TV, as you are shooting every day, sometimes you can lose focus, unknowingly. You are doing it for years. In web, you are shooting for 20-30 days. Also we get a bound script.
Coming to your Calcutta trip, we had first met here in 2007 when you had come to shoot for Kya Dill Mein Hai.
Yes, that show also was based in Calcutta. I have very fond memories of shooting outdoors. We shot on Howrah bridge. This time, because of the situation, we have to be restricted. We are shooting inside Vedic Village, where I am staying.
What show are you here for?
This is a show for Big Synergy. It is an adaptation of an international show. It has a great ensemble cast. I don’t think the story is set in Calcutta.
How different is it to shoot amid a pandemic?
We had to cut down on our staff — make-up, hair…. There can’t be too many people. Lot of restrictions are there. As soon as the shot gets over, we put our masks on.
Which project over the years have you had the most fun on?
F.I.R. That’s a comedy I did on SAB TV. Every day we had a picnic.
On that show, one recalls, your character Inspector Bajrang Pandey used to eat bananas all the time...
Yes, he used to eat all the time — bananas and paan and what else (laughs). He used to faff around.
And he couldn’t cook. Can you cook in real life?
No, I can’t. A lot of my friends learnt during the lockdown but I haven’t. I didn’t even try. Kitchen and I don’t go well together. I am very clumsy in the kitchen. I drop things. I’m not clumsy otherwise. But food and I go well together. I love food so much that I have even started a restaurant in Bombay — Silver Beach Cafe in Lokhandwala, where I live. It opened a couple of years back when I was on a break.
Do you go for tasting sessions?
I go for eating and meeting. (Laughs) My partner runs the show.
How did you spend the lockdown days?
I have to take care of my mom — she stays with me — so I did not step out at all till May. In June, I went to Goa. I felt refreshed. I used to go for jogs on the beach. Covid has taught us that the most important thing is mental peace. If people do not learn that now, they never will.
What is your comfort food? Did you indulge yourself during the lockdown?
No, I controlled myself. Otherwise, I love sweets. On the second-last day before I leave Calcutta, I am going to hog on Bengali sweets. My Bengali co-stars (including Swastika Mukherjee and Parambrata Chattopadhyay) have promised to treat me to meetha before I leave. I will make sure I put on a kilo in those two days!