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Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao speaks about Laapataa Ladies and more at India Summit 3.0 in Mumbai

Bringing some of the most profound thinkers, influencers and changemakers in the country together was ABP Network Ideas of India Summit 3.0 which was held over the weekend in Mumbai

Priyanka Roy  | Published 26.02.24, 11:46 AM
Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao at ABP Network Ideas of India Summit 3.0 in Mumbai

Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao at ABP Network Ideas of India Summit 3.0 in Mumbai

Picture courtesy: ABP Network

Bringing some of the most profound thinkers, influencers and changemakers in the country together was ABP Network Ideas of India Summit 3.0 which was held over the weekend in Mumbai. Along with a generous sprinkling of politicians and people from other walks of life who are driven by passion and ideas, was a shower of Bollywood stars.

The biggest draw on Day One on Friday was superstar Aamir Khan, who graced the stage at Grand Hyatt for a scintillating session on his latest co-production Laapataa Ladies, directed by Kiran Rao, 14 years after she directed Dhobi Ghat (which starred Aamir) on debut. t2 was present in the audience. Excerpts from the conversation which also had the young actors of the film — Sparsh Srivastava, Nitanshi Goel and Pratibha Ranta — putting in an appearance towards the end.



The story of Laapataa Ladies, which uses subtle humour to fashion a scathing satire on society in which two newly-married women, encumbered by long veils, get switched in a train, came to Aamir at a script competition that he was judging. “The moment I read it, I knew that Kiran would love the story and I took it to her,” said Aamir, dressed casual but not careless, and sporting glasses. The tone of the story was very dramatic and Kiran worked closely with co-writer Sneha Desai to further develop the award-winning story written by Biplab Goswami.

The film, which releases on March 1, has Ravi Kishan playing a garrulous yet kind-hearted cop. Is it true that Aamir had wanted to do that part but didn’t land it eventually,” asked moderator Dibang. “Sadly, yes!” laughed Aamir. The actor revealed that he had even given a screen test, but Kiran thought that his presence would overpower the film. “I even told her that I would change my appearance completely, no one would recognise me,” Aamir said. “He wanted to become like Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, but I told him what is the point of you being in the film if the audience doesn’t recognise you?!” laughed Kiran, striking in a black cotton dress and with hints of electric blue in her hair.


The tag of being a ‘perfectionist’ had been attached to Aamir much before his character Akash in Dil Chahta Hai jokingly said: “Perfection ko improve karna mushkil hain.”

Aamir is known to be extremely particular about rehearsing and re-rehearsing his scenes before he goes to set. When asked the reason, the actor chose to illustrate his answer with an interesting anecdote. “This was during the time of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, my debut film. We were shooting for the film at Film City (in Mumbai) and had a gap of about an hour before the next scene. I was sitting around and outside the setup for another film was being done. The lights were being put up and I heard an actor rehearsing the same lines at least 100-200 times! I got very curious and peeked out and saw that the actor was Amitabh Bachchan! I have always been a big fan of his and I was stumped that such an experienced actor was rehearsing his lines like he was a newcomer. That had a profound impact on me,” Aamir shared.

He also cited the example of the legendary Charlie Chaplin who was known to rehearse a lot and even go in for 100-plus takes if he wasn’t satisfied with a shot. “But each time, one felt that it was his first time doing that scene because he would bring freshness to every take,” smiled Aamir.

But quite a few of his peers also do the extreme opposite and don’t rehearse their lines at all, or at best, minimally. “Every actor has a different style. For example, (Virender) Sehwag and Sachin (Tendulkar) have completely different styles of playing. But at the end of the day, both play well,” Aamir said.

Aamir is also known to go method for his roles and Kiran pointed out that he had moved bag and baggage and stayed for quite a few days in the run-down flat that his character of a reclusive artist occupies in her directorial debut Dhobi Ghat. “I had to do something to get into character. Kiran had not written any dialogues for me, she gave me very few lines in the film!” laughed the actor.


The conversation once again moved to Laapataa Ladies. The film is set in 2001, the same year that Aamir’s seminal blockbuster Lagaan was released and became a global phenomenon. Aamir and Kiran also met on the sets of that film, in which she worked as an assistant director. They fell in love and got married four years later. Was setting their latest film in that period a nostalgic throwback to those times? “The primary reason for doing so was that we had to show a period where the penetration of mobile phones and social media was minimal. If we had set it in today’s times, it would not have been possible to show two women so helplessly lost for four days. It was a creative call,” answered Kiran. What was their technological status in 2001? Kiran said that she had a “small” Nokia phone at that time, while Aamir admitted to using only a pager.

Known to mesh mirth with message in most of his most successful films — 3 Idiots to PK, Peepli Live to now Laapata Ladies, Aamir said that for him “entertainment comes first”.

“A lot of people think that I think of the genre or a message first and then try and fit that into a story. That is incorrect. For me, the story comes first,” he smiled.

“I am an entertainer and when people go to the theatre, they want to be entertained. Even when we have put in a social message, we used humour, like in 3 Idiots and PK. On the other hand, Taare Zameen Par (the only film that Aamir has directed so far) was a serious film with a strong message. But I have also made films like Delhi Belly which had no message at all!” he laughed.

For Kiran and her co-writers, the biggest challenge in Laapataa Ladies lay in putting forth its message — a call-out to patriarchy — without hammering it in. “We wanted to do it in the form of subtext. We put in whatever we wanted to say through certain characters and dialogues, but we were very sure that we didn’t want it to be on the nose,” said Kiran.


Aamir has touched the highest peaks in his career, but he also experienced an unfamiliar low with the failure of his last film Laal Singh Chaddha, an official adaptation of the Tom Hanks classic Forrest Gump. Aamir admitted that the no-show of the film still felt hurtful. “After a long time, a film of mine didn’t work,” smiled Aamir ruefully. The actor may not have mentioned it, but even his highly ambitious Thugs of Hindostan, co-starring Amitabh Bachchan, had flopped on release almost six years ago. In his trademark style, Aamir said that the failure of Laal Singh Chaddha prompted a lot of friends and family to enquire about his well-being, something he had experienced less of when his films had become hits. “I told them: ‘Film flop hone mein mujhe zyaada pyaar mil raha hain,” he laughed.

On a serious note, Aamir, who will turn 60 next year, said that the failure of the film had taught him many lessons. “I am sad and I am taking time to absorb the grief. Now when I look back, I can see all the mistakes in Laal Singh Chaddha. I was telling Kiran the other day that it is good I made so many mistakes in one film instead of making them in multiple films!” he laughed.

Speaking of shortcomings, Aamir said that he had one day asked Kiran to jot down his failures as a husband (for those not in the know, Aamir and Kiran divorced in 2021 after 16 years of marriage but continue to be close friends and doting co-parents to son Azad). “To my shock, she asked me to sit down and started rattling off one point after another!” laughed Aamir.

Last updated on 26.02.24, 11:47 AM

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