In search of good roles, not stardom – Imran Khan

September 17, 2015

Seven years ago, Imran Khan was an up-and-coming star and touted as the next big thing in Bollywood. But his last three movies were box-office bombs and he dropped off the radar for several film-makers, losing projects he had already signed.

This Friday, the 32-year-old actor returns to movie screens with the Bollywood romance “Katti Batti”, a film that pairs him with Kangana Ranaut.

Khan spoke to Reuters about his box-office ups and downs, and what he learnt from his uncle – actor Aamir Khan.

Q: At this point in your career, what does “Katti Batti” mean to you?
A: At this point, it represents a return to form for me. In that this is the way I want to work – this is an expression of my creative sensibilities and creative abilities. This encompassed is what we have to offer – no apology, no excuses. I have no excuses for this one.

Q: Were there excuses before then?
A: There were thousands of excuses. Like, this is not in my hands or this is not being done the way I want. I felt this is wrong, but the director feels it is right. There were a hundred excuses and a hundred mistakes that I know were made. They were made in front of my eyes and I was aware of them. Some I tried to rectify, some I did not, but ultimately it all lands around my neck. That’s the nature of the game.

Strangely, the box office is not as important. It’s taken me a while to realize this, but not every director who casts me understands how to use me. I have a certain skill set as an actor – there are a lot of things I just cannot do, a space that I just cannot inhabit. My approach to acting is not the traditional Hindi film approach.

A lot of times, directors have cast me, but have played to my weaknesses rather than my strengths. So what I want is for people to watch “Katti Batti” and for a few key people to watch this film. I don’t know who they are but somewhere out there, there are directors who know how to use me. I want them to watch this film.

Q: When directors aren’t playing to your strengths, how do you process it as an actor?
A: You are obviously always trying to stretch yourself, to expand your range. If you approach your craft with any degree of honesty, you are always trying that. There are some things that just don’t sit on you or creatively are not in your space. Take any blockbuster film of the last year, pull out the actor from it and put me in there. There’s a good chance it won’t work. In the same way, what I am able to do, very few people can. It really does come down to correct casting and the actor and director being in sync.

Q: But given the nature of the industry, doesn’t it hurt you to keep waiting for that one right film to come along?
A: If you want to be famous, by all means do it. Fame holds no lustre for me. That is why people are on social media, they do stage shows and performances, because it feeds and fuels the fame. In the past two years, I have done none of these things. Because fame holds no appeal for me – movies hold appeal for me. People make sure they are out there to maintain a level of stardom. I only want to continue to get interesting offers.

Q: Has your film background helped you in this perspective?
A: You probably don’t remember the time when Aamir Khan wasn’t cool. But he was – he was a maverick who had these ridiculous notions that you should have a bound script, or you should do only one film at a time. He’s built his career on unknown directors. He’s built his career one by one on outsiders. There was no respect from the industry. The “Mr Perfectionist” tag was a taana (taunt), it wasn’t a compliment. Now everyone loves him. I have seen this even before I became an actor, and after I became one, I saw it all over again.

When my first film did well, I had 100 friends. Then my next two films tanked and everybody disappeared. Two more films did well, and suddenly everyone wanted to party with me. Then “Once Upon A Time in Mumbai Dobaara” and “Gori Tere Pyaar Mein” tanked, and now I don’t have any friends anymore.

But you have to understand, it is a professional thing. This is not your life – you make your life. People are only interested in your professional success because someone’s money is at stake. Fair enough. But let’s not make pretenses.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay, and Tony @tonytharakanThis article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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