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    Aamir speaks out on alienation as a Muslim

    Friday, August 05, 2005
    It was not until the late 1980s and early 1990s that Aamir Khan became conscious of his identity as a Muslim when the "rightwing in India really started whipping up negative feelings" and things changed, says the actor.

    "It was in these circumstances that I became conscious. At times it made me feel very lost, alienated," Aamir says in an exhaustive interview in the current issue of Tehelka magazine.
    It kept getting worse as time went by, and the first change for the better was when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost the election. "It really made me proud to be a part of a society where the common man has the ability to decipher for himself what he sees as not good," the cerebral star of films as diverse as "Lagaan" and "Dil Chahta Hai" says.
    Discussing the traumatic events of Gujarat, Aamir admits that he would have spoken out at the time if he was a Hindu by religion. "But because I am a Muslim, I wasn't sure how my thoughts would be represented, and how they would be received."
    At the same, he asks, in which other society would you have a situation where the rightwing is on the rise - but the top three stars of the film world are Muslims - "....and is succeeding to quite a degree in poisoning people's minds".
    Though strangely no one has asked him for his opinion on international events like the London blasts, the actor is unsparing in his condemnation of terror acts - and scathing in his criticism of US President George Bush who is "probably killing many more people and destroying many more innocent lives".
    Aamir, famous for not attending awards, says bluntly that he used to. "But then strange things began to happen... Some 50,000 awards cropped up, everyone got one, and every year five new categories were added... Now it's not an award night, it's a programme designed to collect stars to generate advertisement time. I'm not interested in taking part in something like this. It's too childish for me."
    He says candidly that the most traumatic period of his life has been his divorce, but shies away from discussing his relationships saying: "I don't feel I have to explain myself."
    About his famously obsessive perfectionist streak and how he might be manoeuvred into feeling defensive about his working style, he says: "In fact, I feel the process of working is as important as the end result. We must enjoy the process. Or it's not worth it. This is how I know to work. I don't know any other way to work."
    According to Aamir, his choice of films are dictated by the script, but also by things happening around, social issues.
    His next "Mangal Pandey - The Rising", his first film after "Lagaan", is one such work. "The events might have happened in 1857, but the issues are very relevant, even today. The film is essentially about the concept of freedom and it questions the right of any superpower or society to move into another society and take it over. This is precisely what's happening today with countries like America moving into Iraq and Afghanistan, or earlier, into Vietnam."
    Aamir relates at length how he finally agrees to work with a director. "I spend a lot of time with them. I watch their other work, I discuss films, life, completely unrelated stuff. I need to know I'm on the same wavelength. I need a comfort level."


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