I don't remember the last time I was star struck. But on Friday when I met Aamir Khan, I felt like a giddy-headed teenager and didn't want to leave Sofitel hotel where I had managed a ten-minute interview with the actor. I felt mighty privileged that I did have access to him when he is on such a military discipline here at the Melbourne international film festival where his film Peepli Live is being promoted. I say military because the man is so punctual - he was dot on time at the press conference and he timed all his interviews with the press and others. And I am told he has always been a stickler for perfection.
As I entered the room, I was wary of the 15 pairs of eyes - his secretary, managers, PR staff - and here I was conducting a TV interview for the first time with a star of his stature. I am a print person and I have gotten away with mumbling and fumbling with the interviewee in the past, but when you are in front of the camera the fact that you don't want to make an idiot of yourself is top in your head. Nonetheless, while our videographer was adjusting his equipments I took the opportunity to ease my nerves a bit and break the ice with Aamir who wore just a smile on his face. I thought here is going to be one laconic man. But soon the man was pulling his chair closer to mine to fit in before the camera, of course! And was I shocked when he suddenly called for Vibhu. In came a tall, dark man with a mirror the size of a normal tray. Quickly, Aamir began dabbing powder and checking his face a few times. Like a woman! I was amused. So actors are conscious of their appearances irrespective of their genders! They are supposed to look good all the time! That is some pressure, I thought!
My interview started with a bit of a stutter. You see, I was in awe, bit nervous too, romantically inclined too - total confusion in the head and temporary loss of focus. Instead of saying his film has begun on a good note having bagged one award at the Durban film fest, I said 'you have had a successful run' when the film has not even been released. Ha ha ha ha... Like a rehearsed line, these words came so naturally from watching 1000 channels in India. But never mind, I asked him how he felt. Don't think he realised the mistake, he kept on talking. Once he got talking, there was no stopping me too. So in the end, it all turned out good. I had had my share of sound bytes. He happily obliged for a photo sesson, even placing his arm on my back. I came out elated. Four hours later, my photos were on facebook. Every mission accomplished!
Later that evening, when friends talked about the scramble and mad rush at the Regent theatre where Peepli Live was being screened and where the star was making a public appearance for a brief interaction with the audience, I realised I did not miss out on anything more.
I enjoy good world cinema but I am not a film buff nor am I crazy about following up on sequels or trilogies and I don't know how people make a living reviewing films. And I remember actors mostly for their good looks and outfits and less for their roles; some for their humour and quick wit. So I like Shahrukh for his gift of the gab and less for his acting - stereotypical by the day. But I have to admit, Aamir is an exception for me. He became the darling of the nation with QSQT two decades ago. I was under his spell too and watched the film a few times but not as many as 200 times. Well there were people who did! But over the years, he receded from memory. His legs looked short and his hair overgrown in some of the movies following QSQT. But he rekindled that something in me again with Rang de Basanti, where unfortunately he looked a bit older for his role, but the acting was par excellence. At least I thought so! The feeling has not wavered since. All his films have managed to entertain so much.
Meeting him in person, I was amazed at his skin which had not a line of wrinkle. I asked him how he managed to look so fresh at 45. He attributed it to his dietician who he says has prescribed a balanced diet and lots of water. Of course, no mention of botox and laser. As if he would admit!
My admiration of the QSQT hero has grown by leaps and bounds again. The way he conducted himself at the press conference (there were no loose ends in his talks), his punctuality, his explanation of Bollywood cinema and appreciation of Indian cinema with Bollywood being just a small part of Indian cinema to an international press - made me pine for Aamir the rest of the day till Lolo came back from work and surprised me with new UGG boots. I forgot the reel hero and returned to my real hero!