07 August 2022 05:35:47 IST

Aamir Khan: I am 57 years old, but in my head, I am still 18!

Actor Naga Chaitanya, moderator Prof Vasanthi Srinivasan of IIM Bangalore, and actors Mona Singh and Aamir Khan (from left to right) | Photo Credit: IIM Bangalore

A cloudy Bangalore sky, a packed auditorium, and a roar from students that reached a deafening crescendo, greeted actor-director-producer Aamir Khan who visited the IIM Bangalore (IIMB) campus, 13 years after the movie shoot of ‘ 3 Idiots’.

Invited by the organisers of Vista 2022, the business fest hosted by the two-year MBA students at IIMB, Khan had the audience eating out of his hand. “The moment I drove into the driveway I was nostalgic and I have fond memories of every nook and corner of this campus where we did naughty things,” he said, striking an instant rapport with the audience when he sought to know if there were still students at the auditorium from 13 years ago! “No? Well, I am glad everyone cleared their exams,” was his instant comeback.

The panel on facets of management in films and life comprised actors Aamir Khan, Naga Chaitanya and Mona Singh, and was moderated by Prof Vasanthi Srinivasan, Faculty in the OB&HRM area at IIMB.

‘Human management is tough’

“Versatility and excellence are the hallmarks of your 30-year-old career. What keeps you going?” asked Prof Vasanthi Srinivasan to which Khan replied: “Fear”. Explaining, he said, fear and insecurity have their uses. “I don’t want anyone to see a weaker moment of mine as an actor. I am driven to entertain people in a better way. I am 57 years now but in my head, I am still 18! However, I am constantly working to stay relevant to young people. That’s why I want to do films for children ever so often because when a five-year-old loves your film, they will stay loyal to you for the next 15-20 years. That keeps me relevant to a younger audience.”

Recalling his meeting with the director SS Rajamouli after a special screening of the soon-to-be-released film Lal Singh Chaddha in Hyderabad, he said Rajamouli’s response made him pause and think and redo his entire voice-over. “The energy it took out of me was draining but the fear kept me going. I did not want to leave any stone unturned,” he said.

“My biggest challenge is human management, not creative challenges. As a director, you need to get the best out of everyone on the sets. During Covid, especially, I went through a lot of introspection. I have grown greatly as a person. It made me realise that it is the emotional and mental well-being of each one of us that makes us do good work. All of us must focus on emotional and mental health.”

Lal Singh Chaddha experience

On the subject of creativity in different fields, he said: “Teachers and creative people play a very important role in society. If you have a bad engineer, a bridge may collapse but with bad teachers entire generations can collapse,” he remarked.

Mona Singh, who successfully transitioned from television to movies, said she always knew acting would be her choice of career. “I’ve adapted to theatre and movies. I only have Plan A — and I work towards making it happen.” Aamir interjected at this juncture, saying: “Mona has been exceptional — she has hit the ball out of the park with her performance in Lal Singh Chaddha.”

From Naga Chaitanya, who hails from the first family of Telugu cinema, Prof Vasanthi Srinivasan sought to know what it takes for him to carve out his own identity. “Initially, there was a lot of pressure. I looked at it as a responsibility. Every generation is unique to its times and trends. Be adaptable and flexible and remember that trends may change but emotions are constant.”

On working with Khan and in Hindi films, Naga Chaitanya confessed that his Hindi was “very bad” and he used the time he got during the pandemic to improve his Hindi language skills. “I had the script six months before we started shooting and that helped,” he added.