Once again the rules of this blog stop me from editing what Abbas has written. Let me warn you that Abbas is rather generous with his word count. Also, I hate stuff written about me.
Well anyway here goes.
P.S. - Based on requests we''ll have the song on for 2 weeks instead of 1.
December 2005. In a small office-cottage in Aram Nagar, I sat alone with my girlfriend Pakhi. Most of the technical crew contracted to work on a film called Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na had slowly drifted away –aware through an unspoken understanding that the prospects for our film getting made anytime soon looked bleak. This was the office that we had chosen and done up in shades of happy red to be the home of JTYJN. The lease was about to end, and we had not shot for a single day.
We were talking about the fact that even though the film had not gotten made, it had led to the discovery of such amazing people: she, my wife-to-be. My cameraman Manoj Lobo. So many members of my fresh-from-the-oven cast and crew. And this wonderful, incredibly warm and funny boy called Imran who would have been so perfect for the part of Jai Singh Rathore.
Oh what the heck! There would be other times and other films, and we would all find a way to work together again.
Just then Imran dropped by. He used to work out in the area and used to drop by to inquire if we were making any progress. I had started feeling a slight pang of guilt every time I saw him. Here was a guy not particularly interested in acting in Hindi films, who had now taken to the idea of playing a character that would never see the light of a Kino. Jhamu Sugandh was a wonderful man and a generous producer, but his situation was precarious and we had finally realised that he would not be able to see the film through.
After a few cursories, Imran asked if I was willing to approach another producer with the film. In that instant, I knew the producer he had in mind. He said that Aamir had heard the story and had been reasonably impressed with it when Imran had come aboard. He was now willing to give it a serious listen and consider producing it. I looked at Pakhi, who had never, ever let me give up on the film. Her eyes were shining – I’m not sure if it was just excitement.
May 2008. Aamir Khan took Jaane Tu... to his fans with a fervour and vengeance that I have never seen in a producer, director or an actor ever before. He introduced Imran to his fans with a warmth and affection that few fathers bring to their own children. He got switched on every limelight that could only be switched on for a Super-Khan, and then trained it on a first-time director and his raw, wet-behind-the-ears team. He stood up and said, “If my films have meant anything to you, know that this is my film.”
There we were in Pune, with a crowd of eight thousand singing “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na...” along with Imran while Aamir smiled on. Another ten thousand people on the streets of Nagpur singing “Kabhi Kabhi Aditi...” along with Aamir while I laughed in delight. And three floors of a mall in Delhi bursting at the seams with people yelling “Meow, Meow” to Genilia as we walked in.
And all I could remember was the time when I complained to Aamir regarding his unavailability as a producer. TZP was taking up all his time and I was feeling a little cheated because I couldn’t get a day of discussion slotted into his schedule. And he had said, “Abbas, I’m giving you Mansoor Khan. I believe he is the best director I have ever seen. You won’t miss me. I really think you guys will do a great job. As for my role as producer, I promise you that when the time comes to promote and publicize Jaane Tu..., you will not feel that I have neglected the film.”
Luckily, he did manage to steal some time along the way. When I saw the first rushes of Jaane Tu, I was stumped. Could a film possibly look this awful? Even Mansoor bhai was sombre. Imran, I suspect, was devastated. It looked like complete rubbish to us. I was quite certain Aamir would want to cut his losses and put an end to the nonsense.
Instead, he smiled and said, “Its fine. It looks good to me.” I remember wondering if an entire generation (or two) had over-estimated Aamir Khan. But he was insistent that it was working. He simply reaffirmed his only request/demand as a producer – which was that I shoot exactly the script I had narrated to him. He was aware, I think, of how fidgety I was getting about shooting such a simple tale. Evil gangsters were beckoning to me from the shadows, making cinematic suggestions I could not refuse. How could I spend such a large chunk of my life telling a story about two kids in love? Especially when I was clearly ruining it. And with a producer notorious (at least in the secret circles of gossip) for being dissatisfied with most directors?
All he said was, “You haven’t seen too many assemblies, have you? Most look worse. As far as you shoot the script you narrated to me, you’ll be ok.” And for weeks – months – all of us rode his naive confidence. We hung in there, hoping he wasn’t as wrong as a film release during a world cup final, and saw the film through. And I must admit, as we went along, we started thinking of it less as awful, and more as just a bit dull.
When the first cut of the film was screened for the core team, almost everyone was stunned. By almost everyone, I mean everyone including Mansoor bhai, Imran and myself. The only person who sat there grinning smugly was Aamir Khan. His belief in the value of a good script had been vindicated yet again.
Now, we all start off on journeys of our own. I to make another film without Aamir to tell me it will be ok. Imran on his next few projects without a doting uncle to say, “Watch him, he’s terrific.” Genilia to prove that Jaane Tu is just the beginning of her calibre as an actor, not the limit. In the long run, all of us are on commission, not on salary. And we will have to earn our place in the cluttered shelves of your attentions and affections.
But for today, I say to all of you who love Aamir Khan... he’s played human. He’s played hero. He’s played cricketer and cop, rebel and revolutionary, gangster and goon. But on Jaane Tu... he has played for the first time a superhero. He flew to our rescue, and then let us fly. He gave us hope, and then kept the faith. He trusted us, and because we trusted him, we learnt to trust ourselves.
Someone please give the man a cape.