Meeting Aamir Khan

Aamir Khan is in the news… on many people’s minds, and twitter feeds, and facebook status updates. And not for a memorable film or an impactful episode of Satyamev Jayate. He said some things that some people are not happy with, and in case you do not know, you can read about it here.

In our India, people are free to say what they want to say as long as it is within the constitution’s Right to Freedom of Speech. Some people get affected and some don’t. Those who get affected are probably those who value the views of the speaker. So one needs to say things with care, and after much thinking. It becomes difficult, especially if the speaker is not far from the truth.

This raging controversy will take some time to subside, or till something else comes up to grab our attention, but the talk of Aamir Khan brought to mind my meeting with him a few months ago. It is posted on my autograph website, Just Autographs here, and reproduced below.

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Aamir Khan is one of the stars of my generation. Though never a hard follower of Hindi cinema, Aamir Khan’s first film (in 1988) QSQT and its music left a lasting impression on the teenage mind.

My neighbour Tabassum aunty’s family in Bombay had close connections with Aamir Khan through the film industry. Her son, Abid, studied at my mom’s nursery school and he started playing chess at a very young age (and went on to become a force to reckon with, in Karnataka). During one of their holidays in Bombay, he got to play with Aamir, who is also said to be a very good chess player. Aunty was not aware of my autograph-collecting passion so when she heard, she gave us this rare picture instead.

Bombay Jan 1994
Aamir Khan playing chess with Abid, Bombay, January 1994

As I write this, in April 2015, the sprightly actor has crossed his 50th birthday and recent newspaper reports indicate that Aamir Khan has become a 90-kg roly-poly, in preparation for his next film ‘Dangal’, where he plays wrestler Mahavir Phogat. Hard to visualise the guitar-playing youngster of QSQT in wrestling mode, but I didn’t have to imagine it.

I was at the Sports Authority of India’s Mumbai centre, visiting one of the administrators to discuss a plan to restore the toilets at the athletics facility. While we were talking, the officer mentioned that Aamir Khan was in the wrestling hall, training for his next film. Also underway was the process to select the two girl wrestlers Geeta and Babita, daughters of Mahavir Phogat. A handful of hopefuls for these roles were also being trained.

It was close to noon and the training session for the day was going to end, so I decided to hang around Aamir Khan’s car, vanity van and bodyguards, along with a few others. When he did emerge, it was clear to see why Aamir Khan could easily be mistaken for a heavy-weight wrestler. Only his charming boyish smile could give him away! With the vanity van as the backdrop, he graciously posed for pictures with every one who asked. I was the only one with a pad and pen in hand who was interested in an autograph and he readily signed for me.

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