The Idiot is back. Back from his mysterious and disguised operation called, ‘Operation Spiderman’. Didn’t get it? Well, we aren’t going to put on the disguise. It’s Aamir Khan. So when asked by a journalist how he would define an ‘idiot’, the Phantom answered, (just before you see the answer, let me tell you that ‘Phantom’ was Aamir’s name in disguise while he used to make calls to his producer friend Vidhu Vinod Chopra) “Just as the Britishers must’ve thought that Gandhiji was one, least they knew that he was a genius, a master and a person who tread a different path in gaining independence. Likewise, in context to the film, an idiot is one who chose to be different in a good way.” Such words could’ve only come out from a person who always chose to tread a different path in promoting his films, a path many people would’ve rejected. But this tough guy stayed adamant and did it. He ate the road side food, stayed without luxuries, made friends with each person he met during his journey and invited them to his lavish premiere taking place today. Then Vidhu Vinod Chopra who was sitting next to him interfered, “All this was done by Aamir on my expense. Not only that, I had to fly him around in jet planes and then send him an extra eight gold finger rings which he gifted to each person he made friends with.” But all this and more in good humour took place this evening at Taj Lands End in Bandra where Aamir was present to address the Indian Press on his most indelible trip he had ventured upon to promote his film 3 Idiots. UK’s Harrow Observer columnist and Bollywood Hungama‘s London correspondent Devansh Patel brings you the exclusive excerpts from the press conference.
Why is the footage of your trip titled ‘The Ghost Who Walks’?
Vidhu – Now this is a joke and tells you the spirit of the game. In Kashmir, the only comic I read was Phantom – the ghost who walks. This whole game which was planned keeping in mind the child in us. I used to tell Aamir, ‘Hey, Phantom, how are you? Have you landed?’ So it was all fun.
Aamir – We had quite a large team on ground doing a lot of work. But when the team was on location before I began my trip and used to call me, they used to take my first name and that was ‘Aamir’. In doing that, they were finding to take my name pretty awkward while they were travelling in taxi, auto rickshaws, buses, etc. They needed a code name and thus ‘Phantom’ was born.
Vidhu – Aamir was the fifth team which went to these locations. Previously, my four other teams went for location hunting and making sure that his security is taken care of, etc. The people in the marriage didn’t know that Aamir Khan was coming to attend their marriage. They were told that a foreigner was going to visit to shoot a documentary. What was important for us to know was the ground work as to how many marriages were taking place in that village in Punjab. The operation was huge and wasn’t easy how it looks on the tele.
Before Aamir four other teams went for location hunting and making sure that his security is taken care of
But when Aamir Khan disappeared, you (Vidhu) said that you were not aware of anything? How come you know so much about it now?
Aamir – You fell in the trap of Vidhu Vinod Chopra? (Laughs)
Vidhu – Let me tell you, all this was a light hearted fun game we thought of playing. If I never knew about this game, it wouldn’t have been possible. I mean, who would fund it then? (Laughs)
Was your journey a forbidden one?
Aamir – Well, for me, it wasn’t forbidden. The entire journey was very exciting. Wherever I went, be it Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, etc, I had a great experience. I understood what these people have in their mind, their hopes, their aspirations, their issues, what things trouble them, their dreams, etc. I had the first hand experience and I loved it. Plus, this was also a marketing plan designed to promote our film. This is the most diverse marketing I’ve ever done to promote my film and I am thrilled. I wanted to stay away from interviews this time and promote the film like this. But the most vital thing about this trip was to understand my country and see it from as close as possible. Another layer of this marketing plan was to highlight different issues. For example, before I went to Chanderi, I was told that the weavers out there are in a bad state. They are leaving their creative work and doing manual labour. Their kids aren’t learning this craft. Through our promotion, all the people across India will watch their plight and understand them and issues like these will be given some significance. Likewise, I wanted to address the education in Gujarat too. Small villages have free education up to seventh standard and girls have free education. And many more. All this was enriching.
This is the most diverse marketing I’ve ever done to promote my film and I am thrilled. I wanted to stay away from interviews this time
How useful will this entire marketing stunt be in 3 Idiots success?
Aamir – I don’t know. This was an idea which I liked and I did. I don’t know what kind of results will such a marketing plan generate. There is no yard stick to such a thing. This is something that has never been done by any actor in the world. Aap acchi film ko chalne se rok nahi sakte aur ek buri film ko aap chala nahi sakte.
Vidhu – If the film is good, people will go and see it, whether it’s Lage Raho or Eklavya or 3 Idiots. I think if this film is bad, no matter where Aamir Khan travels, it won’t go beyond Friday. I’m confident that my film will be houseful on a Thursday but what will happen on Friday, I don’t know. People won’t purchase tickets because Aamir Khan was travelling in disguise all over India. 3 Idiots isn’t going to be a flop or a hit because of our creative marketing strategies.
When you decided to go to all these places, was the plan as to what you’d be talking pre-decided?
Aamir – I never planned what to talk to people because I never knew who I was suppose to meet. I went to Varanasi because my mother spent her childhood days there. But earlier, I decided to sleep at Varanasi’s railway platform the entire night because our railways bind the whole country. I wanted to interact with the people on their life, their city and their railways. So, one thing led to another and thus began a journey filled with memories which I’ll never forget. I was suppose to spend my day at the railway station but landed up walking the streets of Telianaka in Varanasi.
We hear that there is an invite to Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan to attend tomorrow’s premiere?
Aamir – This is not my film but Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s. He will tell you the invite list (laughs). On my personal guest list are those with whom I made friends in Varanasi, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, etc. In total, I’ve sent twenty five invites.
Vidhu – Yes, I have sent invites to Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan and I hope they come. But them coming or not coming is up to them, and not me.
Did anyone recognise your disguise?
Aamir – Yes, it happened in Tamil Nadu at the temple in Mahabalipuram. It’s a great temple and there were so many tourists. I was one of them. But there was this small girl with her family insisting her parents that the man in disguise was me, Aamir. The small girl recognised me but her family didn’t. They never knew that my security was standing right behind them while they were arguing the question – Is he Aamir or not? Their family must’ve known that I wasn’t Aamir Khan because he has eight packs (laughs).
There was this small girl with her family insisting her parents that the man in disguise was me, Aamir. The small girl recognised me but her family didn’t
Brief us a bit about your food habits while you travelled.
Aamir – I’ve had the most delicious food ever in my life. Most of the time, I had food at the dhabas. I lived on dhaba food. I used to eat on the roads, highways, etc. In Gujarat, I ate in the school from a dabba which one of the school girls fed me. Her grandmother had cooked the yummy food.
Were you (Aamir) inspired from Rahul Gandhi’s visit to small villages?
Vidhu – I’d like to say something out of context here. Whatever Rahul Gandhi is doing is very good and I am a strong supporter in what he is doing. He is doing much better than the other politicians sitting in their air conditioned bungalows and flats minting money. But our Indian Press will call all of this a mere ‘drama’. Aamir has travelled for nearly 60 to 70 hours, had road side food and lived in small hotels which didn’t have air conditioning. If I was given this task, I couldn’t have done it. It is a difficult job to do, whether Aamir Khan or Rahul Gandhi is doing and I respect both of them.
There was news that Vidhu said, “If this is an Aamir Khan film, why can’t the prices of tickets be raised.”
Aamir – Did you say that Vidhu (laughs)
Vidhu – I want to clarify a few things here. This is a Raj Kumar Hirani film. Firstly, the film belongs to the writer and the director. Then it becomes an actor’s film and then finally it becomes a producer’s film. All these talks are rubbish and in today’s day and age, nobody wants to read something good. Everybody wants to read bad news. This is one such news. It’s a supply and demand. Why can’t the Press argue over matters in different rates in morning shows and evening shows, why do they have to argue over how much is Aamir Khan charging and why the ticket prices have shot up?
There is also news that 3 Idiots is going to release on DTH this Monday.
Vidhu – I am saying that it isn’t going to release. Somebody is printing but at least ask me before you print something.
What about the Rajneeti promo? We heard that it’s not going to be shown with 3 Idiots.
Vidhu – (laughs) Main yeh taaza taaza padh kar aaya hoon. And you know what else is written in the papers? I’ll tell you. Vidhu Vinod Chopra is a very moody person. He will do whatever he feels like doing. Vidhu Vinod Chopra is insecure. I sometimes laugh reading such news. The decision of the promo is taken by the guys who run the lab and not the producer or an actor. They see what is the length of the film and accordingly insert the right promo. Here were seven film promo’s waiting to go with 3 Idiots.