Prior to the theatrical release of Dhoom 3 in December 2013, there was a lot of buzz and rumor about the story and cast. One of the surprises is that Aamir Khan would be a primary antagonist in this action thriller. While he has successfully performed in this kind of role before - in Ghajini, for example - it is not a role you typically expect from this actor.
When you watch an Aamir Khan film, you most likely see something with a socially-relevant message which is fairly modern in tone. As he explained in a rediff.com interview,
"I love anything that has to do with the positive side of the human spirit. I am hooked to anything that is well written and deals with the theme of rising above ourselves."
Aamir Khan was born into a family actively involved in the Indian motion picture industry for several decades. He began his film career at the age of 8. As an adult actor, he has appeared in more than 50 films. He has been awarded the Padma Shri (4th highest civilian award) and Padma Bushan (3rd highest) for his contribution to the arts in India. In April 2013, he was included in TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" list. According to A.R. Rahman:
"In a world of false diplomacy and evasiveness, Aamir is a straightforward man. A man of his word. His movies are commercial successes but they also display a sense of social responsibility: they tackle important themes, like poverty and education."
Here are 5 Aamir Khan films to watch if you are new to Bollywood.
Description: Epic sports drama. Lagaan takes place in the small village of Champaner, now in the State of Gujarat in western India, during the height of the British Empire in India in 1893. They are already overtaxed by the British but when Captain Andrew "Jack" Russell (Paul Blackthorne) announces that he will double the land tax from all villagers, they decide to oppose it. Russell offers to cancel the taxes of the whole province for three years if the villagers can beat his men in a game of cricket. Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) accepts Russell's challenge, though the villagers have never played this game before and do not even know a bat from a piece of wood. As the challenge is accepted, the interest grows and attracts Indians from all over the region, as well as the British from all over the country - as everyone gathers to see the "fair play" that the British will display against their counterparts, who are aided by Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley), Captain Russell's sister.
Why I Love This Film: This period piece demonstrates resilience and collaboration among a unique set of team-mates under extraordinary circumstances. The villagers put aside their differences to work together to achieve an impossible goal. Side note: If you aren't well-versed in the sport of cricket, you will become a fan after watching this film.
Description: Coming of age comedy drama. This is the story of three friends. Akash Malhotra (Aamir Khan) is fun-loving guy who doesn't believe in love. Sameer (Saif Ali Khan) is always looking for love in all the wrong places. Siddharth "Sid" Sinha (Akshaye Khanna) is the artist and more serious of the trio. He is sensitive, understanding, caring ... in short the perfect man for any girl. He falls in love with a middle-aged, slightly alcoholic divorcée Tara Jaiswal (Dimple Kapadia). Akash cannot understand this relationship and this causes a rift between them and they go their separate ways. When Akash falls for the vivacious, bubbly Shalini (Preity Zinta) he begins to understand Sid.
Soundtrack: With a rock-inspired sound that broke with traditional Bollywood film music, the pathbreaking soundtrack has received widespread critical acclaim. The contemporary music was composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy with lyrics by Javed Akhtar and is considered a major milestone and influence on Indian film music today.
Why I Love This Film: In a 2001 rediff.com interview, Aamir Khan said, "The only difference between Akash and me is that I believe in love. Akash doesn't." The film has a universal appeal - you feel you could meet these characters in any city around the world with a story pulled from real life - and, indeed it was, in a way. The story is rooted in writer-director Farhan Akhtar's diaries on his trips to Goa, his 1996 month-and-a-half long stay at New York, and a storyline narrated to him by a friend. Side note: For the role of Akash, Aamir Khan sported a hairstyle and goatee which were considered extremely stylish by fans.
Description: Drama. A young woman from England comes to India to make a documentary based on her grandfather's diary. She comes down to Delhi, and casts a group of five friends to play the pivotal roles of revolutionaries. However, products of modern India, the five initially refuse to be part of the project, as they don't identify with these characters from the past. But soon we see British India and the India of today run parallel and intersect with each other at crucial points. As the film reaches its resolution, the line between past and present blurs as they become one in spirit.
Soundtrack: The music reflects a combination of regional and contemporary songs written by A. R. Rahman& with lyrics in Hindi and English by Prasoon Joshi and rapper Blaaze. The soundtrack won a number of awards both in India and internationally.
Why I Love This Film: The transformation of a group of friends from carefree contemporary consumers into peaceful protestors then political activists gives this film significant impact and importance. This film left such an impression in the hearts and minds of viewers that a documentary titled Ru-Ba-Ru, after the movie’s hit song, examines how the film has shaped the way youth today look at their rights and duties.
Description: Nine-year-old Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary) just cannot seem to get anything right in class. When he gets into far more trouble than his parents can handle, he is sent to a boarding school. Things are no different at his new school, and Ishaan has to deal with the added trauma of separation from his family. One day a new art teacher bursts onto the scene, Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan), who infects the students with joy and optimism. He breaks all the rules by asking them to think, dream and imagine. The children respond with enthusiasm, except for Ishaan. Ram soon realizes that Ishaan is very unhappy, and he sets out to discover why. With time, patience and care, he ultimately helps Ishaan overcome his challenges.
Soundtrack: There are several stand-out numbers to this soundtrack which highlight the journey of Ishaan as he travels from a lost little boy to an achiever. Most of the music was composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy with lyrics by Prasoon Joshi. "Mera Jahan" was scored by Shailendra Barve and written by Gupte, with the latter also composing "Ishaan's Theme."
Why I Love This Film: Watching Ram work with Ishaan is inspiring. He not only transforms the life of Ishaan, but the boy's family as well. The film also provides viewers with an education on how children with dyslexia may experience the world. In a rediff.com interview, Aamir Khan explained, "In Lagaan, we dealt with the triumph of the human spirit. Here, we watch the triumph of a child's mind, and by extension, the triumph of minds of all children."
- Related Posts: Looking at Life Differently (Taare Zameen Par)
5. 3 Idiots
Description: Indian coming of age comedy drama. Based on Chetan Bhagat's best-selling novel 5 Point Someone, this is the story of three engineering students at a prestigious university. Years after their graduation, Farhan (R. Madhavan) and Raju (Sharman Joshi) search for their missing friend Rancho (Aamir Khan). They reminisce about their college days when Rancho incurred the wrath of their headstrong dean Viru Sahastrabudhhe a.k.a. "Virus" (Boman Irani) by daring to propose radical theories that directly contradicted his teacher's lessons. Later, Rancho begins dating Virus' daughter Pia (Kareena Kapoor), and gradually gains the dean's respect. Returning to the present day, Farhan and Raju uncover some previously unknown facts about Rancho that leads them to question everything they ever thought they knew about him.
Soundtrack: The modern soundtrack was composed by Shantanu Moitra with lyrics penned by Swanand Kirkire. The songs range from silly and fun-filled to beautiful and poignant. It definitely lifts your spirits.
Why I Love This Film: This is a great story about friendship, purpose, and following your passion in life. The characters are believable and relatable. It also deals respectfully with the issue of student suicide. The film ends with a fun, and unexpected, twist. Side note: Kudos to a 44-year-old Aamir Khan for successfully portraying a 22-year-old. He drank lots of water and lost weight to look younger. He also observed those in their 20s, interacting with them on Facebook and Orkut to better understand their mindset.
Don't know which film to watch first? The following video playlist includes trailers for each of these films, except Lagaan which currently has no official trailer available.
If you liked this post, check out our other Friday Five posts.
This post was first published on 25 October 2013. It was updated and reposted on 14 March 2014.