“Aamir Khan is NOTHING like a superstar” – Nitesh Tiwari

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Writer Director Nitesh Tiwari is busy evening accolades for the superlative response to Dangal. In an exclusive interview with Faridoon Shahryar Nitesh deconstructs what Aamir Khan is all about. He talks about the star cast and what makes him confident about his film.

Huge expectations from Dangal and you showed the movie to the media on 21st, two days in advance? Where does this confidence come from?
It comes from multiple channels. Biggest reassuring thing is we know we were sitting on a story which is fantastic. The way screenplay got shaped up was superb. We used to talk with each other, me and Aamir Khan and team, that if we manage to achieve 80% of what we’ve written we’ll have something which is very good on our hands and I think we’ve managed to get more than that. What’s extremely reassuring is that the feedback we’ve got from the people we’ve shared our film with, lot of people from industry and complete strangers, different age groups. The response has been unanimous. That gives us a lot of confidence that we’ve a very good quality product in our hands.

Whoever has seen the film, be it Shabana Azmi, or Javed Akhtar has said that they haven’t seen such a movie in 10-15 years and same with Karan Johar as well. Kunal Kohli tweeted yesterday that it is an Oscar winning film. Can you just disconnect and look it as a viewer?
It’s very difficult for me to do that. It’s extremely difficult for me to disconnect from the movie and watch it as a viewer because I know each and every nanosecond of the film. So what people would see and what I see in the film is drastically different. People are going to react a lot to the content, I wrote the content. People are going to react on authenticity of wrestling, we planned and shot it. The reactions we’ve got from these big names have been extremely heartening. It proves that two years that we put in making the film was well worth it.

We keep hearing all the statements and rumors that Aamir Khan interferes in film making, he is perfectionist, he ghost direct his movies. But at the same time we see in the press conference he always has to mention about Nitesh Tiwari that this is his contribution. He always addresses you as Nitesh Jii, never calls you by your name. Who’s the real Aamir Khan? If you can deconstruct that?
Whatever you’ve said it’s all hearsay. He is probably the easiest going person I would’ve met from Bollywood. He has nothing like a super-star about him. He behaves like a common man. I would say on the contrary he takes lot of pressure off the director. He is so respecting of the directors and writers of the film. He himself has been a director and knows where to draw the line. He understands sentiments of a director. He didn’t even come for the shoot when he was not shooting. So where is the question of so called interference?

Aamir Khan has also said that Nitesh Tiwari is on the lines of Raju Hirani, with social message and at the same it’s hugely entertaining. Do you take that as a compliment?
I take that as a compliment. Although I don’t make any conscious efforts to be like anyone. But I am a big fan of Raju sir.

Was it tough with four debutantes?
It was not tough because we tested them for really really long and until we were 100% convinced we didn’t shortlist or zeroed down anyone.

It has been said Fatima, Sanya, Zaira… They are going to be big stars after the movie!
All of them, they have given solid takkar to Aamir Khan Sir, along with their mother Sakshi. Betiyon and maa ne milke solid takkar di hai Aamir Sir ko acting department mein.

Anything that you would like to share about the experience of working with Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar and the girls?
Aamir Khan is a treat to work with. Someone of his stature who’s going to give you two years of undivided attention to your project, who’s going to risk his health just to live the character which you’ve conceived, who’s going to injure himself trying to learn wrestling whether he is overweight or whether he is fit, who’s going to spend 5 months just to lose the flab he has gathered to play a character so that he can play a small portion in your film which is a wrestler to learn Haryanvi 5 months in advance rather than 2 weeks in advance so that language is a part of his body so that you can concentrate on the emotions rather than focusing on language more. Sakshi is an absolutely phenomenal actress and you would see her in a very different version in the film. Sakshi is one such actor who is going to prove you that you do not need punchlines to make an impact in the scenes; you can be silent and yet say a thousand words. The girls are like more than fantastic. They’ve been through so much and enough has been written about them, they have been through hell just to prepare for this role.

What has been the best thing of working with Aamir Khan?
He teaches you so many things and his love for the country and people and his sheer willingness of be a part of social change and be of help to people. It’s so overwhelming; just see what he is doing with water cup to make Maharashtra free from draught situation. It’s amazing, hats off to that man.

Would you like to work with Aamir Khan once again?

Do you have a concept in mind?
I wish I had.

Do you think Aamir deserves to win a National Award for his performance in Dangal?
Without a doubt!

– By Faridoon Shahryar