Advait Chandan reveals that being the manager of Aamir Khan helped him learn a lot about the process of making a film. Chandan, who debuts as a director in Bollywood with Secret Superstar revealed that Mr Perfectionist doesn’t like to act in subjects that are over dramatic or have a very plain climax. Having worked with Aamir Khan as a manager for a long time, Chandan discovered the things that Aamir Khan looks out for in a script and he kept all of them in mind while writing Secret Superstar.
As the film is slated to release this Diwali, the director in an exclusive conversation with us spoke about the film, Aamir Khan and a lot more.
Was direction always on your mind?
Direction was always on my mind. It was one of those things that I used to get scared to admit. I always wanted to be in a film industry as I have grown up watching films. I never told Aamir Khan as well that I want to be a director. I went to him with a full bound screenplay, he liked it and then how he got to know about my ‘Keeda’ for direction.
What motivated you to write Secret Superstar?
I met a lot of people during Satyamev Jayate and that was a big exposure for me. That experience defined the term hero for me. For me a hero is someone who is battling society and not the one who has six pack abs. So from there I started writing this story about a mother and a daughter and how internet changes their life. I discovered that the middle class is getting benefited the most by the internet and I wanted to explore this aspect in my film.
How did you decide to cast Zaira Wasim in Secret Superstar? Did the casting happen before Dangal?
Zaira was already a part of Dangal when Aamir sir made me meet her. I met her and in 20 minutes I realized that she is a fantastic actor. I tried my best to convince Aamir sir to drop her from Dangal and let me launch her, as she would be playing the titular role over here. My film would not have been possible without Zaira. But he didn’t agree. I even spoke to Nitesh Tiwari, but even he didn’t agree. Later, I took a break for 6 – 7 months, then Dangal was shot. After Dangal, we started shooting for Secret Superstar.
Aamir Khan is known to keep test screenings….
(Cuts in)… That helps a lot. He is the only one in Bollywood who is doing it. He is doing it for years. We get to know the response of audience well in advance, so we can change the things that didn’t work for the audience in test screenings. We get to know the strengths and weaknesses of the script and the test screening makes the product better. We did make a few changes in Secret Superstar after getting the feedback from test screenings. It is a very important process.
Do you think it is comparatively difficult for content oriented films to do well at the Box Office as compared to commercial entertainers?
I think that any content oriented thing is commercial. Look at Hindi Medium, it is content oriented but a hit at Box Office. If you add Aamir Khan in any content oriented film, it just gets bigger. If you look at his filmography, it is full of content oriented subjects, but his presence amplifies the reach. Look at Taare Zameen Par, it is such a huge success. Even Dangal isn’t a conventional subject.
Was it difficult to convince Aamir Khan to come on board?
I had written the role keeping Aamir Khan in mind. It is a character full of himself and exactly opposite of what Aamir Khan is in real life. As an audience, I have seen him in 3 Idiots, Taare Zameen Par, Dangal or Satyamev Jayate, but not as a guy who flirts on the screen or has those antiques.
How involved was Aamir Khan in the entire process of making the film?
Aamir Khan’s guidance and involvement has been there through out. He gave me the freedom to work the way I wished to, but he was very involved in all aspects of making this film. It is very fortunate that I have access to him. I can use him and his knowledge about cinema to better my product.
And lastly, what sort of screen time does Aamir Khan have in Secret Superstar?
His role is a Tadka. How would Dal taste without Tadka? He is the flavour of our film and something that can’t be defined by putting a number in terms of screen time.
Secret Superstar releases on October 19.