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Aamir Khan gets booked

A coffee-table book on Aamir Khan — despite little assistance from the star himself — will hit the shelves this month

For a veteran photojournalist with over four decades of experience, writing a book seems like a logical progression.

But every book has its quota of obstacles. Pradeep Chandra knows that quite well by now as he’s already published two books earlier. Both were tributes to personalities he shares a deep connection with: Amitabh Bachchan and MF Hussain. However, this time around, it was a rather different challenge as the very subject of Chandra’s latest book — Aamir Khan — didn’t appear too keen on cooperating with him on his photographic endeavour.

Aamir Khan
Aamir Khan

Published by Niyogi Books and titled Aamir Khan: Actor, Activist, Achiever, the pictorial biography contains rare pictures of the Dhoom 3 star. It took Pradeep about a year to compile the photographs, stills, essays as well as interviews conducted exclusively for the book. So why Aamir, and not anyone else among his equally famous contemporaries?

Turns out, the eminent photographer has been a fan of the celebrated actor for years. “After a book on Bachchan and Hussain saab, I was wondering whom should I focus on next. For some reason, Aamir Khan was an ideal candidate but it was the social impact of his TV show Satyamev Jayate that reinforced my interest in him,” says the 63-year-old.

Though the idea was interesting, it was only when he got down to working that he realised that Aamir didn’t reciprocate his earnestness. “Even after informing him on several occasions that I’m writing about him, there was not one particular instance when he showed concrete interest. But then, we know how busy actors could be so I simply went ahead with whatever I could manage on my own,” adds the mild-mannered gentleman.

Photojournalist Pradeep Chandra’s book on Aamir Khan in a pictoral biography.Pic/ JP Singhal

Along with photographs, the book features perspectives of those who know Aamir from close quarters. As a result, there are anecdotal tidbits — mostly supported by pictures — throughout the read. “Ask anybody in the industry, and they’ll talk about Aamir’s greatness and professionalism. But I wanted to go a bit beyond that and support these observations with stories filled with a personal touch,” he says.

In the middle of the book, there’s one such incident involving Aamir’s decision to patiently stand for five hours for a sculpture. It was part of promotional activities for Sarfarosh (1999) and the National Award-winner was more than willing to pose. According to Pradeep, things were simpler last millennium. By things, he’s referring to the days when PRs (public relations reps) didn’t call the shots as far as media interaction went.

As a kid, Pradeep used to venture into Filmistan near his house in Goregaon and once spotted director Shankar Mukherjee splashing water on Suchitra Sen in preparation for a sensual scene. “I was lucky to grow up in an era when stars not only picked up phones but also welcomed photographers to their film sets. Today, it’s all corporate and secretive,” he elaborates. Of course, there were exceptions too. For instance, Govinda made Pradeep wait for hours only to profusely apologise later. “He was funny,” Pradeep adds.

On being asked which of the younger actors he’d like to feature in a book someday, pat comes the reply Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. “There’s something about Ranbir which makes you like him while Deepika comes across as someone born to be clicked.”

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