Ian McKellen and Aamir Khan discuss Shakespeare and world cinema

These are the words of advice legendary actor and thespian Ian McKellen had to offer Aamir Khan, as the two chatted away on Shakespeare and world cinema

With a body of work as varied and vast as playing the formidable Magneto (X-Men) to the iconic Gandalf (Lord of the Rings), British actor and thespian Ian McKellen is also credited with bringing visibility to the life and works of Shakespeare. On his maiden visit to India, cinema and theatre lovers were treated to a conversation between him and Bollywood’s Mr Perfectionist, Aamir Khan, on Shakespeare and world cinema at large.

Aamir Khan and Sir Ian McKellen at the NCPA yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande
Aamir Khan and Sir Ian McKellen at the NCPA yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande

Dressed in a kurta, with an embroidered shawl draped around his neck, both experience and authority vividly present in his demeanour, the legend sat down for the conversation with the visibly awe-struck Khan. The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) occupied to the brim with cinema and Shakespeare lovers, had a dense air of poetry mingled with wit and humour as the two greats started off the evening with the stalwart describing his early years as an actor and his struggle while coming out as gay.

He said, “The most difficult part perhaps was getting intimate with a woman. That flirty charm with a woman, I simply couldn’t do it! Which is why I steered clear of those roles and soon, delved into negative characters.”

Quizzed about how difficult life in showbiz was after coming out as a gay man he says, “Any gay man will tell you, once you’ve come out in the open, everything becomes better – your art, your relationships, your life.”
The two actors engaged in playful banter with McKellen claiming that he wasn’t as confident as Aamir. At one point, he turned to Aamir and said, “Never play the villain, always play the charmer.”

When asked about that one essential ingredient that makes an actor exemplary he says, matter of factly, “A genuine interest in people.” The evening culminated with McKellen taking the stage with a monologue from a play, which had the audience on their feet in a standing ovation and asking for more.

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