Earlier this week, the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image, launched their film club, and luckily landed Sir Ian McKellen, who happened to be in Mumbai to kick off the the British Film Institute’s Shakespeare on Film programme, to appear at the opening event, in conversation with Aamir Khan.
At the event at the Tata Theatre, where Sir Ian charmed everybody quite effortlessly, ‘Mr Perfectionist” Aamir Khan hardly looked or behaved like one of India’s biggest stars. He came dressed in a T-shirt and distressed jeans, which was much too casual for the occasion. The over-eager compere, Mini Mathur, called them “two legends” which was totally off the mark, since Aamir is neither senior enough nor erudite enough to be called a legend...yet. In fact, Amitabh Bachchan or Naseeruddin Shah would have been better choices for a conversation with a genuine legend like Sir Ian—both being senior and articulate.
Aamir body language suggested a chat with a college buddy, he sat with one leg folded under him on the chair (which was admittedly uncomfortable-looking), sipped water continuously and kept glancing at his cell phone.
Aamir was clueless about Shakespeare, and had not done even a basic Google search on Ian Mckellan, didn’t know anything about his work as a Shakespearean actor of great repute and asked him a cub reporter questions like, how did he begin his acting career. There was a lot of discussion about Sir Ian’s coming out as gay—and he came up with some funny anecdotes-- and some interesting talk about the process of acting. Aamir’s body of work is in no way as extensive or varied at Sir Ian’s, but he was still little show-offy, while the greater actor was full of humour and humility about his efforts in various stage and film productions. He spoke with affection and respect for his fellow thespians like Sir Laurence Olivier, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, while Aamir was full of himself.
Then came the big OMG moment— after Aamir asked Sir Ian to perform a piece, he said, wait, take a couple of questions, “I need to pee” (the unfortunate result of all that water guzzling) and walked off the stage. A more undignified way of excusing oneself cannot be imagined!
The seniors in the audience were appalled at what they perceived as crass behaviour, the young crowd thought his nonchalance in the presence of greatness it was cool. So the jury’s still out on this one.