LAAL SINGH CHADDHA Star Aamir Khan Talks Adapting FORREST GUMP, His Surprising Inspiration & More (Exclusive)

We sat down with Bollywood legend Aamir Khan, one of the biggest movie stars in the world, to talk about his upcoming release Laal Singh Chaddha, which is an official adaptation of Forrest Gump!

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Tomorrow, get ready to run, run, run to the theater because Aamir Khan Productions and Paramount Pictures' joint-production Laal Singh Chaddha, their long-awaited Forrest Gump adaptation, finally arrives across the globe. 

The film stars Bollywood legend Aamir Khan (3 Idiots; Lagaan) in the title role as Laal Singh. In 2017, Forbes and Newsweek both described Khan as the "world's biggest movie star," after his critically acclaimed sports drama Dangal broke the all-time record for the highest-grossing Indian film ever - a record it still holds today and one that may not be broken for quite some time. He's actually broken the box office record four times, as his films 3 IdiotsDhoom 3, and PK all once held the record as well.

With Laal Singh Chaddha due out in theaters this weekend, over the Raksha Bandhan holiday in India, we were granted an exclusive and incredibly rare opportunity to sit down with the Indian icon to talk about his latest film.

He speaks at length about the process behind adapting the Tom Hanks classic, how Laal Singh proved to be his most challenging role ever, reuniting with Kareena Kapoor Khan, finally working with his longtime friend Shah Rukh Khan, and more. 

Check out the full video interview below!

ROHAN: Adapting a classic like Forrest Gump is basically like adapting Lagaan or Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge; they're all iconic, and you have to not only retell the story effectively, but also recapture that magical feeling. What was it about this story that most interested you or was it the character of Laal Singh?

AAMIR: Well, the way it happened was, quite by accident, you know, I had never planned to make Forrest Gump. It was one of my favorite films, but the thought of remaking it or adapting it and making it in India had never occurred to me.

Atul, my friend, who's also acted with me in a number of films, he and I were chatting one night and we were discussing films, and he asked me, “What is your favorite film?,” and I said, one of them is Forrest Gump, and we spoke a little bit about the film, and the night ended, and I forgot about it.

Two weeks later, Atul calls me up and says that, “I have a script for you,” and I said, “Oh, what is it?” He said, “It's an Indian adaptation of Forrest Gump,” and I said, “Oh.” - *laughs* - and I was like, taken by surprise. I was really taken aback because one, Atul has never written before. He's never written a script before, and two, because Forrest Gump is not a film you mess with. It’s a classic, and you don’t want to mess up. It's a little difficult too, also imagine because it's so rooted in American culture, it's so difficult to imagine it in any other culture for that matter. I was like, okay, and then, the third thing was that he just took two weeks to do it, and I was like - *laughs* - I don't know how, what is it going to sound like? So, I was not very keen to hear it, and I didn't have much hope, but he said, “You must hear it!,” and I was also wanting to hear it, but I was busy, and, I didn't really have much expectations of this, so I wasn't taking it seriously.

Then, one day, he called me and said, “Do you realize it's been two years since I've been following up with you, and you haven’t heard the script?,” and I said, “I'm so sorry.” He said, “Well, I by now realized, you don’t want to do it, but just hear it. I've spent some two weeks writing it.” So, I laughed, and I said, “Okay, I'm gonna hear it today.” I was in my house, in the mountains, in Panchgani, and I said, “Where are you?” He was in Pune, which is about two hours away, and I said, “Can you come down now, and let's hear it today.” And he said, “Okay, I'm driving now.”

So, he came down, and he narrated the script to me, and that's when, I just fell in love with it when I heard the script. That's when I realized that, I mean, I just fell in love with it, and it drew me to it, I realized that this is what I need to do, and it's something that I just fell in love with. I, what I couldn't imagine is how he had managed to adapt it so beautifully, and so seamlessly, it felt as if it's an Indian film, you know, and I kind of fell in love with it, and I decided I want to do it, and then, of course, it took us eight years to get the rights. But to answer your question, what really attracted me towards it, so it wasn't my idea to remake it, it kind of happened - and it happened by accident, and I just had to do it once I heard the script.

ROHAN: The film came out wonderfully, I really loved it. Laal is a very likable character, with this eternal youthfulness, and you've always been so great at playing these kinds of roles, with Rancho in 3 Idiots - which is one of the greatest films ever made - and PK, of course, and we see you just disappear into the role here again. Was Laal Singh one of your most challenging roles?

AAMIR: It was, it was because, as you know, the character goes through various ages, and at one point, he’s 18 when he goes to college and 20 and 21 - and I am 57 now, but when we started prep for the film, I was, you know, whatever, 53 or something, and I was like, that's gonna be my biggest challenge, to bring that really simple, real, raw, innocence and purity, because having gone through life in so many experiences, it's a little difficult to erase all of that. It’s a little difficult to unlearn everything that we've collected over the years, but that's what I needed to do, you know, to try and become the character, and that's what I struggled with the most, to be honest.

I was helped, from the strangest of quarters, from where I least expected it, and that's an interesting story, so, I'll tell you what happened. My son, Junaid, had gone to American Academy of Dramatic Arts to learn theater, and then he stayed back a year to do work for the company and do plays for them, and he was back in India after three years, and that was the same time that we had begun work on the film and Advait, is someone, who is very keen to have thrown his hat in to be the director of the film, and I also had a lot of hopes in him. I thought he was really good, he'd made a great film in Secret Superstar, but I said, “It's a very difficult film, Advait, and I am not sure you can handle it. So, what I'd like you to do is, I'm going to pick six or seven of the key scenes of the film, and I want you to shoot them, and I want to see it as a test. It's like a test for you. If you can handle this, then you can handle the film.”

So, he was in that process, and I had selected the scenes, and that's when Junaid was back from the U.S., and I said, “You know what, why don't you take Junaid and shoot this test? Because you need to do it without me. I mean, I need to test you. So, it should be with some neutral actor, and in the process, you’ll also see what he's learned.” So he said, “Okay,” and then two weeks later, they showed me the screen test.

Now, when I saw the screen test, both Kiran and I loved Advait’s work, so that became clear to us very quickly, that he's really proved himself as the right guy to direct it, but what really shocked us and what we didn't expect was that Junaid, who's acting for the first time, I mean, his performance was so charming. He was Laal Singh, and he's young, so the innocence of the youth, and even when he's an older Sikh, because the scenes were all across different ages, and even as an older Sikh, Junaid was so charming, because his innocence was so pure, and he didn't have to act it. It was almost as if we were watching Laal Singh.

So, it became a little difficult for me to see myself in the role after that, and the process of finally deciding whether I should do it, or he should do it, because I'd been dying to do this film for the last eight years, but when I saw his work, and I showed it to friends, colleagues, and all of us felt that you found Laal, that's, that's your Laal, and while we know you will do it well, but we think this is him, so you should take him in the film.

So, we almost decided that, but then Atul, who's the writer of the film, and Adi Chopra, who is a friend, were insistent from start that, no, you're making a mistake, and their point was that Laal Singh Chaddha, like Forrest Gump, is a very episodic film, the nature of it, the form of it, is fairly episodic, and you don't want to cast a new actor in that role, you need a star to kind of hold it and bind it together. That made sense to me, that made sense to me. So, I said okay, so we went with me, finally, in the casting, but that actually, the whole screen test that I saw, that was 20-21 minutes, that gave me the key, which I had to tune into to play the part because, and that's why I was saying, I got it from the strangest quarters, I never expected a new actor to actually give me what I should be getting for the part and when we were shooting the film, I would often go back to those six-seven scenes and watch how he had done it, because his take on things was so unusual that it really helped me you get a grip on the character.

ROHAN: With this, 3 Idiots and Talaash, you've made three very special films with Kareena Kapoor and you have such amazing chemistry with her. What is it like working with Kareena and why was she perfect for Rupa?

AAMIR: She is really amazing and working with her is like a dream. She's so wonderful as a person, as a human being. She's such a huge star, but she's really like a regular person and she's so amazing as an actor, she kind of just melts into the part and she becomes Rupa, when you give the shot, and it's it's really magical to work with.

ROHAN: The film takes a very bold swing with the Lt. Dan character, who is now Lt. Mohammed and has a very different story arc. It's a tricky balancing act, where you have to take him from Point A to Point B while navigating a lot of other variables. Can you tell me more about developing that storyline? Because, I think the message of the movie is really beautiful, proving that inherent goodness can overcome all. 

AAMIR: Well, this is actually Atul’s work that he was talking about. So, when we heard the adaptation for the first time, all of these things were already in place, the character of Mohammed. So, his adaptation from Lt. Dan was Mohammed and I thought that was amazing, a very, very creatively - a bold move to make, as a creative person, because he's actually playing with one of the lead characters of the film, and you're kind of twisting it around in a very unusual way, but Atul, in his first film as a writer has shown some bold moves, and I think they kind of worked for me, and so we went with all of that, but so, all of this is Atul’s work, really.

ROHAN: There's a special cameo early in the film with Shah Rukh Khan - I really wanted to see you guys on screen together - but it's a very nice moment. How did that come together and what is it like working with your friend Shah Rukh?

AAMIR: Well, we needed to find an Elvis, because that's what they used in the original. So, I think we found the perfect Elvis in Shah Rukh. Who better than Shah Rukh to be the Elvis of India, and he's been one of the biggest stars and I think he was just right, and it was really sporting for him to do that.

It was also great for Naga Chaitanya to do the part of Bala and Naga is a very popular actor in the Telugu industry and it was wonderful working with him. He's such a great actor and such a wonderful person. Mona was so wonderful to work with, she played Laal's mother, and she was amazing to work with. So, we had a great team and Advait was in his element. I think today, when all of us look at the film, we feel very happy that Advait, as a director, has managed to bring it very close to what we had imagined it would be, and we really all happy about that, and we're hoping people like it.

LAAL SINGH CHADDHA, a simple man whose extraordinary journey will fill you with love, warmth & happiness.

Watch Laal’s beautiful journey in cinemas worldwide on August 11th

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