An open letter to Aamir Khan from a die-hard fan on Laal Singh Chaddha
A few weeks back, two friends messaged me about Laal Singh Chaddha (LSC). One loved the film. The other hated it. They asked me if I had seen it. I said no. Then, they asked me if I would ever watch it. And, I said, probably not.
Saying I won’t watch a movie of yours astounded them. And it broke my heart. In a world where men, women, and children are dying in wars; where women are suffering because their right to have their own identity is snatched away from them; where there are people literally starving; and where there is genuine heartache, to say that my heart broke because I decided not to watch an Aamir Khan film is hyperbolic, at best, and completely insensitive, at worst.
A troll army will probably rip me to shreds (as they probably should). But I decided to say that to you in exactly those words because: My. Heart. Truly. Broke. when I realized that I, one of your biggest ever fans, like ever, genuinely, had absolutely NO interest in watching LSC. And that I anticipated that the movie wouldn’t do well — at all — in the theatres. And not for reasons that you or others may think.
Sure, there was an anti-LSC wave with the boycott movement. Many argued (rightfully) that we live in a world of OTT now where apart from the incredible content choices available to us, we can also see the original movie. So why would anyone bother with an ‘Indianized’ version of the same? Many said that the tastes of people had changed. All of this probably did affect the final box-office collections of the movie.
But what you probably don’t know and should know is that LSC — for the first time ever — did not appeal even to a die-hard Aamir Khan fan such as myself. For the first time, I saw in you what I (along with the millions in this world) have seen with other artists — when someone has genuinely lost their connection with the world and their audience. I felt similarly (but not to this extent) when Thugs of Hindostan (2018) came out. And also bombed.
Full Disclosure: I could barely sit through the first half of Thugs before I threw up my hands and just gave up watching it. That was the first time I felt that something had shifted in your world. The post-mortem analysis of Thugs movie suggested that the movie was a desi version of Pirates of the Caribbean. I didn’t care about that. In fact, you’ve been accused of adapting many international movies to the Indian market. And that never bothered me. Because you still made these movies your own. You figured out the syntax necessary for the Indian market and they worked fantastically for Indian audiences. So, no. Whether Thugs was a desi rip-off of Pirates or not did not bother me.
But what really bothered me was when you looked surprised in an interview when it was pointed out that your look in the movie was very much like Jack Sparrow in the Pirates movies. Is he so clueless that he had no idea? I thought then. Or did he actually not see any of the Pirates movies? I wondered.
You’d said the same when you made Ghajini (2008) and claimed that the director of the movie came up with the exact same idea during the time Memento (2001) had come out. Even then I’d wondered: did you not see the original?
The fact that you claimed that you were clueless and unaware of your movies and your looks being ‘copied’ from an original version really irritated and upset me. I mean…you SHOULD’VE known.
That brings me to LSC. When I first heard that you were adapting Forrest Gump (1994), my heart sank. I mean, it’s 2022 now. It’s been 28 years since the original came out. I mean, surely you realized that the world has changed in 28 years, right? That’s when I went back to your comments on Thugs and Ghajini and I started to think, maybe Mr. Aamir Khan doesn’t really watch any other content apart from his own. I mean, forget the pandemic and how it’s changed the viewing habits of people all over the world. Even pre-pandemic, you should have known that remaking a 20-something-year-old movie — frame-by-frame — was a bad idea.
I finally did see LSC. And while there are some heartfelt moments in the film, it is also painfully boring. It’s indulgent. It’s dated. It’s schmaltzy. And most of all, it feels extremely old-fashioned. What also really bothered me are some basic plot holes that the Aamir Khan that I remembered from back in the day would never allow.
1. The mother who makes her adult son believe there’s a nationwide outbreak of malaria to protect him from terrorist activities is the same mother who boldly sends her son to be a soldier and take part in wars? Really? You don’t see a problem with that?
2. The prisoner of war (POW) from Pakistan that Lal saves is simply ‘let go’ by the Indian government to figure life out for himself and he roams around free — albeit in a wheelchair — in India? And then decides he wants to go back ‘home’? And no one questions that? Seriously?
There were so many more core plot issues with the film but by then I had just given up. The entire time I watched it I thought why remake it frame-by-frame? Why does Rupa have to die? Why couldn’t you ‘adapt’ LSC, tighten the overall film, and give Rupa a happy ending in your version? Also, there were at least three moments in the second half when I thought the movie ended. But it continued.
Here’s the thing. EVEN if all of the above had been fixed to make for a tight 120-minutes movie, LSC would still JUST be an ordinary, sentimental, sometimes heart-warming movie. And maybe it would’ve worked on OTT. But even after just watching the trailer, I knew that your film would crash at the box-office.
Because…We. Are. In. 2022.
Also, here’s the thing. As a die-hard Aamir Khan fan, my expectation from you is that your film will set trends. For people like me: An Aamir Khan movie has to be more than just another movie. It has to break barriers. It has to create a new conversation for cinema and cinema lovers.
When you made movies like Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai, Taare Zameen Par, Rang De Basanti, Dangal and before that with Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahi or Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, you were bold and audacious. Your content was rooted within our country and our ethos, but also innovative and forward-thinking. That’s why I loved your films and held you in such high esteem.
But in 2022, when the world has changed so much, when people have incredible content available with a click of their remote controls, you give us Laal Singh Chaddha? A movie which, at best, belongs in the 1990s?
Forget your performance that people have had issues with, forget everything else. To me, your biggest crime with LSC is that it is just another movie. And not a very good one. It still astounds me that you thought LSC is your version of the best in 2022.
I think it started with Thugs and now with LSC, you appear to have gotten very ‘comfortable’ with your choices as an artiste. That you think that whatever you come out with, the audiences will lap it up. Even solid fans like myself. And that is creative suicide for any artiste, much less one who is as talented and driven as you.
Aamir, as a hardcore fan who is still rooting for you, I request you to please watch what talents from all over the world are creating. Please widen your horizons and binge on content on OTT. There’s some amazing work — original work — being created in India and all over the world.
Also, please get a new set of friends who will tell you like it is and give you the unvarnished truth about your choices. And the next film you pick, choose one not because you think it gives you the chance to perform as an actor, but because it has the potential to change the language of Indian cinema. Because that’s what we expect from you.
That’s what I expect from you.
A die-hard fan, who will never forgive you for the ‘Rupa underwear and banyan’ bit from LSC