Aamir Khan, the Bollywood superstar, cannot be seen roaming around in public. Or he is mobbed within minutes. But this is exactly what Aamir did, at the behest of his director-wife, Kiran Rao, during the shooting of Dhobi Ghat.
This is how it went: Kiran Rao, who wanted to shoot ‘Dhobi Ghat’ at real locations in Mumbai, decided to shoot a tricky scene at the crowded Mohammad Ali Road in south Mumbai. Now, not only did Kiran decide to shoot there but she went on to shoot the particular scene bang in the middle of Ramzan! To top it all, Aamir Khan, on whom the scene was being picturised, had never been to the location before that day of the shooting.
Now for those of you who might not be aware, Mohammad Ali Road is a crowded commercial and residential area of Mumbai, where, even on normal days, it is quite difficult to make one’s way past the bustling crowds. This predominantly Muslim area is teeming with festivities during the holy month of Ramzan, when people queue up for namaaz and Iftari (breaking of the Ramzan fast).
The scenario was no different on the day of the shooting, when Aamir Khan, wearing a helmet with a dark visor, came in to the area riding pillion on a motorbike. As per Kiran Rao’s instructions, Aamir got off the bike; took off his dark helmet in the middle of the choc-a-bloc market and started following a production hand named Ejaz. All that Aamir knew was that he had to follow Ejaz through the crowd till the complete scene was shot. He did not the camera placements (Kiran had installed several hidden cameras in the vicinity) or even the location of his co-actors, Prateik and Monica, whom he was supposed to cross by, towards the end of the scene. Wading through the masses, Aamir was nervous inside but calm on the outside.
Soon, a few people in the crowd started recognizing Aamir. The actor recounts, “I started hearing greetings of ‘Salaam Aamir bhai!’ all around. In my heart, I wanted to wish them back, but I couldn’t have done so without jeopardizing the shooting. So, I carried on and completed the shot.” As soon as the shot was canned, Aamir was mobbed by the festive crowd who then met their favourite star to their hearts’ content.
Kiran Rao, on the other hand, managed to shoot the whole scene, but only after a retake. After about four hours, she and the unit returned to the same spot to retake the shot. The multitude at Mohammad Ali Road had been replaced by then. Again, Aamir, wearing the dark helmet, came riding pillion…