Imran Khan is a star. In the little time he's been in the film industry he has tasted success and failure, but hasn't let either get to him. And he says what he likes best about stardom is the fact that he gets "great service" at restaurants.
Imran has been shooting round the clock for Aamir Khan's "Delhi Belly" directed by Abhinay Deo. There's patchwork shooting to be done for Soham Shah's "Luck", Imran's only other film on hand.
Says the affable young "Jaane Tu..." star: "For 'Kidnap' I beefed up a lot. Did weights and worked out rigorously. Then for 'Delhi Belly' I needed to get lean. Now I'll have to get bulky again for the remaining portion of 'Luck' which got stalled because of a railway strike in Nambia.
"I'll have to put on weight. I'll have to hit the gym very hard. I stopped going to the gym and cut down on my food intake drastically for 'Delhi Belly'."
Imran finds going to the gym very boring. "I'd rather exercise by living healthy and doing outdoor sports. I like offbeat extreme sports like scuba diving and roller skates. I wouldn't say I hate the gym. That's too extreme. But I find it boring.
"What I like about stardom is the great service I get at restaurants. I don't need table reservations."
It's been a decisive year for Imran. "And now for 'Delhi Belly' I've been working like a dog. It was quite an unsettling experience. On an average I had 15 new experiences every day. I can't complain about it. But it became too much to handle."
Imran describes "Delhi Belly" as a labour of love.
"It's back to the 'Jaane Tu..." feeling. We're all working as a team. We're all a pair of hands on the sets. When I shot for 'Kidnap' and 'Luck' I was treated like a star. I was called Mr Khan. I had my own van, and all the trappings. People started treating me differently. And I was very uncomfortable with that.
Imran startles you by saying he travels to Delhi by economy class for "Delhi Belly".
"I don't want to be treated differently. I don't even have to insist on travelling economy. It just happens. It's an Aamir Khan production. It's like a home production. This is how it's done here."
And then comes the second surprise. Imran has worked in Delhi Belly free of fee.
"Yeah, I haven't taken money for 'Delhi Belly'. How can I take money from Aamir after all that he has done for me? He did far more for me and 'Jaane Tu..' than any producer could. No, I can't charge him. Besides, 'Delhi Belly' is a niche English-language film. The budget is limited.
"Will I charge him for my next film with him? It'll depend on what it is."
Imran was never offered Kiran Rao's "Dhobi Ghat". "I wasn't even considered. I don't even know the story."
Unblinkingly forthright Imran admits his second release "Kidnap" was a disappointment.
"I had a blast doing 'Kidnap'. But strangely the people around me were a lot more affected by its failure than me. From the day I became an actor I prepared for my career to be a rollercoaster ride. You can't count on successes all the time.
"Anyone who has spent a long time in this business had better come to terms with the vagaries of the box office. One day you're up there. The next day...pow! You can't take failures to heart."
"Look at the heroes who came before me. Hrithik Roshan went through some major debacles after his first success. And look at where he's today. It happened to Aamir, Shahid, Salman...I'm prepared to go through the grind."
So far Imran has signed nothing after "Delhi Belly".
"My primary criterion is the script. The money comes much later. In any case those outrageous multi-film deals between corporate houses and actors are over. At this point I haven't signed anything because nothing excites me. I finish 'Delhi Belly', then complete 'Luck'."
After "Luck" Imran would be happy to wait it out for the next project.
"I'd love to do a rom-com. I'm being offered hardcore action films. They're very tiring to do. If nothing interesting comes up I'd be happy to take a holiday. Marriage? No plans yet. Avantika and I have been together for over six years. We're very clear about our relationship. But neither of us discusses marriage. We're happy being together."
Imran's thoughts on 2009?
"2008 was the most exciting year of my life. I look back and say, 'Wow!' In six months after 'Jaane Tu...' so much has changed. I feel I've grown up by a couple of years. As for Abbas Tyrewala's next I don't even know what the story is. I don't have to be in everything he makes. But we're still in touch."
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