A plush apartment peeping at the Arabian Sea at Mumbai’s carter road locality in Bandra poses a warm picture of a smiling man in his 30’s sporting a white kurta and light blue jeans welcoming you in his world. The moderately curly hair and grown up beard often taken as a symbol of serious intensities this time fails to separate the warmth, exuberance and excitement from the face of the debutant director who is associated with Bollywood’s superstar Aamir Khan since TAARE ZAMEEN PAR (2007). Meet Advait Chandan – the fanboy turned assistant, turned manager turned director of our one and only Aamir Khan – the eldest of the Khan brigade and without any iota of doubt the most talented amongst his counterparts, is essaying the role of Shakti Kumar a flamboyant aging music icon in the years’ highly awaited Diwali Bonanza – SECRET SUPERSTAR starring the DANGAL girl Zaira Wasim in lead.
The sea during the afternoon seen from the sliding French window is calm, relaxed and so is Advait Chandan who after exchanging pleasantries shares his eventful journey in a heartfelt conversation.
Your first encounter with Aamir Khan
I was star struck completely when I met him for the first time. I have grown up watching him in RANGEELA, ANDAAZ APNA APNA and I started working with him at the age of 19 with TAARE ZAMEEN PAR, it’s been 11 years since I know him. I am so close to him now, he is my guru, my mentor. I started as a fanboy and went on to become an assistant director to manager to full fledge director only because Aamir sir took the lead, gave me the opportunity and treated me like an equal and allowed me to become his manager and later the director of SECRET SUPERSTAR. I have always learnt from him and am still a fanboy.
The idea of SECRET SUPERSTAR is entirely yours or it has inputs from Aamir Khan
The idea is entirely mine and I took a full bound screenplay to Aamir sir. Kiran ma’am helped me in the journey of my idea to a screenplay. In fictional writing you are bound to encounter self-doubts, Kiran ma’am helped me in clearing those clouds and helped me in gaining the much needed perspective from the other side. It motivated and helped me to improve as I had someone in Kiran ma’am whom I respect and value the opinion as a creative person and who is also a friend guide. She really pushed me into this with her frequent reminders and queries like, “ Tune jo socha tha, kya hua uska? ”. I was anyway managing Aamir sir and was occupied. For doing something like this, you need a push and Kiran ma’am kept on triggering which resulted in the idea of SECRET SUPERSTAR reaching the scripting stage.
How did you manage the time to write SECRET SUPERSTAR, being a manager of a superstar like Aamir. How was it possible?
I love to write. Koi padhe ya na padhe (whether somebody reads or not) but I have enjoyed writing since childhood. Since school days, I have written adaptations of movies which I have seen. I have written the sequel of MR. INDIA for example. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad. Whether someone will read it or not, I just wrote for the joy it gives me and I still do. Like a member from the audience who is trying to make a film. For SECRET SUPERSTAR, I managed from the time I got. Sometimes work which was supposed to end in 15 hours ended in 12 hours so I got some extra time to write. While travelling from Mumbai to New York for DHOOM 3, I got maximum time to write for SECRET SUPERSTAR. In fact the most intriguing portions of SECRET SUPERSTAR are written during my journey in flight from Mumbai to New York/LA. During the climax shoot of DHOOM 3 in Chicago, I got time to write. The shoot use to happen at night and luckily this fanboy turned manager had all the facilities like vanity van so I use to write at night. Crucial scenes of PK where shot at night so I use to write from say 2:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. As a manager, you are not supposed to sleep as boss is working so I use to write and even my phone maintained silence during those hours.
How long it took you to write SECRET SUPERSTAR?
2 years, due to increase in Aamir sir’s commitment on work front the writing process experienced frequent breaks. You know how crazy it is nowadays when a movie is about to be released, so the mind space was not available and we use to get tired. I was not able to write daily for SECERT SUPERSTAR and it took me two years to present the first draft to Aamir sir.
Aamir Khan is known to give his inputs in order to make things better in movies in which he is involved, does Aamir has an open ear to other peoples opinion/suggestions?
He doesn’t take opinions of others seriously if they are against his gut feeling. He always has an emotional reaction towards an idea, plot, concept etc. People advised him not to do DELHI BELLY, why he continues to do SATYAMEV JAYATE in spite all the criticism? because he is powered by the emotional attachment to it as he believes that its something good and it needs to be done. People even questioned him while he was making LAGAAN I believe, so it’s difficult to change his opinion if he has made up his mind. He may listen but whether he will follow it or not depends upon his own gut feeling for the matter.
Was it difficult to direct such an actor who is ruled by his gut feeling in your debut, any creative differences occurred while directing Aamir for SECRET SUPERSTAR?
Amazingly, we jammed nicely. While going through the lines we discussed the possible innovations and came to an agreement. Everything right from the dress, mannerism of Shakti Kumar was decided during the preparations before going on the sets. Sometimes artistic spontaneity made a sudden appearance where Zaira did something and Aamir sir added an innovation which we used it for another scene. So it went on smoothly as he was convinced by the character he was playing in SECRET SUPERSTAR.
What you have to say about the alleged Hollywood inspiration behind the inspirational SECRET SUPERSTAR
SECRET SUPERSTAR is stolen from real life. It’s a mixture of incidents happened to me or the people I know in real life. I have taken it from there. There is no other influence. For example the ‘Ammi’ in the film while working in kitchen sings and dances, my mother use to do that too. I observed a type of shirt worn by someone and used it in the film.
From where did the seed of the idea of SECRET SUPERSTAR came into your mind?
During SATYAMEV JAYATE, my exposure to real life heroes increased, normally on screen we see heroes having everything – best of girls, cars even excelling in academics but the real life heroes I found during the show where so motivating that I wanted to tell a story through a mother and daughter. Plus the internet has really empowered the Indian middle class. The famous son of milkman – Shubham Jaglan who won the Junior World Golf Championships in 2015 is a living example. It’s a known fact now that Jaglan's major initial formative training was the result of his own learning’s from videos on internet. I myself completed a top course of scriptwriting online by paying Rs.5,000. The power of Internet if taken positively is empowering the middle class. It has opened the window of a new world to them. SECRET SUPERSTAR is a journey of a mother and her daughter and how the power of internet empowers them in their journey and dreams.