Aamir Khan’s ‘Discovery Channel’ is impressive!

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Aamir Khan with Zaira Wasim in Secret Superstar. Photo: Spice PR

Aamir Khan turns 57 on March 14, the eldest of the three big Khans who were all born in 1965. Among them, as an actor, he has got the reputation of being the most consummate and dedicated. He appears rarest among them (Mangal Pandey—The Rising released a full 4 years after Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai, while Laal Singh Chaddha will now hit the screens 4 years after Thugs of Hindostan) and yet makes a huge mark.

Everything is known about him, except for one startling fact: that he has been the man who introduced or mentored several new talents across the board. Traditionally, filmmakers like Yash Chopra, Dev Anand, Subhash Ghai and some others are known to be “discovery channels”, but as a producer in the last 21 years, Aamir has also given the film industry so many successful talents in Hindi cinema. We will not enumerate other names that failed to make a mark, but they add to the list of his discoveries, like director Anusha Rizvi in Peepli [Live] and foreigners in Lagaan and Dhobi Ghat.

Let us look at them in chronological order.

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Lagaan (2001)

Aamir’s own debut as a producer remains impressive! Not only did the film do quite well in most of India and overseas, it was also India’s official entry to the Oscars that year, and went as far as the Top Five.

The film marked Ashutosh Gowariker’s breakthrough as director after two disasters (Pehla Nasha and Baazi) and also introduced Gracy Singh, who went on to star in Munna Bhai MBBS, Gangaajal and some other hits and also became a fairly big name in TV serials later.

And though it did not really introduce them, Lagaan is the reason why most of the audience and even the industry noticed character artistes Aditya Lakhia, Rajesh Vivek, Yashpal Sharma and Daya Shankar Pandey.

Taare Zameen Par (2007)

Marking the debut of Amole Gupte as writer, the film saw Aamir taking over the directorial reigns from his writer to become a superb helmsman with the right mix of art and commerce. The film marked big-time for lyricist Prasoon Joshi and character artiste Vipin Sharma, who had till then acted only in a 1996 flop, Krishna. He has since become an acting coach as well, writer, editor and director. Child star Darsheel Safary also became a sensation for a while.

Aamir Khan’s newphew, Imran Khan, was introdcued in Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na. Photo: Publicity Photo

Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na (2008)

This film marked the debut of writer-lyricist Abbas Tyrewala as director, and introduced Aamir’s nephew, Imran Khan (who played Aamir as a kid in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander) as a hero and Pratiek Babbar in a key role. Manjari Fadnis got her first hit four years after a flop debut. And Benny Dayal made his Hindi debut as a playback singer.

Delhi Belly (2011)

The film introduced Marathi filmmaker Abhinay Deo as a hit director. Delhi Belly was doubtlessly instrumental in getting him his acclaimed TV serial, 24, which featured Anil Kapoor as one of the directors.

Dangal (2016)

This was a showcase of new female talent. Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra are now famous on their own steam. So, for a while, was Zaira Wasim, who quit films after a while for “religious reasons”.

Nitesh Tiwari had co-written and co-directed the brilliant success Chillar Party in 2011, but it had not got him fame, while co-director Vikas Bahl had barged ahead with Queen. Nitesh had then directed the average Bhoothnath Returns. But it is Dangal that made him a name to reckon with.

The film also was the breakthrough for Aparshakti Khurana as a character artiste after some flops.

Secret Superstar (2017)

Zaira Wasim was introduced as the lead here, and the man who made a true mark was the redoubtable Raj Arjun as easily one of the most chilling villains—he played her chauvinistic and regressive dad. The film introduced Advait Chandan as a director.

Laal Singh Chaddha (2022)

This is Advait’s major break. The superb multi-lingual yet predominantly Hindi and Marathi actor, Atul Kulkarni, makes his debut as a writer, adapting the Hollywood film Forrest Gump. Naga Chaitanya Akkineni, the South superstar, will be also introduced in Hindi cinema.

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