Aamir Khan, the Bollywood superstar with a conscience, says his next movie, about a small-town teenage girl who uses the internet to become a singing sensation, will be much bigger than his last film, Dangal, the highest grossing Indian production ever thanks in part to huge success in China.
Khan, 52, plays a sleazy music producer in the film, Secret Superstar, and says he is second lead to teenager Zaira Wasim, playing a schoolgirl who defies her conservative Muslim family to pursue her dream of a singing career.
Dangal is based on the true story of a former wrestler who trains two of his daughters to become champions in the sport.
“While both are about the empowerment of the girl child, I feel it [Secret Superstar] is a much bigger film,” Khan said in an interview in Singapore ahead of the movie’s release this month. He and his wife have produced the film.
“While Dangal was about the dream of a father which a daughter fulfills, this is about the hopes and aspirations of a 14-year-old girl from a small town in India. I don’t know what the box office will be but it’s a bigger film than Dangal in what it’s trying to say.”
Khan appears in three of the four biggest grossing films ever made in Bollywood, as the Indian film industry is known – Dangal, PK, in which he played an alien dealing with religious divisions in India, and 3 Idiots, about the frailties in India’s education system.
All three have also done well in China, and Khan said he was “very happy with the type of relationship that’s building between me and my audience in this part of the world with each film”.
He also produced and acted in a popular television documentary series on social ills in India called Satyameva Jayate, or Truth Alone Triumphs.
That series led him to set up a non-profit to work on a project to ease the shortage of water in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, he said.
Despite the social messages in his movies, Khan said he has no desire to follow in the footsteps of other Bollywood stars who have become politicians.
“The desire in me to contribute back to society is something I can do very well in the field that I am in,” he said. “I don’t have to join politics. That’s an area I don’t ever want to go into.”
Khan, who belongs to India’s Muslim minority, was embroiled in controversy two years ago when he said his Hindu wife had asked him if they should move out of India over concerns about insecurity. Khan later said the family had no plans to leave.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has been accused of intolerance towards liberal and dissenting views.
Khan said intolerance had not affected his ability to express himself as an actor.
“For me, when I’m making a film, my primary responsibility is to give my audience a good time. Then if it’s giving a message which is important and creative, if it’s changing the way we look at things, great.
“If it’s giving a message which is highly negative, then I would not be a part of it.”