Multihyphenate Aamir Khan positions 'Peepli' for U.S. distribution

Aamir Khan is one of the few among the current generation of Bollywood actors who can truly be called a multihyphenate.

Khan, who frequently can be found toplining traditional Bollywood blockbusters such as “Memento” remake “Ghajini,” has branched out to directing and producing films that are not mainstream Hindi cinema. And thanks to his star status, smaller-budget art films such as “Peepli Live” and “Dhobi ghat” are making the fest circuit and drawing attention in India and abroad.

Khan, 45, is one of three unrelated thesps with the same last name — Shah Rukh “King” Khan and Salman Khan being the others — who have reigned recently over Bollywood. Aamir Khan’s success in top-grossing films like Reliance Big Pictures’ “3 Idiots,” allows him to direct offbeat fare such as “Taare zameen par” or produce Toronto-bound “Dhobi ghat” and Sundance success “Peepli Live.”

“Peepli,” former journo Anusha Rizvi’s writing and helming debut, centers on the recent Indian trend of farmer suicides. But far from being a downer, the film is a satirical comedy that Variety critic Rob Nelson called “a rural take on Billy Wilder’s ‘Ace in the Hole.’?” It was the first Hindi pic to play in competition at Sundance.

“It was an opportunity for us to see how an American audience would react to the film,” Khan says. “We were really pleased with the response.”

Distrib UTV plans a slow rollout of “Peepli” in the U.S., starting Aug. 13 in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities with large Indian populations, before expanding the pic across North America.

Born into a showbiz family, Khan first appeared in his uncle Nasir Hussain’s 1973 blockbuster “Yaadon ki baaraat” as one of the young siblings whose family is torn apart. But he didn’t break out until 1988 in cousin Mansour Khan’s “Qayamat se qayamat tak,” which followed the traditions of Hindi cinema with song-and-dance numbers, high drama and comedy.

“I believe that my core responsibility as an entertainer is to entertain,” Khan says. “When somebody spends his hard-earned money to buy a ticket for my film, I want him to get his money’s worth”

Khan says he likes to pick thought-provoking projects, including 2001’s “Lagaan,” one of only three Indian films to be nommed for an Oscar. Khan not only toplined that pic, but also produced it via his shingle, Aamir Khan Prods., the first of a half-dozen projects he’s chosen to produce.

“?’Lagaan’ when it came out became mainstream, and was a huge commercial success,” Khan says. “When we set out make it, it was breaking all rules of Indian cinema. ‘Taare zameen par’ was another film not typically mainstream that went on to big success. I have been attracted to films that don’t necessarily fall into what we understand as mainstream cinema.”

Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO of UTV Motion Pictures, which co-produced and distribs “Peepli,” has been a frequent collaborator with thesp for several years, producing and releasing Khan starrer “Rang de basanti” in 2006.

“Working with Aamir is always a learning experience, along with a huge dose of fun, much like his films,” Kapur says. “He is one of those rare talents whose creativity touches every aspect of filmmaking — from acting to direction to production to promotion.”

Khan hopes “Peepli” can engage auds around the world, and help show that Indian cinema has more to offer than song-and-dance routines.

Next up for Khan is producing the English-language pic “Delhi Belly.” But first, taking both the family part of the biz and his multihyphenate nature to their logical next step, he’ll be at Toronto for the premiere of Mumbai-set “Dhobi ghat,” his wife, Kiran Rao’s, directing debut, which he also toplines.

Khan, who frequently can be found toplining traditional Bollywood blockbusters such as “Memento” remake “Ghajini,” has branched out to directing and producing films that are not mainstream Hindi cinema. And thanks to his star status, smaller-budget art films such as “Peepli Live” and “Dhobi ghat” are making the fest circuit and drawing attention in India and abroad.

Khan, 45, is one of three unrelated thesps with the same last name — Shah Rukh “King” Khan and Salman Khan being the others — who have reigned recently over Bollywood. Aamir Khan’s success in top-grossing films like Reliance Big Pictures’ “3 Idiots,” allows him to direct offbeat fare such as “Taare zameen par” or produce Toronto-bound “Dhobi ghat” and Sundance success “Peepli Live.”

“Peepli,” former journo Anusha Rizvi’s writing and helming debut, centers on the recent Indian trend of farmer suicides. But far from being a downer, the film is a satirical comedy that Variety critic Rob Nelson called “a rural take on Billy Wilder’s ‘Ace in the Hole.’?” It was the first Hindi pic to play in competition at Sundance.

“It was an opportunity for us to see how an American audience would react to the film,” Khan says. “We were really pleased with the response.”

Distrib UTV plans a slow rollout of “Peepli” in the U.S., starting Aug. 13 in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities with large Indian populations, before expanding the pic across North America.

Born into a showbiz family, Khan first appeared in his uncle Nasir Hussain’s 1973 blockbuster “Yaadon ki baaraat” as one of the young siblings whose family is torn apart. But he didn’t break out until 1988 in cousin Mansour Khan’s “Qayamat se qayamat tak,” which followed the traditions of Hindi cinema with song-and-dance numbers, high drama and comedy.

“I believe that my core responsibility as an entertainer is to entertain,” Khan says. “When somebody spends his hard-earned money to buy a ticket for my film, I want him to get his money’s worth”

Khan says he likes to pick thought-provoking projects, including 2001’s “Lagaan,” one of only three Indian films to be nommed for an Oscar. Khan not only toplined that pic, but also produced it via his shingle, Aamir Khan Prods., the first of a half-dozen projects he’s chosen to produce.

“?’Lagaan’ when it came out became mainstream, and was a huge commercial success,” Khan says. “When we set out make it, it was breaking all rules of Indian cinema. ‘Taare zameen par’ was another film not typically mainstream that went on to big success. I have been attracted to films that don’t necessarily fall into what we understand as mainstream cinema.”

Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO of UTV Motion Pictures, which co-produced and distribs “Peepli,” has been a frequent collaborator with thesp for several years, producing and releasing Khan starrer “Rang de basanti” in 2006.

“Working with Aamir is always a learning experience, along with a huge dose of fun, much like his films,” Kapur says. “He is one of those rare talents whose creativity touches every aspect of filmmaking — from acting to direction to production to promotion.”

Khan hopes “Peepli” can engage auds around the world, and help show that Indian cinema has more to offer than song-and-dance routines.

Next up for Khan is producing the English-language pic “Delhi Belly.” But first, taking both the family part of the biz and his multihyphenate nature to their logical next step, he’ll be at Toronto for the premiere of Mumbai-set “Dhobi ghat,” his wife, Kiran Rao’s, directing debut, which he also toplines.

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