Aamir Khan with his wife Kiran Rao at Mehboob Studios during the promotion of film ‘Veere Di Wedding,’ in Mumbai, May 24. (Press Trust of India)

His box office credentials are unmatched today but Aamir Khan says despite facing an initial sceptic industry, he has always been someone who believed in experimenting with film roles. Aamir Khan said he was offered the role of Sunil Dutt in the Sanjay Dutt biopic but he was more keen to play the lead role, which was already in Ranbir Kapoor’s kitty.

Aamir Khan, who has completed 30 years in Bollywood, walked down the memory lane to reflect on the film choices that set him apart from the crowd and made him feel like a “lone ranger.”

“When I came into the industry, I was a minority, I was a lone ranger, who was trying to do films that I believed in, but the market did not believe in it and a host of people also did not believe in it,” Aamir said in a group interview in Mumbai.

With hits such as “Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak,” “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander,” “Baazi,” “Earth,” “Sarfarosh,” “Lagaan” and “Dangal,” Aamir has come to be known as one of the most bankable stars in cinema today but the actor said it has not been an easy ride to stardom.

“I was constantly swimming against the tide to do the films I believed in. Now the tide has changed. So, the films that I believed in then and no one else did, have actually become more mainstream today.”

Aamir, 53, believes the audiences’ sensibilities are changing and if “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander” would have released today, it had better chances at the ticket window.

Asked if he thinks the risk has paid off now, he said, “I don’t know if I can say that, I was not doing it for a pay-off, I was just doing it. I was not concerned if it will pay-off or not, my focus was to do films that I believed in. When I do a film like ‘Talaash,’ I know it is not going to be the biggest hit of the year but I want to do it.”

The actor has bridged the gap between commercial and content-driven cinema but insisted he is not searching for social content in a film.

“I am not setting out for what the next social issue (should be). I have had a mix range of films like ‘Delhi Belly,’ ‘Thugs of Hindostan,’ ‘Dangal,’ etc., I am getting drawn to stories which I like.”

The actor said he reacts to a script like an audience member.

“It has to be something that excites me, engages me, sometimes it might have a message, sometimes it might not. I don’t think whether it is commercial or not. I am not able to think like that. I feel my cinema should be good and I want it to be loved by as many people (as possible).”

He became a star overnight with success of his debut film as lead actor “Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak” in 1988 and realized he had become famous when he could no longer use the public transport. In 1973, Aamir appeared as child actor in his uncle Nasir Hussain’s film “Yaadon Ki Baaraat.”

“The first time I sensed I had become popular was after ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.’ It was quite mad. I did a successful film, but I didn’t have the money to buy a car. I used to travel by autorickshaw, bus or a train but after a point, I couldn’t,” he said.

“I used to ask my uncle, ‘Can I borrow your car? I have to go somewhere… There are just people everywhere I go’,” he added.

Aamir said he earned Rs. 11,000 for his debut.

Aamir said when Rajkumar Hirani, who has directed him in “3 Idiots” and “PK,” narrated the idea of “Sanju” to him, he fell in love with the script and felt it was written beautifully. Sunil Dutt’s role is now being played by Paresh Rawal in the biopic.

“He wanted me to play Sunil Dutt sahab’s role and it is a fantastic role. Largely, it is a father-son story. But Sanju’s role is unbelievable. I told Raju, Sanjay Dutt’s role is so great that it has won my heart… So in this film, I can’t do any other role but that of Sanjay Dutt, which I can’t do as Ranbir Kapoor is doing it.

“So, don’t offer me any other role as I won’t be able to do it. I can’t come to the sets thinking this should have been my lines. That role has won my heart and I am sure Ranbir has done it really well, he is a fantastic actor. I can’t wait to watch the film and Ranbir’s performance,” Aamir said.

Aamir said he had met Sunil Dutt and remembers him as a person who was “graceful, and dignified.”

“He used to send me telegrams on Diwali, Eid, birthdays and congratulatory messages. There would be like three-four-word messages like ‘congratulations, well done’,” Aamir recalled.

The actor said he once ended up spending a night under the statue of Mahatma Gandhi with Sunil Dutt and three other stalwarts of the industry in 1993, during the Mumbai riots.

“When Mumbai riots happened in 1993, the film industry took out a delegation to the chief minister saying bring in the Army, do what you had to do to stop the riots. Around 30 to 40 people had driven to the CM office.

“… We decided we will sit near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue near Mantralaya and will protest in open (to) stop the riots and we won’t get up until violence stops. We took turns. Five people including me, Dutt Sahab, Yash Chopra ji, Johnny Walker and a producer were there on the first night of protest.”

Calling the time spent with the legends as memorable, the ”Dangal” star said they ended up sharing stories about their careers.

“I was listening to the stories (about the) career of Dutt sahab, Yash ji and Johnny Walker… It was a wonderful time. It was a memorable night for me under the statue. By the next evening, the CM took some action and things went to normal.”

Akshay Kumar was earlier set to play the lead role in Gulshan Kumar biopic “Mogul” but reports suggested that Aamir may step in following his exit.

“I am producing Ghulshan ji’s biopic with Bhushan Kumar (of T-Series). After ‘Thugs..’, I have not signed anything,” Aamir clarified.