The actor's success mantra is what has probably laid down the formula for modern-day Bollywood's slant at content-driven entertainers. Among the Khans and also including most superstars before their era, Aamir was the one superstar who understood the importance of amalgamating solid script with commercial entertainment value. For this, he needed to avoid falling into an image trap – which let him play an oversized wrestler in Dangal with as much ease as he essayed a misfit alien in PK.
Aamir's problem now probably is that younger actors as Ayushmann Khurrana, Vicky Kaushal and Rajkummar Rao have picked up the trick. Although they are far from guaranteeing the sort of returns an Aamir Khan film normally gives, Aamir knows the film industry can be a fickle place, and fans can be unpredictable. The failure of his absolutely disappointing Thugs Of Hindostan last Diwali underlines the fact.
The disaster that Thugs Of Hindostan was probably shouldn't be held against Aamir alone. The film was a bad product, it would have crashed anyway. The actor's detractors, however, have been quick to point out his 2013 release, Dhoom 3, would fall in the same category of brainlessness, and yet went onto becoming a superhit. If Dhoom 3 worked then, and Thugs Of Hindostan failed last year, his detractors hold it as a sign that Aamir Khan is slowing down.
Aamir, it would seem, is best suited to survive age – not just for creative instincts, but for his commercial sense. He has selected the right script to return over two years after Thugs Of Hindostan, when his next release, Lal Singh Chadha opens on Christmas 2020. The film is a Bollywood remake of Forrest Gump and directed by Advait Chauhan, who directed Aamir's superhit production Secret Superstar earlier. As a product in the making, Lal Singh Chadha seems like just the right one fans of mild, middle-of-the-road entertainers as 3 Idiots, PK and Dangal are awaiting after all this time.
Aamir's challenge right now is to live up to his image as an actor who ensures quality Bollywood fare every time without losing out on commercial value. With every film, living up to that challenge could obviously get tougher. But while Salman and Shah Rukh look increasingly headed towards a zone of unpredictability as younger actors close in, Aamir is most likely to adapt and survive. He is a bit like Amitabh Bachchan that way.