Shahid has been an unabashed fan of Aamir Khan ever since he became an actor. Now in choreographer-turned-producer and Shahid's close friend Ahmed Khan's newly-started film Paathshaala, being directed by Sanhay Leela Bhansali's erstwhile assistant Milind Ukey, Shahid gets to pay a tribute to his favourite actor.
In this unconventionally plotted and designed film, Shahid plays an English and music teacher who comes into the lives of a group of young troubled students. The similarities to Taare Zameen Par are delightfully direct.
Ahmed Khan doesn't deny the fact that Taare Zameen Par has made a huge difference to the way we look at movie entertainment and at the parent-child relationship. "I'd happily admit that Paathshaala is inspired by Taare Zameen Par, except for the fact that Paathshala was conceived and written a year ago. It's about a sensitive nurturing teacher's interaction with a group of kids. I've signed some really talented kids like Swini Khare from Cheeni Kum, Ali Haji from Fanaa and Dwij Yadav from Nanhe Jaisalmer. We're really fortunate to suddenly have so many talented kids in our cinema. So why not put them to creative use? It's about time we addressed issues regarding children in a serious but entertaining way," says Ahmed sounding more like the brains behind Taare Zameen Par than ever before.
Interestingly, Ahmed has selected some of the most extraordinary child actors to have come into the film industry in the last couple of years. "And on top of that, let's not forget I was once a child actor myself," laughs Ahmed who did a role as a child in Mr India. "Shahid too was a child actor. So we're all putting our minds making a film about the mind of a child and the child within man."
Ahmed has directed two films, the dumb Lakeer and the dumber Fool N Final. About the latter Ahmed says, "Please don't blame me. Blame the producer. For the first time in Paathshaala, I'm doing a film straight from my heart."
The set representing the school where 'teacher' Shahid does an Aamir Khan has been erected at Film City. "We even have a basket-ball court as part of the school set," says Ahmed proudly.