The painter behind Aamir Khan’s Arun in ‘Dhobi Ghat’
When artist Ravi Mandlik got a call from Aamir Khan and thought it was a prank
Ravi Mandlik is an abstractionist who studied at the Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai and has several shows to his credit. One afternoon in 2010, Mandlik was at his south Mumbai studio. As is his practice, his phone was on silent while he painted. Returning a call to an unknown number, he was told that Aamir Khan wanted to have a conversation. Certain that it was a prank call, Mandlik nevertheless consented to share his mobile number. In the evening, he received a message from the actor requesting a meeting. They fixed to meet at 10pm and the venue was a movie set.
When Mandlik arrived at the venue, it turned out to be a dilapidated building. The artist was convinced something was wrong; why would Khan be at a place like this? To his surprise, Khan was there, shooting for the film Dhobi Ghat, written and directed by his wife Kiran Rao. Arun, the character played by Khan, was a painter whose painting had to relate to various intermingled characters and stories in the film. Mandlik agreed to create the work to be used in the film.
A large canvas was readied and the painting was created by Mandlik, with constant inputs from the director. It was approved, but Mandlik was not satisfied with it. He asked for a week to produce another work. Rao and Khan agreed reluctantly, since they were happy with the original painting. When Khan called Mandlik to check on the new work’s progress, Mandlik replied, “Arun is painting Dhobi Ghat!"
The second time, Mandlik tried to get under the skin of Khan’s character. This work, made at his studio, with the independence and quiet he is used to, was finally accepted for the film, released in 2011. The painting is in the collection of Khan and Rao.