CINEMA At the height of his career Anupam Kher looks at bringing his experience of life and acting in a new role as life coach. PRIYADERSHINI S. has the details

Achut Menon is the character that veteran actor Anupam Kher dons in the Malayalam film ‘Pranayam'.

In the city, on the sets of Blessy's film, Anupam says that 27 long years in the industry and with an experience of nearly 400 films to his credit, a “stupid smugness” was setting in. He needed to get out of the comfort zone and take up a challenging role. And that's how ‘Pranayam' happened. Blessy's two page script “just blew my mind.” And this, he believes, is going to be one of his most important films.

Coping with a new language and typicality of a new culture have brought out the best in this seasoned actor. The challenge has been a learning experience. He recounted of how he learnt to wear and hold the ‘mundu' the right way. Even the body language and the speech drawls have been skilfully practised and enacted. But then Anupam is an ace actor, versatile, and to him delving deeper into a new culture is important. If he is a good learner, as his brilliant performances have shown, he is a better teacher. His acting school, ‘Actor Prepares', is based on his assumption that an actor is not born. He can be taught. “I am an active actor. I understand the need of educated actors and I believe in educating them.” The new breed of talent in the field thrills him. To him this is a golden period in Indian cinema and marks the death of the formula.

He has excelled in both comic and tragic roles. Which is he better in? “A good actor excels in both and a bad actor is bad in both.” With great performances to his credit and much recognition, he says that awards don't mean much to him now. At 55, he has moved over to a phase beyond the ratings.

The school of life

And truly he is on to a new stage. Fifty years hence, he says, he would like to be remembered not as an actor but as a teacher. With the opening of ‘Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai, The School Of Life', which will conduct life coaching programmes, Anupam has moved on to the role of a teacher, a guide, a motivational speaker.

“One discovers that there is much more to life than cinema and acting. I am still doing that but I need to choose my work. I want to change peoples' lives. Our fears are our own. Only we can get rid of them. It is when we recognise the ‘me' in ‘me' then we can deal with life. It is amazing to share your experiences,” he says with a soft, almost balm-like gentle voice. In between you realise that he has indeed moved on to a realm where his acting experience, the innumerable characters that he has played has given him the ammunition to fight the cut and thrust of life. This is what he wants to share with the rest. A role of a grieved father in ‘Saraansh', an over-the-top principal in ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai', police officer in ‘A Wednesday', his absolutely hilarious role in ‘Khosla ka Ghosla,' Anupam seems to have seen it all. But that was on the screen. In reality he sees the need to help people deal with life and not run away from it.

His autobiographical play, ‘Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai', is therapeutic, “Come for it. It will help you,” he says with an assured look.

From this real world, Anupam comes back to the reel world. “It is a joy working with Mohanlal. He is not finicky about acting. He is easy going and I feel he's like me.” What more can an actor ask for when he shares a chemistry with his co-stars. The story of the film he says is amazing but it is director Blessy that Anupam seems to have been bowled over by. “I feel I am acting with one of the best directors. He is very poetic and thinks cinematically.” Of his own performance in the film he truly believes it is an award-winning one but gives all the credit to Blessy.

So much from Mr. Achut Menon.