Nothing is impossible for veteran actor Anupam Kher who is busy shooting for a Malayalam film titled Pranayam
That he is over 440 films old in a span of three decades and still going strong, that he is an actor of mettle with awards and honour aplenty in his kitty, and that he allots the 8 a.m. slot for an interview following a late night shoot, and comfortably slips into a racy chat — all these show what a down-to-earth person Anupam Kher is.
Fun to talk to, this prolific actor, who has essayed a wide range of roles, says, “Everything depends on your upbringing — the way you grow up, the values imparted, the way you want to live and the way you want people to live.” He rewinds to his childhood years in small town Shimla that egged him on to dream, remembering his parents and thanking God for all the luck bestowed on him.
At 55, Kher doesn't worry about age catching up. He says, “As you progress in life, there is a part of you which starts reacting to several things around.” And this is precisely the reason why he found a leader in Anna Hazare and chose to support his campaign against corruption. “We all tend to lead a cocooned life, and, till something affects us directly, we don't bother. But corruption in our 65-year-old nation has become so entrenched that it has become impossible to accept things lying down any longer. Unless we break this system of malpractices here and now, we will go bankrupt in every aspect in the future.”
Of late, the versatile Kher — whether he is performing on stage or in front of the camera, whether he is anchoring shows on TV or mentoring aspirants in his acting school — has been in a “reflective mood”. “There is no end to greed and you can continuously be on the I-could-have-done-this-also mode. But I guess there comes a time in everybody's life, when you don't feel inclined to run after work. You feel more contented.”
Life's experience drives him: “It is very important to speak up even if it is at the risk of being unpopular. You should have the courage to say what you don't agree with.” That's why through his one-man autobiographical play “Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai”, which has travelled across the world staging 246 shows during the last six years, he has established an instantaneous “people-connect”.
“People see snatches of their life in mine because it has a bit of everything — it is sad, comic and inspirational…It is the real journey of an individual who could have been an utter failure but manipulates destiny to script success because he is an eternal optimist.”
Kher admits it was his father who liberated him from the fear of failure by giving him a surprise treat though he scored poor marks in a school exam. “After the result, he took me to a restaurant. When I asked him why he was doing so instead of getting angry with me, he said, ‘I do not want you to be afraid of failure'. “His words have remained fresh in my mind at every step of my journey from the verdant landscape of Shimla to Mumbai, the city of dreams and skyscrapers.”
“Millions of people come to Mumbai, but not even 0.1 per cent of them are able to live their dreams or meet with success. I too started from zero; I take pride in the quality of things I have done. Today, I have the satisfaction of becoming a role model for some and hope I will be remembered in the years to come,” he adds.
Kher has etched himself firmly in public memory not just as an actor but also as a founder of “Actor Prepares”, a chain of acting schools in Mumbai, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and London. He is now toying with the idea of opening one in Chennai soon.
Right now, Kher is excited about his first Malayalam film Pranayam for which he has been extensively shooting down South. “This is my first full-length Malayalam feature film and the language is not easy to learn and deliver. I love the challenge,” says the Padma Shri awardee in his characteristic style.
Keywords: Anupam Kher