FRIDAY REVIEW

'Straight from heart'

RANA SIDDIQUI

HONESTAnupam Kher Photo:ANU PUSHKARNA

HONESTAnupam Kher Photo:ANU PUSHKARNA  

"Maine Gandhi ko nahin mara. Maine unka vadh kiya hai," is what Nathuram Godse said in his trial before the lower court. Tell Anupam Kher this, who is playing the protagonist in the Jahnu Baruah-directed Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, and he reverts with a rehearsed surprise: "Really? I didn't know this."

"This film has nothing to do with Gandhiji or Godse. But the protagonist is a Gandhian. It is about an Alzheimer's patient, the condition of old people in today's society, the father-daughter relationship and why one needs Gandhi today. When you watch the film, you will realise that it couldn't have any other name." Based on a real-life character known to Jahnu, the film is the story of a professor of Hindi (Choudhary) who develops Alzheimer's. The line between his imagination and reality diminishes, so much so that this man who believes in Gandhian values lives in a society that has ceased to have faith in it. So he goes on to believe that he has killed Gandhi and hence, he keeps saying that he hasn't killed the Mahatma.

Anupam moans that today children have almost forgotten Gandhi. "It is like R.K. Laxman's cartoon in which a kid is shown Gandhi's picture and asked `who is this'. To which he replies: `Ben Kingsley,'" he says.

This 78-minute film that is to hit the screen today, brought together the actor and the human being in Kher, almost two decades after Saaransh, as he recounts, nostalgically. "The film was marked by such honesty that it brought me closer to myself. When Jahnu narrated the story, I was shocked. Earlier NFDC was producing this film but I was so impressed with its screenplay that I decided to produce it. It is straight from the heart. I didn't set out to make a great film so even if it doesn't do well at the box office I have nothing to lose. My reward is working in the film," adds Kher.

"Every film that has something that you can identify with is, I believe, a successful film. And it has done its duty well if it has made you realise your follies. This film made me realise how much we take our parents for granted," he says. "I tend to do it with my father too. When he calls me up between shootings or meetings, I cut him short by saying `I will call you later,' though I know it will take me just 30 seconds to listen to him."

"We have progressed a lot, which is good. But we did it at the cost of humanisation," laments Kher.

The title of this film is learnt to have created a furore in the Censor Board. "They got apprehensive. They called historians, educationists and old timers. After seeing the film, they congratulated me and said: `You have honoured us by making this film'. And it was cleared without a single cut and granted a `U' certificate," Kher beams.

He also claims that not only will the film challenge one's intelligence, but also make one feel remorseful for not contributing enough to society and family.

"During Saaransh, I was struggling; hungry for work, money and shelter. If I didn't have that kind of a beginning, I wouldn't have understood the intensity behind this project. I would have done it as a job," he admits.

Kher went on the field and did a reality check. He went to the Alzheimer patients' conference as a chief guest, met abandoned old people apart from many other things. Post Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara, Kher seems a changed man. He know addresses waiters at the hotel as "beta," and is extremely polite about the bad soup. Even in the middle of his meal, he is more than willing to pose with an old man for a photograph. "God bless you" and "take care" to younger people come in plenty.

After this therapeutic film, Kher will next be seen in Khosla Ka Ghosla, Janeman, and a Sooraj Barjatya film.

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