By Jyothi Venkatesh
In this exclusive as well as intimate interview for Cine Blitz with ANUPAM KHER, he tells senior journalist JYOTHI VENKATESH that he feels that he is still a struggling newcomer
Anupam Kher has not changed at all over the last 40 years that I have known him from the time he had come to my office at Hotel Oberoi Sheraton in Nairman Point, seeking my interview as a struggling newcomer, before the release of his film Saaransh. This time, however, for this exclusive interview of his, I went to the office of Rajshri Pictures in whose film Uunchai he is acting along with Amitabh Bachchan, Danny Denzongpa, Boman Irani, Sarika, Nina Gupta and Parineeti Chopra, scheduled for release on November 11.
Right at the outset, Anupam reiterated that he is essaying the character of Om Sharma In the film Uunchai. Anupam Kher continued, “Om Sharma is the owner of a book shop in old Delhi. Om is not only an old fashioned guy but also a little irritable. When things lead him to a point when he is confronted, he discovers his own courage. In essence, Uunchai is a film which revolves around the courage of seniors and the adventure they set out to experience”.
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It has been almost 40 years since Anupam has been in the film industry since his debut film Saaransh was released. Looking back at his chequered career till date, Anupam concedes frankly that his journey has indeed been very fruitful this far when he looks back at his career for the last four decades. “To tell you the truth, I’m really very humbled with the way my journey has progressed over the years, since I basically hail from a very small town and frankly I would confess that both Rajshri which gave me my big break with Saransh as well as God have both been really very kind to me”.
I ask Anupam to talk about the way he has had his growth as an actor, especially since today he is not only a veteran but also a versatile actor in Bollywood. Politely excusing himself, Anupam says, “Sorry Jyothi. You know me for the last 40 years since I met you to ask me for an interview way back in 1983 when I was making my debut with the same Rajshri’s film Saransh. I would not like to call myself a veteran actor but I would agree with you if you choose to call me a versatile actor.
Why? I ask him point blank. Anupam counters. “That’s because I feel that I am still a struggling newcomer. As an actor, if you ask me what my approach is, I would tell you that I would make acting my part very difficult so that I can actually give my best to it. That’s only because though the human mind as well as body have immense possibilities, we are capable of exploiting only 25% of that”.
As far as his part in Uunchai is concerned, to what extent did you depend on your director Sooraj Barjatya, as an actor? I ask Anupam. “I was at ease because Sooraj Barjatya is the kind of a director who prepares you to the T to the part especially since he tells you how you have to approach the five scenes before the shot as well as the five scenes after the shot.”
Anupam also adds that acting with actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Boman Irani, Danny Denzongpa, Neena Gupta, Sarika and Parineeti Chopra was an amazing experience. “Frankly, I should confess that It was indeed a dream team, whether it was Amitji, Boman, Dannyji, Neenaji, Parineeta or for that matter Sarikaji. I had the good fortune to act with Amitji as well as Dannyji in films like Hum and Amitji and I had worked in Suryavanshi as well as Aakhri Raasta. I should confess to you that the enthusiasm, as well as the preparation of Bachchansaab were very infectious.
I ask Anupam Kher to enumerate the five best roles in your career till date but Anupam very modestly declines. “It is indeed a very tough question to answer this question, my dear Jyothi. Till date, I have acted in as many as 530 films right from the time I had made my debut way back almost 40 years ago. After 30 more years, when I try to look back at my career and the number of films that I may have done till then, I will be able to tell you which are my best films till then, but not right now”.
Anupam Kher agrees that the entire film industry has changed tremendously over the years till date in many ways. “I remember when the VHS, video cassettes and the satellite TV came several years ago, people had started predicting that the doomsday was already there for the film industry. Rightly, it is the audience which has changed over the years especially since they have also gone through several upheavals and do not readily accept anything which they feel is actually not at all real but fake”.
Anupam does not however feel that the South Indian films alone have real content and that is the reason that Hindi films are failing at the box office these days. “All that I can say is that the South Indian films, whether they are Tamil, Kannada, Telugu or for that matter Malayalam, are real though they are all larger than life per se. Let me also assert that even as far as Bollywood is concerned, films like Bhool Bhulaiyaa as well as The Kashmir Files both have done extremely well at the box office. Whether it is South Indian films or for that matter Bollywood films, if films are not good, they will not do well at all at the box office.
When asked to elaborate, Anupam says lucidly. “If not with arrogance, I’d rather like to say with great pride that my film like The Kashmir Files did extremely well and this year a lot of my films did well and it is only Anupam Kher who has made maximum numbers at the box office. I would rather say that the content has always been there in our films. It is actually the phases which keep on coming and it is like ‘saagar manthan’ which brings about the best changes.
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Anupam confesses that he has not given up his ambitious plans to take up direction or for that matter, his tryst with theatre, even though it is true that he is extremely busy with his films in Bollywood besides his occasional overseas assignments. “We are all set to stage our plays once again after a long time especially since now the pandemic has gone. As far as working on directing a film, I am busy writing the script for a film. Till date, I have directed only one film as well as a short film with Robert de Nero but could not direct more as I was busy with my work abroad.”
When asked to describe himself, Anupam goes on record that basically he is a very restless person and feels that his actual competition is with himself but the biggest problem is that he has set a very high standard for himself and for that he has no other alternative but to work very hard. As an actor, Anupam emphasises that since he is also the instructor of an acting academy, like Actor Prepares, he has to struggle more as an actor, especially because the acting instructor in himself is more knowledgeable than the actor in him. Anupam signs off. “This is besides the fact that today unlike 40 years ago; I am actually competing with the newcomers of today in a big way, besides considering myself as a struggling newcomer.”