I miss having a child of my own: Anupam Kher
Anupam Kher, 57, has acted in 461 films, has worked with the maximum number of first-time directors, is the only Indian to have worked with Robert De Niro, runs a successful acting institute and is the proud author of a motivational bestseller. In spite of losing all his money and his health a decade ago, he bounced back with the knowledge of his craft and the strength of his father. With critical acclaim for his film Special 26 and being a part of the Oscar-nominated film Silver Lining Playbook, he talks to TOI about losing the four pillars of his life last year, his disappointment with Dibakar Banerjee and why he believes Ranbir Kapoor is one of the finest actors India has produced. Excerpts:
You went through a difficult period in your life a decade ago. What went wrong?
In 1999, I was at the peak of my career and was working with every filmmaker in the country when, unknowingly aping Mr Bachchan, I decided to become this TV tycoon and invested all my money plus borrowed money to make TV serials. My partner Vikas Kasliwal, for his own reasons, backed out as he was not keen to get into TV and so I had to produce alone. Needless to say, I was bankrupt and had nothing left except my house. At the same time, I was eating at Anil Kapoor’s house when his wife Sunita said I was not blinking from one eye and I was diagnosed with facial paralysis. I was advised not to work, but I went to Sooraj Barjatiya requesting him that I would still like to shoot for Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, which he allowed, and I did as I had decided that I would not let life bog me down. It remained difficult for me till 2005, after which life took a turn. I did an autobiographical play Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hain, opened my acting school and did some of the best roles of my life.
My father was my strength. I pray every morning and in difficult times, I’ve also fought with God. I cry easily and used to feel sad and disappointed but I also have a great sense of survival that comes from the knowledge of my craft.
Who are you closest to in your life?
Coincidentally, I lost the four most important people in my life last year — my father, my manager Mr Shetty, Yash Chopraji and sister Dalauris. My father would call me at eight every morning from Shimla irrespective of which part of the world I was in. He was my best friend. Mr Shetty was like a brother and always with me and we did not share a star-manager relationship. Sister Dalauris was the principal of Dilkhush School for mentally challenged children and was my calming factor who I went to whenever I felt low. I would go to her and she would say ‘Anupam I prayed for you’ and I would feel better.
For the last 12 years, if I was in Mumbai I would go and have breakfast with Yashji four times a week. And he was a part of my life and I would share my life with him. We shared a sense of wonder about life and drew strength from each other. We were good listeners to each other. He was like my father, confidante and guide. I could say anything to him without being judged by him. I lost all my four pillars.
Tell us about your father.
He was an ordinary man with the extraordinary quality of being everybody’s friend. He had affected a lot of lives by just remaining ordinary. He would go first thing in the morning to a newspaper vendor and see if there was any news about me. When he passed away and I opened his trunk, I found every single press cutting about me which he had collected and underlined. There were two words he told me one hour before he died — Live Life.
Are you arrogant?
My arrogance comes from my being a self-made and secure person. But I am also extremely compassionate. My biggest strength is that I don’t pretend. I was a young man when I did Saaransh. I was told that I should wear a wig without which I would not be able to survive in the industry but I did not as I was confident about my craft. I wore the arrogance of knowledge as it was my defence mechanism and gave me self-worth and pride.
Do you have friends in the industry?
The problem with being a small town boy is that you believe in everything when you come to Mumbai. Initially I thought the film industry is my family and then over time you come to face reality. Anil Kapoor is my friend and I admire the way he keeps reinventing himself. We had a fight in between and did not talk to each other for two years but we are brutally honest and comfortable with each other. Recently, I told his wife Sunita that she should get my name included in her ration card.
How did Kirron and you get to marry each other?
We have been married now for 27 years and she was my best friend from Chandigarh. Satish Kaushik and I used to visit her in Carmicheal Road house when she was married to Gautham (Sikander’s father) and take 50 for each of us on the pretext of paying our return taxi fare. In reality, we would go back by bus and use the money for our expenses for the next three days. We remained friends and did a play together. I was in a relationship with a girl in Lucknow which broke and she had a bad marriage and we decided to get married. We have the usual marriage ups and downs but remain friends and have mutual respect for each other.
While you have been a father to Kirron’s son Sikander, do you miss having your own child?
Sikander was four years when he came to me. He has great love and respect for me and is my friend. What my father was to me, I am to him. But to say that I don’t miss having a child of my own will be a lie because I do and that has nothing to do with him. I do sometimes miss the joy of seeing your child grow up and being your extension.
Amongst actors today, are there actors you admire?
Ranbir Kapoor is a fine actor and one of the best India has produced. I was mesmerised with his ease of acting without him showing off. He remains a star and is yet ready to experiment, which is always a risk.
You have worked with the maximum number of first time directors. Were you disappointed with any?
I invested a lot in Dibakar Banerjee. Khosla Ka Ghosla had many production problems and would not have been made had it not been for me as I did everything to keep the production going and the morale of the unit up. When you invest in a director, you get possessive about him. So I was disappointed and hurt when he did not take me in his other films.
Your role in Special 26, directed by Neeraj Pandey, has been appreciated. Is this film special for you?
This film comes at a time in cinema where it raises the bar and yet celebrates the audiences’ intelligence. It sought of gives respect to the audience who are in return loving the film. I shot for Special 26 soon after finishing shooting for Silver Linings Playbook. My role in that film is not the best thing that has happened to me or the film. It is an important role and my presence is there but it is not that people will go mad seeing me. Having seen the best of Hollywood stars performing, I had returned all charged up. My role in Special 26 had amazing shades and the entire team was giving their best. The director was not over the top and I was in complete tandem with him. For a long time I was running fast nowhere. Now I am walking slow somewhere.
Special 26, presented by Viacom 18 and produced by Wide Frame Pictures and Friday Filmworks, released on February 8.