“The year before last, I was at the Toronto International Film Festival and I got to know that Robert De Niro was there, and was leaving. I came out and ran after his car to meet him, but before I could reach, he had left. And then in eight months, to my luck, I was working with him in Philadelphia on Silver Lining’s Playbook (SLP),” Kher, 57, tells us in an exclusive chat.
A self-confessed fan of the 69-year-old Oscar-award winning Hollywood actor, Kher also told De Niro about the incident. “I told him about it and he laughed. He is a very quiet and silent person,” says Kher, who has now directed and produced I Went Shopping For Robert De Niro, a 29-minute semi-autobiographical short film, in honour of his SLP
co-star and idol.
“He is aware of the film. I told him about it and he gave his permission to use his name in the title. It is the best tribute by an Indian to the best actor in the world, and that too through a story. I’ll be showing it to him in LA when I go there to attend the Oscars,” says Kher.
SLP has eight Oscar nominations and De Niro has also been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category. Ask him what gift he gave De Niro, and the actor-filmmaker says, “I can’t tell you right now. It’s something very Indian. The last shot in the film has a picture where I’m shown giving him the gift.”
Not many know that Kher has been following De Niro since his drama school days. “I’ve always been inspired by his work. And, it’s not only me. Any actor in the world, who denies it, is lying. I told him how mad I am about his acting. I spent an evening with him in Doha. We had a drink together. I told him I run an acting school and he told me a great thing — ‘you put your everything and give your best to films and then stardom comes to you as a bonus,’” shares Kher.
And like a starstruck fan, Kher has also collected his idol’s autograph. “He autographed a poster of Goodfellas for my acting school. He signed a separate sheet for me. It’s framed in my office. I got my personal copy of SLP signed from him as well,” says Kher, who also shared, “De Niro loves India. He has been here.”