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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

When Anupam Kher met Robert De Niro

Roshmila Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, May 09, 2012
First Published: 13:07 IST(9/5/2012) | Last Updated: 15:26 IST(9/5/2012)

I felt like The Silver Lining Playbook (2012) was my first film. Everyone, from the legendary Robert De Niro to Hollywood A-listers Bradley Cooper, Chris Tucker, Jennifer Lawrence and Jackie Weaver, were so committed and well-prepared on the sets, that after the shoot I too would shut myself up in my hotel room or take off on long walks, going over my lines. Being an Indian actor, I tend to think in Hindi but this is an English movie with some long dialogues,” says Anupam Kher.

David O Russel’s upcoming Hollywood movie revolves around a former teacher, played by Bradley, who after four years in a mental institution, moves back with his mother and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. De Niro plays Bradley’s father and Kher the therapist.

“I’m one of the six primary characters in the movie and according to my contract, I will feature in the publicity and my name will go as big as De Niro’s. Dr Patel is a significant character and has a substantial part to play in the novel from which the film has been adapted. It’s not a blink-and-miss cameo,” Kher asserts, adding that this is not an English film about Indian people like City Of Joy or Slumdog Millionaire.

“It’s an American movie about Americans and yet you’ll be proud to see an Indian in it. Russel’s earlier film, Fighter, was nominated for seven Oscars, so this is an important film for me.” Quiz him about working with the star of classics like Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), New York (1977), Once Upon A Time In America (1984) and The Godfather 2 (1974), and Anupam points out that along with Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino, De Niro for him had changed the concept of acting.

“Once in Toronto, I ran after a car after being told he was in it. When I told him that, I had tears in my eyes and he was laughing,” reminisces the actor who carried a manuscript of his book with him and gave it to his matinee idol who kept it, then signed a copy for him and also a poster of his film school, promising to visit soon. Anupam even got him to speak to his wife Kirron. And he admits to feeling like a split personality on the sets with De Niro: a co-actor on the sets and a fan away from the camera: “When he gave me a high five for a shot, I wanted to freeze the moment forever.” Anupam even carried Indian meals on the sets and his co-actors loved the chicken dishes. On the last day, he hosted a dinner at an India restaurant. “The owner, Manish Narula, refused to accept money,” he smiles. “De Niro was not there, as he had wrapped up work earlier, but for Narula I was his De Niro,” he says.

Anupam Kher’s acting school opens in Chennai Anupam Kher’s acting school, Actor Prepares, which started of in Mumai six years ago, has now opened in Chennai in association with South Indian actor and entrepreneur R Radhikaa. Presently 50 students have signed on for the acting programme and the school is also getting applications from South Africa, the US and Canada, UK, France, Norway, Russia and also Pakistan. The acting school is also branching into film and television productions with the hope to launch promising students. A few scripts for a show on television and a comedy film have already been finalised.
This institution is also about to begin its repertory company with a dedicated group of its actors to host theatre productions on a regular basis.

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