Several big stars are missing from the IIFA awards this year after the boycott call from the southern film industry, but veteran Anupam Kher says the event is an effort to spread peace in the island country and should be supported.
"To heal wounds it is important to keep them open. What happened that time (in Sri Lanka), every one is sad about that. But if an effort is being made to spread peace and happiness through something (like the IIFA awards), then that should be supported. I hope people recognise (that) and not create any controversies," Anupam told IANS.
The actor was on Friday honoured with the Presidential Award by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa here.
A statement issued by the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce had stated that southern stars and filmmakers would boycott all Bollywood stars who attend the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) event in the Sri Lankan capital.
They have been campaigning against the Sri Lankan government and the alleged killing of civilian Tamils at the height of the conflict between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers last year.
Anupam is not new to conflict situations.
The Kashmir-born actor had fled the valley in the early 1990s when Muslim militancy peaked. He returned to his home state many years later to shoot for the 2008 movie Tahaan. He is now filming in the valley for Rahul Dholakia's Lamhaa, where he is cast as a Muslim leader.
Was he scared going back to his home town that is suffering from militancy?
"Yes, I was scared before going to Kashmir to shoot. But being a celebrity I got adequate security and protection. We shot under heavy police and army protection. I felt better," said Anupam, 55.
Asked whether it was only the Kashmir factor that convinced him to take up the role, he said: "Apart from the fact the film is on Kashmir and I got a chance to go back to the place, the film also had a good story, a good star cast and a good director. As an actor it is important to do films you relate to."
Up next is also Hitler, where he plays the title role. It's a first for the versatile actor, who has played every kind of role in his two-decade career, but gets his first historical character only now with debutant director Rakesh Ranjan's film.
"I'm very happy about my role as Hitler in the film, which is called Hitler. We will start shooting in August. I'm quite excited because for the first time I will be playing a historical character on the big screen."
This is, of course, not the first time Anupam will be seen in a role with grey shades.
After starting his career with critically acclaimed film Saransh, he became a household name with the evil Dr. Dang in Karma (1986), the wicked uncle Tribhuvan in Chaalbaaz (1989), the greedy father Shyamlal in Tezaab (1988), the miser Hazari Prasad in Dil (1990), the corrupt businessman in Rang De Basanti... The list is long.
In a career spanning an enviable range of characters, nuanced and also in-your-face, Anupam also made his mark as the loyal friend in Lamhe (1991) and the funny guy in Shola Aur Shabnam (1992).
In recent times, he has been appreciated in critically acclaimed films like Khosla Ka Ghosla, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara and Morning Walk.
Apart from Hitler and Lamhaa, the actor is looking forward to Pankaj Kapoor's directorial debut Mausam that has Shahid Kapoor in the male lead.
"I will start shooting for Pankaj Kapoor's Mausam in Scotland after 10 days. I'm quite excited about my role in the film," he said, without giving out details about his role.
Anupam also keeps busy with his acting academy, Actor Prepares, and theatre.
(Ruchika Kher can be contacted at email@example.com)