HIS BIO-DATA BULGES.. 320 films, stage and TV shows, film direction-production and more. Now, he has just returned from Shanghai after shooting for Ang Lee.. the Oscar-winning creator of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain. Anupam Kher on the turning point of his career, in conversation with Khalid Mohamed
How did you snag a role in Ang Lee’s Conquest, Lust? Farah Khan, who had choreographed a Chinese film, knows Rosanna An Chee, a casting director who sent her an email. Farah’s husband Shirish Kunder followed this up.
I then sent Rosanna a five-minute show reel of excerpts from Bend it like Beckham, my Channel 4 film The Second Generation and the TV series Spooks, plus stills of my get-ups in Daddy, Shola aur Shabnam, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara and Khosla ka Ghosla.
It isn’t a blink and you’ll miss it role. Is it?
I was there for 10 days. Since I’m a key component in the pre-climax scenes, I was told by the unit that my role couldn’t be edited or shortened. I’m playing a jewellery shop owner in Shanghai. I was offered a handsome amount of money but once I was finalised, I said, “I would do it for free.”
There was no audition, I was sent my portion of the script with the film’s synopsis. Actually, I would have even accepted a walk-on role. I felt honoured, deeply honoured.
Were any other Asians considered for the part? Not that I know of. Before leaving for Shanghai, I was told that the lead was being played by Tony Leung (In the Mood for Love, 2046). Tang Vei, the female lead, was selected after auditioning a thousand stage actresses. I’m playing an Indian Muslim. Oh by the way, his name is Khalid.
Oh oh, hope he’s a nice guy.
(Ha ha ha) I’m bound by contract not to reveal any details.
What was your exposure to Shanghai like? It was my first trip to Shanghai. It’s like a combination of Bombay and New York. It’s even bigger than Bombay, jazzier. But I don’t think Bombay can ever become another Shanghai which has retained the characteristics of the original city.
After landing, I was at the studio. Ang Lee was there, with his cameraman Rodrigo Prieto, outside the jewellery shop. Ang Lee hugged me. He’s small built, incredibly polite. I was extra-enthu. I told him that I’d worked out the look of my character, complete with a beard. He said, he wanted me to be the way I am.. the fake beard was out.