Anupam Kher on completing 35 years: The world tries to make you retire by calling you ‘veteran’
Kher, who completes 35 years in Bollywood says that the world may try to write you off, but it’s up to you to reinvent yourself as an actor
He’s been one of the most prominent faces in Indian cinema since his debut. Be it Bollywood blockbusters such as Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (1995), or international projects such as Bend It Like Beckham (2002) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012) , actor Anupam Kher has tasted success in his homeland as well as abroad. The 64-year-old actor continues to juggle work in both the hemispheres. He has been around long enough for people to call him a ‘veteran’, but he thinks otherwise. As he completes 35 years in the industry, he says he is nowhere close to retiring.
How does one survive for 35 years as an actor in Bollywood, and still remain active?
I actually reinvented myself last year by doing the American show, New Amsterdam. So, in a way, I restarted my career as a newcomer. Being in the industry for 35 years reaffirms your faith that you don’t need anything, except hard work. You can be the son of a clerk who works in the forest department, and survive for all these years, and do 515 films. This country has given me so much. How many people come to Mumbai and make it?
What was the biggest challenge you had to face when you had started out?
To not give up. That’s why I broke a lot of moulds. I was 27 when I played a 65-year-old man, when typecasting was a reality. I broke that myth. I did Karma (1986), Saaransh (1984), Ram Lakhan (1989), Shola Aur Shabnam (1992), and recently, The Accidental Prime Minister. You keep doing things which are relevant. I have just begun.
What has been your biggest high and low till date?
You go into the depths when you feel low, you can’t fight that. It’s very important to come out of it. Being there is no choice, and there’s no solution. My biggest low was when my company went haywire. I almost went bankrupt 15 years back, when I had facial paralysis. In one year, I lost four most important people including my father, film-maker Mr Yash Chopra, my manager Mr Shetty and I went through depression. Aisa nahi hai, ki aaj depression mehsoos nahi hota, ya low nahi hota, but when I feel so, I go back to June 3, 1981, when I had first come to Mumbai.
You remember all your dates...
Always! May 25, 1984 Saaransh (my debut film) released, July 27, 1974, I shifted from Shimla to Chandigarh to join my first drama school as a student. February 2012, my father passed away… these are all important dates. When I was a student in Shimla, I’d scribble my name on the bench, and think that many years later, when somebody will sit here, he/she will know that Anupam Kher sat here. When you are very poor, you want to see dreams, otherwise there’s nothing to look forward to.
Your wife Kirron Kher has won on the Chandigarh seat in the recent elections. Your reaction?
It’s a feeling of gratitude towards the people of Chandigarh. Because of the kind of work she had put in also sort fo reaffirms my faith that if you do good work, you will always win. My whole career is based on that... In today’s time, we have gone beyond dynastic rule, jaat-paat, gareebi... India is looking for empowerment of individuals.
From being an outsider to becoming a big actor today, it’s been a long journey.
Whatever work I am doing abroad is also as an Indian actor, and that is a great feeling. I feel proud of myself, and humbled. It’s just the beginning, because one of the reasons of finding work abroad is that the world tries to make you retire by calling you a ‘thespian’ or ‘veteran’… but you decide when you want to take up work and don’t. My acting school has helped me, new directors I worked with — they keep me relevant. It’s very important to reinvent yourself as a person, and actor. It is also important that you surround yourself not with ‘yes’ men, but who tell you the truth.
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