Happy birthday Anupam Kher: How the actor battled facial paralysis, fought bankruptcy to emerge a winner

Updated on Mar 07, 2020 09:11 AM IST

Happy birthday Anupam Kher: The actor, who is currently filming the second season of the popular NBC medical show New Amsterdam, has rightly said that his life is full of drama, failure and success.

Anupam Kher is currently filming the second season of New Amsterdam.
Anupam Kher is currently filming the second season of New Amsterdam.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

A vast number of urban young Indians associate Anupam Kher with his work in American shows or as a passionate advocate of the BJP. However, the veteran actor with scores of films and impressive performances to his name has had more to his life than his current outing. From his struggles as an actor with no backing in Bollywood, his health issues, his financial debacles or altercation with media, his has been an eventful life. On his 65th birthday, a look at his chequered life.

The actor hit limelight for the first time, back in 1984, when as a 29-year-old man, he essayed the role of a 65-year-old who has lost his only son in Mahesh Bhatt directorial, Saransh. The stellar performance won him many laurels but life was to throw many more challenges at him. Imagine winning the Filmfare Award for Best Actor in your very first film!

Sadly, between 1985 to 1988, Anupam appeared in a number of films. While he was pretty ‘visible’ and films were moderate successes, his performances weren’t received well, till Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit starrer Tezaab came along. Playing father to Madhuri, the actor was again in spotlight. From there on, his successful turn began, where playing important character roles (mostly father to the lead actor), villains and comic roles, he would be a constant in many hit films. Anupam starred a number of successful films such as Ram Lakhan, Chandni, Parinda, Chaalbaaz, Dil, Beta and Darr to name a few. Come the ’90s and Anupam’s Midas touch with character roles would only get better. He starred in important character roles in superhits like Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenga and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The last three films would seal his image as the comic character actor to have in a film. This is an image that has served him well to this day.

Anupam Kher with poster of Saransh.
Anupam Kher with poster of Saransh.
With Shah Rukh Khan in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
With Shah Rukh Khan in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
With Archana Puran Singh in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
With Archana Puran Singh in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

The actor had a successful run on television too with his chat shows -- Say Na Something To Anupam Uncle and more successful The Anupam Kher Show - Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai (2014). Soon, it was time for Anupam to go international. The actor, who is currently based in New York for the shoot of the second season of his NBC medical drama series, New Amsterdam, has starred in films such as Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Ang Lee’s Golden Lion–winning Lust, Caution (2007), and David O. Russell’s Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

At cursory glance, despite the fact, that he never played a conventional hero, Anupam’s acting career looks stellar -- no character actor, in the past, has achieved so much. Yet, his life has been wrought by one challenge or the other, like the time he was diagnosed with facial paralysis. This was during the shoot of Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!

Narrating the incident on journalist Rajat Sharma’s TV show, Anupam recalled the time when once he was having dinner at actor Anil Kapoor’s home. The actor’s wife Sunita, noticing something was not right, told him how one of his eyes wasn’t blinking. Anupam thought it was probably because he was tired. The next day, while brushing, he noticed that water was flowing out of his mouth involuntarily. At the behest of Yash Chopra, he consulted a top neurosurgeon in Mumbai who advised to leave work for two months and begin with the prescribed life-saving drugs. Anupam, however, decided that not only would he defeat the disease, he would do so while continuing to work. In fact, the scene where there is an antakshari (song competition) get-together in the film was shot when Anupam’s facial paralysis was severe. That is also the reason why that entire sequence does not have any close-up shot of the actor!

Watch Anupam Kher narrate how he found out that he had facial paralysis: 

The scene from Hum Aap Ke Hain Koun which he shot while suffering from facial paralysis: 

The actor reportedly went bankrupt in 2005 when he produced a film called Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, which sadly tanked at the box office. A Times of India report quoted the actor as saying, “The last film I produced, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, I wanted to be a tycoon but I almost went bankrupt. I really did. Nothing worked. I wanted an ‘Anupam Kher Studio Limited’, and then I realised I didn’t even have five thousand rupees.”

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Anupam had said that while he hadn’t given serious thought to the idea of biopic on his life, he said that if it gets done it would be a blockbuster. “It will be the biggest blockbuster. But I haven’t thought about it. I feel a biopic has to be inspirational and my life is full of drama, romance, comedy, failure, motivation, success and failure again followed by success. I’ve lived and continue to live my fully.”

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