It’d be hard for anyone to imagine, forget actually doing 500 films during the course of one’s lifespan. But Anupam Kher accomplished this feat in 35 years, going at over 10 films a year on average, and he is only 64 and in the pink of health. However, the veteran actor didn’t have an easy journey and there were hurdles galore for him during the initial stage of his life. From being bitten by the acting bug in school, stealing money from his mother to follow this path, sleeping on the railway platforms in Mumbai and even confidently telling Mahesh Bhatt that no one could do ‘Saaransh’ better than him, the ‘A Wednesday’ star’s journey has been nothing short of a ‘bumpy ride.’ Kher today gives full credit of his success to his failures.
In an interaction with Official Humans of Bombay, Kher wrote how his grandfather’s words for his academic performance and on the family’s happiness despite poverty, moulded him, “When I was young, I asked my grandfather why we were so happy despite being poor. He said, ‘Happiness is our cheapest luxury’. My dad was very optimistic–when I ranked 59 out of 60 in school, he said I could always do better next time! It was this celebration of failures that made me unstoppable.”
Opening up on how the acting ‘keeda’ bit him and how his spontaneity during a school play turned into a life-turning moment, the 64-year-old stated, “I got my calling when I acted in a play in 9th grade. I couldn't say my lines well, so they were given to someone else. But during the play, he forgot to say them! So I made something up in my broken English–the audience was in splits!”
From Kashmir, his next stop was Chandigarh, where he familiarised himself further with the skills of acting, “I loved being on stage & wanted to act full time. I saw an Ad for a course in Chandigarh & needed Rs.100 for the audition. I stole it from my mom & told her I was going for a picnic. Thankfully, I was accepted! So I went to Chandigarh to study acting.”
However, it was Mumbai that brought out his biggest challenge, “I was a teacher for 2 years, before I saw an ad that a drama school in Mumbai was hiring. When I got here, I realised they had no money–they gave me a small space to teach & a tiny room to stay."
"I didn’t want to go back a failure. So I taught there, while auditioning & performing in plays. It was hard–at one point I had no work, money or help. I had to live on beaches & sleep on platforms.
I didn’t want to worry my parents, so I wrote to my granddad that I wanted to come back. But he replied, ‘A man who’s already drenched in water, shouldn’t be scared of rains’–I didn’t give up!”
Hard work pays and it did so for Kher before his confidence in front of Mahesh Bhatt brought him his critically acclaimed ‘Saaransh’ despite being removed from it initially, “It’s good that I didn't, because soon, I got a role in a Mahesh Bhatt film. I got money & a place to stay. But later, I was told I was replaced. I called Mahesh Bhatt & he said it was true. I couldn’t take it & decided to go home.But first, I met Mahesh Bhatt & told him no one would play the part better than me–he was making a mistake. So he told the producers he wouldn’t make the film without me–he saw the vigour with which I wanted to act. That’s how I got my first film.”
The ‘DDLJ’ star today hails the struggles and rejections that helped him become what he is today, “Today I’ve done over 500 films. It’s been a bumpy ride, but everyday, I thank my failures for bringing me this far. I thank all the people who said no to me, all the people who didn’t help me–because if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have pushed myself to get where I am today…a place where my dreams, are now my reality.”
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