"It's the most difficult role I've done in my 35 years and 515 films", Anupam Kher said to Republic World on Friday even as the trailer of 'The Accidental Prime Minister', based on the book of the same name by Sanjaya Baru, catapulted to the top of public consciousness in India.
Even as the Congress and BJP continue their political tennis over the upcoming high-profile release, the veteran actor who plays former PM Dr Manmohan Singh stuck to the acting, describing in great detail how he has managed to so inimitably portray a person who the entire country knows so well.
"I had to go back to my drama school training, back to the basics", he said, acknowledging the difficulty (and perhaps stakes) being accentuated by how very active Dr Singh still is. Revealing his preparation regimen he disclosed, "I saw hours and hours of his footage - interviews, his oath taking, etc", meaning that when Anupam Kher says "Dr Singh doesn't express much - You have to discover his emotion", he's being quite definitive.
"The voice was the most difficult thing. I didn't want it to sound fake or caricature-ish", he admitted, summing up the entire challenge as "walking on a razor's edge". To make sure he didn't get 'cut' in the process, he had to take some extreme measures. These included telling his unit to refer to him as Pradhan Mantri ji or Prime Minister during their 35-day filming in England; having precisely those words emblazoned on the door of his make-up room, and also listening to Manmohan Singh's voice constantly via a headset while performing.
In comparison to England, filming in New Delhi and in Mumbai was distracting, he opined, citing how everyone knew what he was up to. Still, he made this sound like a part of his credo: "If you want to be remembered you have to put in a little extra. After all, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is exactly that - 'extra'".
Summing up the precise intricacies of how he's managed to pull it all off, he said, "Unless you sync the way they walk and the way they talk with your inner self, it won't work. I needed complete focus and concentration. That's the most important" - quite an amazing statement for a man who does so many different things, seemingly all at once.
That this film means a lot to Anupam Kher is clear from the fact that he has spoken about it in perhaps the highest possible terms: as an Oscar contender both as India's entry into the foreign films category as well as for his own performance. To put this into context, he spoke about films like Lincoln (played by Daniel Day Lewis), Gandhi (Ben Kingsley), The Iron Lady (in which Meryl Streep played Maggie Thatcher), and Gary Oldman in The Darkest Hour, contrasting the subjects of those Academy Award-winning performances with that of his own, remarking that while in Abraham Lincoln's case nobody knew what he was like in real life, Dr Manmohan Singh is around constantly.
Is he discounting his chances though? Emphatically not! "My competition isn't with people around here", Anupam Kher teases... "It's with the best in the world."
'The Accidental Prime Minister' releases on January 11.
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