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Posted at: Oct 8, 2017, 7:52 PM; last updated: Oct 8, 2017, 8:06 PM (IST)

From Shimla to Hollywood, Kher recalls journey at Kasauli lit fest

From Shimla to Hollywood, Kher recalls journey at Kasauli lit fest
Veteran actor Anupam Kher at the Kasauliliterature festival on Sunday. Tribune photo: Ravi Kumar

Gurjant Pannu

Tribune News Service

Kasauli, October 8

Veteran actor Anupam Kher regaled the audience with his life story and recalled his humble beginning to set the stage on fire on the concluding day of the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival here on Sunday.

“Small towns have small stories. Neighbours in small towns have family values. Small-town people have dreams, big-city people have targets,” he said, while sharing various anecdotes about his middle-class upbringing and his Hindi-medium schooling in Shimla.

Kher, who has acted in 508 films, said it was a dream come true to work in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ with Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, as he used to study about the actor during his theatre days.

He remembered his father, a clerk in the forest department, who always attended his school plays with a gleam in his eye and taught him valuable lessons for life.

Getting nostalgic, Kher said: “My family used to go to the Alpha restaurant on the Mall Road in Shimla once in six months to have mutton samosa, pineapple pastry and espresso coffee. It was our family bonding. Once he took me there alone for a treat. I asked him what we were celebrating. Had he been promoted? He said I came to know your Class X result today and you have failed. I was dumbstruck, but then realised that he wanted to take away the fear of failure from me.”

Kher recalled his first play, Prithviraj Chauhan, when he was in Class V and kept the audience amused with his witty one-liners and childhood tales.

“I was neither good in studies nor sports. My PT teacher once saw me running and said even if you race alone, you will finish second,” he said.

The versatile actor remembered his time at a Hindi-medium government school with fondness.

“We were fascinated with those students who could converse in English. Students who had failed from English-medium schools and joined our school were highly respected,” he said while recalling his first English play at school.

“We had to enact Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Only English-speaking students were given meaty roles. I was playing the court’s clerk. In the dress-rehearsal of the play in front of the students and the principal I made 27 mistakes in my eight lines. It was decided that all my lines be given to the judge but during the live performance, the student, who was playing the judge, made a goof-up and I had to speak my lines, which had the audience in splits,” he said.

Even Shakespeare would have been rolling in his grave that day, he remarked.

Recalling his struggling days in Mumbai, he said, “Once I wrote a letter to my grandfather and told him I wanted to come back to Shimla or Chandigarh as there was nothing in the city for me." He replied: “Bheega hua admi barish se nahi darta. One who is drenched is not afraid of rain),” adding that “his words would remain with me forever”.

Kher shared an interesting incident about how he got the lead role in his first Bollywood movie “Saaransh”, which was directed by Mahesh Bhatt. 

“I was 28 and played the role of a retired 65-year-old school teacher. I had rehearsed for eight months for the movie. About 10 days before the shooting was to start I heard from a friend that I was dropped from the lead role and it was to be given to Sanjeev Kumar. I brushed it aside as a rumour but called Bhatt saab. He confirmed me that Rajshri Productions had dropped me as they wanted a known actor.”

The news left him devastated and he decided to pack his bags and leave the city forever. But just before leaving he decided to meet Bhatt.

“I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. My grandfather had taught me that when you don’t expect anything from a person you are equal. I went to his apartment and told him that he was the biggest fraud and cheat I had seen in life. In between all the howling and crying I said I give you a Brahmin’s ‘shraap’ (curse).”

Bhatt relented and gave him the role and as they say the rest is history.

Kher also fondly reminisced about his meetings with legendary writer Khushwant Singh and his first teacher at NSD, the renowned dramatist and iconic novelist, Balwant Gargi.

 

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