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Padmabhushan Anupam Kher Do You Remember Those Days In Kherwadi, Mr. Kher?

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Yes, dear Anupam, nothing that you have been doing and achieving during the last three decades surprises me. Your achievements have become a part of your life and also something I feel as proud of as a parent feels about his son’s achievements…

I have been very fortunate to know you when you were a no body in Bombay (then). I was stunned by your performance in a play based on “Desire Under The Elms”, directed by the noted writer and playwright Balwant Gargi. You who I had only heard about had invited me to a show of the play at the Prithvi Theatre and what you did on stage took me to a point when I just silently screamed, “if this is not pure talent, I don’t know what talent is”. For the next few days I only talked about your performance till I realized that I should do something for you as a journalist. The only thing I could do was talk about you to my “very English” Parsi Editor and he agreed to come and see your play. He had never travelled beyond Bandra, but the way I persisted he finally agreed and called his peon Pramod to go to the Churchgate Station one day in advance to book two tickets from Churchgate to Vile Parle without knowing that there was no advance booking of tickets for suburban railway services, Pramod had to take him and his garrulous wife all the way to Prithvi. It was a job he had done for the first time in the thirty- eight years of his career…

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My Editor saw your play and expressed the desire to see the play again provided someone sent him a car which would take him and his wife to the theatre and bring them back. The next time he saw your play with his daughter, Dilshad who was also a journalist and they were all praise for you as an actor and I  don’t know how happy I felt for you because this Editor and his family were known for not praising anyone easily…

The next morning my Editor called me and talked about your performance like he had never talked about any actor and asked me what we could do to promote you and your talent. We were going to go color for the first time in the next issue, I humbly requested my Editor to put your picture in color on the front page and he readily agreed and you were on the cover of “Screen” which was the dream of some of the biggest stars. I also had the opportunity to write about you….

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We soon became good friends and I was witness to your grim struggle to make it in Hindi films, a dream you had seen for the first time when you were a part of the crowd watching the shooting of Yash Chopra’s “Daag” with the then superstar Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore and Raakhee. You had no place to live in Bombay, but a very close friend, Suhas Khandke was kind enough to give you place in  his huge house till you moved out and shifted to a slum in Bandra, a slum which was strangely called Kher Nagar and your postal address read, “Anupam Kher, Kherwadi, Kherwadi Post Office, Bandra East”. When your father Mr. Pushkarnath Kher who was working in Shimla read the address for the first time he almost believed that you had made it very big and even showed the letters you wrote home to all his friends. Little did he know that you were living in a very dingy room shared by four other struggling actors and paying a collective rent of Rupees thirteen only. You gave tuitions to the children in the slum charging each student Rupees five a month to make a living. You just had two pairs of white chudidaar kurtas which you washed yourself every night, had a sparse breakfast in the neighboring Muslim restaurant which served breakfast at the cheapest prices which you could afford and sometimes couldn’t and lived because of the kindness of the owner of the restaurant who had faith in you and knew very little about what you were really up too…

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Better times came. I believed they had to. You shifted to a better paying guest accommodation; I especially remember that room in Shastri Nagar in Santacruz West and then the royal kind of ramshackle haveli in Bandra where most of the stars lived. You shared the top floor of the haveli with your brother Raju Kher who worked in a tin factory and earned Rupees ten a day which was good enough for your daily diet of rice, daal, sometimes rajma and when the pocket was a little heavy even a bottle or half of Old Monk rum, luxuries which I was lucky to share with both of you…..

Time passed. You found more work in theatre and sometimes television, but your dream to work in films kept evading you, I know how you made the rounds of various studios and offices and how you were shown the way out by the watchmen. Some makers who were kind enough offered you roles that were rejected by actors like the late A.K Hangal and others who played father’s roles. You were only in your late twenties but you were almost bald which was considered a very big drawback……

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It took you very little time to change your drawback to your advantage. I know how I took you to a party at the Express Towers, the party was hosted by “Screen” and I took the risk of taking in a number of newcomers who were taken by awe when they had a look at the cream of the industry, I tried to introduce you to as many people as possible and one of them was Rajkumar Barjatya of the Rajshri empire. The Rajshris were planning a film called “Saaraansh” with Sanjeev Kumar and Smita Patil to be directed by Mahesh Bhatt. This Mahesh Bhatt was the same director who kept on promising you roles in his next films which never came. You would have lost “Saaraansh” too if it was not your friend, Suhas who was working with the Rajshris as a hero came to know about the casting and informed you. I remember how you drove Mahesh Bhatt who was already mad absolutely mad by asking him, begging of him and finally threatening him to cast you in the role in “Saaraansh”, till Mahesh Bhatt had to surrender to you and cast you in “Saaraansh”  with Rohini Hattangady as your wife. You played a sixty- seven year old man fighting for the ashes of his dead son and the rest is what will always be remembered as the unusual success story of Anupam Kher…..

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You have done more than four hundred and fifty and more films in a variety of roles and have very rarely given a bad or indifferent performance. You have won almost every award in the country. You are one of the favorites of the filmmakers, filmgoers and film critics. You have been one of the most written about actors. You started your own entertainment company, you directed your first film, “Om Jai Jagadish”, and you started your own acting school, “Actor Prepares” which trains young boys and girls in the best way to work in any kind of film or any form of entertainment. You worked wonders with your one man show in theatre with “Kuchh Bhi Ho Sakta Hai” in which you stood all alone and told the rapt audience the story of the journey of your life, the play is a very big hit to this day. I remember the standing ovation the entire industry gave you during the first show at the Sophia Auditorium…..

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You are now a much wanted actor in Hollywood after your performance in films like “Bend It Like Beckham”, “Bride & Prejudice”, “The Mistress Of Spices”, “American Blend”, “Hope And A Little Sugar”, “Midnight’s Children”, and the recently released “Silver Linings Playbook”. You have now even decided to direct a short film on the famous Hollywood actor Robert De Niro titled “I Went Shopping For Robert De Niro”. I felt extremely proud and happy when the Mayor of Los Angeles City, Mr Antonio Villaraigosa presented you with a City Proclamation at the City Council. That night as you reveled in the kind of limelight that you richly reserved I applauded the small man from Shimla who had reached such dizzy heights and asked myself Aur Kya Kya Ho Sakta Hai, Kher Sahab?

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Kherwadi Days, Anupam Kher, Anupam Kher Life Story, Saaransh

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