Anupam Has Completed 500 Films, Written Two Books And Still Says It Is Only The Beginning
ANUPAM KHER RETURNS TO MUMBAI TO RELEASE HIS NEW BOOK, “LESSONS LIFE HAS TAUGHT ME UNKNOWINGLY”
BY ALI PETER JOHN
More than 60 years ago, one little boy was playing with his dreams in the mountains of Shimla and another boy was struggling in a slum in Mumbai. Who could have imagined that both these boys from two different places and several different circumstances would meet in the city of dreams, Mumbai and the boy from the slum would be a first hand witness to the rise of the boy from Shimla who has now crossed all peaks of success and aim to reach higher, while the boy from the slum is ecstatic for seeing his rise and rise, inspite of their being some hurdles in his way? The boy from Shimla was Anupam Kher and the boy from the slum was yours truly. .
Anupam had made a name for himself as an actor who could change colours according to the demands of even the most difficult scripts and give life to his characters. He could switch from feature films to web series, to television and his foundation, theatre with the kind of effortless ease which put legends like Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand take pride in having an actor like Anupam in their fraternity. Dilip Kumar once said that Anupam could have been a far greater actor than himself if he had not grabbed so many films, but what could Anupam do about the hunger and thirst to know more and more about himself as an actor…
It was these and five thousand other thoughts that ran across my mind when I made brave attempts to attend the launch of his book.
The most interesting part of the evening was the conversation between Anupam and the man he calls his mentor, Mahesh Bhatt. Some unknown facts about Anupam came to light during their talk for which Anupam said he had to pay Mahesh a sum of 16,000 rupees and the amount kept increasing as Mahesh said something good about Anupam. I didn’t know whether it was a joke, but I knew of a time when Anupam was hardly paid for the work he did with Mahesh. For the first ten films Anupam did with Mahesh, he was not paid a rupee as Mahesh had done him a favour by casting him in “Saaransh”. But after the tenth year of his not being paid, Anupam had put his foot down and asked Mahesh to pay him as “enough was enough” and Anupam and his mentor have never worked together again…
The role of the 67 year old man, “B.V Pradhan” was to be played by Sanjeev Kumar, but Mahesh had promised the starving and struggling Anupam that he would cast him in the lead role of “Saaransh” and when Anupam came to know that the role was to done by Sanjeev Kumar, he packed his bags , went to Mahesh’s house and called him a fraud, a cheat and many other dirty names and finally cursed him as a Brahmin. Mahesh was so carried away by Anupam’s burst of anger that he called Rajkumar Barjatya, the father of Sooraj Barjatya and told him that he was not making the film with Sanjeev, but with a new actor called Anupam Kher.
All the preparations to start ” Saaransh” was made and when RajKumar Barjatya heard about Mahesh’s decision, he went up to his father, the founder of Rajshri Empire, Seth Tarachand Barjatya and told him about the change in the casting and it was for the first time that the father and son had a huge fight, but Rajkumar had his way and Anupam was finalized to play B. V Pradhan…
A special show was organised for Sanjeev Kumar alone. He saw the film in complete silence and at the end of the film, he was seen hawling and crying and rolling on the ground. He later told the Barjatyas that Anupam was the right choice for the role and he could never play it like Anupam had. It was the first and among the best compliments Anupam had received…
It was a book launch of a very different kind. Anupam had committed the names of some of the biggest stars, but had made it a point to invite all those who had been with him during the beginning of his journey. And so among the guests were his mother, Ms. Dulari who seemed as if she had not yet realised how big a star her Bittu ( her pet name for Anupam) who had specially flown down from Shimla, his brother, Vijay Kher (also known as Raju Kher), Deepak Sinha, Rakesh Bedi, Rohini Hattangadi, Deepali Shetty (the wife of his second secretary, Bhaskar Shetty who had died early of a massive heart attack), Suhas Kandhke who was the first man to bring him to Bombay and give him shelter in his house in Walkeshwar and had even leaked out the news about Sanjeev Kumar being chosen for role of BV Pradhan and not him (Anupam) which was not led him to put up his best fight to get the role, do it and win over the hearts of millions, Anant Desai and his wife and his office staff of the good old days, Rane and Dutta, his accountants, Ausaf Ali, his associate and Om among others. It was a moving movement when he showed his gratitude towards his “boy” Dattu, the man who has been by his side for the last 35 years without any break and his first secretary, Ashok Punjabi who had got him 57 films in a week and on his own terms.
Anupam could have held the release function at any of the Five Star hotel, but he decided to have it at the Crossroads in Juhu where he had to have a packed house and had one. It was like any of the countless book launches, but it was Anupam Kher who made the function shine.
He had the maximum sales of his book at the function even though he said he would autograph books that were bought. I was lucky or made lucky by Anupam, who had presented me with a copy more than a month ago. As he was leaving, he took a selfie with me and then whispered into my ears that he had written about me in the book, he had even mentioned my name on stage after his mother and Mahesh Bhatt telling the audience that I was the first journalist to write about him when he was a nobody.
A special guest was Sooraj R Barjatya who was Mahesh Bhatt’s fourth assistant of Mahesh Bhatt during the making of “Saaransh” and had then directed Anupam in “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” . I have seen Sooraj standing up to welcome Anupam in his office at the Rajshri Building known as Bhavna. He was the same picture of humility at the function, the only difference was that he was now dressed in a proper suit and looked more like a MBA professor than the humble but great filmmaker he was.
The next morning, Anupam left for America where he spends most of his time these days and hobnobs with great names like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
The boy from Shimla has reached beyond his ambitions and dreams and the boy from the slum hopes that he doesn’t get into the cesspool of politics and carries on his good work which he says has just began and which I am sure will take him to higher and loftier peaks than there are in Shimla.
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