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    Default India's not shining at all: Anupam Kher

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    Difference between Americans and Indians, the industry reaction and the Life of Pi controversy Anupam Kher in conversation

    "Surprise, surprise!" screams Farah 'Shirin' Khan as Anupam Kher enters the hotel lobby on Sunday evening. With her is Boman 'Farhad' Irani. The suddenness of seeing his friends, followed by the bouquet-tika-aarti ceremony, don't do what they are meant to do surprise Kher enough. Eight Oscar nominations for Silver Linings Playbook, starring Kher, is about hard work bearing fruit. Prod him on his nonchalance, and the actor says nonchalantly 'Kuchh bhi ho sakta hai'. And that sets the ball rolling:

    By the time this interview is in print, the Golden Globe results will be out. Jennifer Lawrence is a clear favourite for best actress in a musical/comedy (she won it on Monday morning). You must be staying up all night in excitement...
    She will win the Oscars; 100%. Luckily, all this is happening to me when I'm a little settled in life, in my thought process. There's no over-the-top excitement. Also, I feel it's a great honour and I've enjoyed the process of this whole film. It's a team of A-listers in Hollywood actors, producer, director...

    Critics' Choice, BAFTA, Golden Globe, Screen Actors' Guild, for which you have a nomination, and finally, eight Oscar entries.... As you keep saying, kuchh bhi ho sakta hai.
    Yes, kuchh bhi ho sakta hai. That's what I felt on learning about all these awards.

    Four years back, all eyes were on Slumdog Millionaire, which had a strong India connect. Did you watch the awards then?
    Of course, I did.

    What's the feeling now that you are about to stand on the same podium?
    Right now, I'm excited about SAG the world's best actors will be in one room, applauding each other. I'm taking one step at a time. If I get excited about the Oscars and miss out on what is completely joyous, it wouldn't be fair. I'm very excited to be part of an ensemble cast. I couldn't make it to the Golden Globes, because I had to promote Special Chabbis by Neeraj Pandey. I think it will hit me once I reach LA. Otherwise, it all seems surreal now. SAG is going to be fantastic. I'm very excited about meeting the cast after so long. We last met at the New York premiere. Now, it's celebration time. It's strange how people call you and say, 'Can we dress you up?' There's always a remote chance for an Indian actor, or for that matter any actor, to be present at the Oscars. When Slumdog Millionaire won so many awards, it was a very proud moment, but this is different because it's a Hollywood cast. In Slumdog, everyone was known, though I'm not taking away what they did. It was amazing, but this is like representing India abroad and I'm the only person. To earn their awe after having done 450 films wasn't very difficult. But to earn their respect, I had to work very hard. And I would like to believe that they respect me.

    You got mentioned by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the best Asian actors...
    Yes, that was fantastic. When Bradley (Cooper) took my name at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards, I was excited. I called him and said, 'Thank you'. He told me, 'You are part of it and how can I not do that?' The six people from the film have all got nominations. Otherwise, every single person in every single department is brilliant. It's one of those films that make you feel good about life. It's about dysfunctional people and Dr Patel (my role) is no different.

    The video that landed you the role was shot by a Bangladeshi room service guy...
    Yes, in Toronto. I had already done one Skype, which didn't work because of technical glitches. I was very upset and thought there goes my chance of doing this wonderful film. One Bangladeshi guy, I think Abdul, was making tea. For him, I was the ultimate actor and he asked, 'Dada ki holo?' I told him the whole story. Indians tend to share their stories with strangers. He said, 'I have an iPhone and I can shoot your audition'. I said okay. In fact, it was he who said 'action dada' and once I finished, summed it up with 'cut dada'. He sent me the link with both 'action dada' and 'cut dada' and I landed myself the role. So again, kuchh bhi ho sakta hai.

    This year four films at the Oscars Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, Licoln and Zero Dark Thirty have a strong India connect. Is the focus on India or would you call it a coincidence?
    It's a coincidence. Kathryn Bigelow couldn't shoot in Pakistan, Life of Pi is based in India and in Silver Linings Playbook, the doctor had to be an Indian... By the way, I have worked with two directors and both have got nominated at this year's Oscars. I've worked with Ang Lee in a Chinese film called Lust, Caution and of course, there's SLP with David O'Russell. I'm in touch with Ang Lee, whom I gifted my book recently. He is fond of me and we had a great time shooting in Shanghai.

    How are your colleagues reacting?
    (Laughs) They, I'm sure, are very happy. My friend, Anil Kapoor, has been a great support. He has encouraged me and told me how to go about it. Then, there my friends.... But not that I've been flooded with calls from the industry people. It's all right. I don't mind.

    Anil Kapoor followed up his Slumdog success with TV series 24 and Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. Do you have any such plans?
    It's not in my hands. The film will give me great visibility but that doesn't mean people will now write roles for me. If there are roles, it would be easier for me to approach them. Right now, I just plan to go with the flow. I have an agent in London, not in LA. Primarily, I am an Indian actor, and if there are good offers, I would be thrilled. See, I run an acting school, give motivational lectures around the world, my book is doing well, I am not in a hurry to prove anything.

    Have you made up your mind on what to wear at the SAG?
    Falguni does my clothes. It's a black tie event and she's making something. It has always been my dream to wear a tuxedo. When I won the Best Actor award at Filmfare after Saaransh, I wore a tuxedo. At SAG, I would again wear that. About Oscars, I don't know. The thought wasn't sinking and I found it ridiculous that people were calling me up expressing the desire to make a special attire for me. I was joking with my brother and said, 'What is wrong with them? I will look good in anything'. Coat pant hi pehenni hai mujhe, kaun banayega kya farak padta hai?

    There's a huge copyright controversy surrounding Bombay Jayashri's song in Life of Pi. But no one raised a voice before her nomination in the original song category at the Oscars was announced...
    Unfortunately, sometimes we Indians behave very cheaply. We don't celebrate others' success. That's the biggest difference between Americans and Indians. Look at our award functions. Only the people who are almost told that they will win an award make it to the ceremony. Over there, everyone applauds success.

    How happy is Kirron Kher?
    Kirron was watching TV, found out about the Oscar nominations and told me. She is very happy. She is coming with me to LA for the SAG Awards. About the Oscars, we have not yet decided.

    While it's India shining on the reel, in real the country is still mourning..
    There nothing called shining about India. I am ashamed the way we are treating our women. I am ashamed that such things are happening in the country's capital. We are constantly talking how law will take its own course, but that's not how it should be. Trust me, internationally there's nothing called India shining. What is it? We are celebrating some individual feats abroad and back home, trying to sweep important issues under the rug. India's not shining at all. Women are the greatest things that can happen to humankind and we are playing politics about that! Morally, it's the lowest time for India.

    You came out in full support of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement. Do you see any change happening?
    I have faith in the country's youth. They might come across as irreverent, but they have a mind of their own. It's only when you get into an absolute daldal that you come out clean. We are in that process and there's still some hope left.

 

 

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