Desi-Box had the opportunity to delve deeper in the mind of one of Bollywood’s most inspirational acting legends Anupam Kher. The veteran actor who has cemented his name on both sides of the Atlantic, stars in the newly released David O. Russell directed film ‘Silver Linings Playbook’. The film which premiered with much acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival also stars Hollywood heavyweights Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Based on the novel of the same name, the romantic comedy explores the dysfunctionlaities of life and relationships.
Amongst his insightful reflections of life, The Bend it Like Beckham star shared his thoughts about his role in the film, working with an incredible all-star cast, Oscar buzz and a taste of his acclaimed motivational book.
Check out what the renowned actor had to say below.
DB: You’ve had quite a difficult year with the passing of loved ones in your personal life, but at the same time a very successful and active one career wise. How have you managed to strike a balance in 2012?
AK: If you can accept the ups and downs and successes and failures of life, then you can balance anything in life. You don’t have to be a juggler necessarily. You just have to accept to be happy about the good things and to be sad about the bad things. If you deal with things in a normal manner it becomes easier to balance everything.
As an actor I have done so much work that I look for new challenges now. I am in competition with myself and I make it difficult for my self to give my best in what I do. The easiest thing is to be mediocre. Competence is the biggest enemy of brilliance. What happens is that you start say to yourself you have done so much work and have been in so many movies for so many years. You could become lethargic and think you have done enough, and the moment you do that you can never challenge yourself. So rather than balancing I keep challenging my abilities.
DB: You have recently been listed in the 5 Best Actors is Asia list by The Hollywood Reporter, how does that feel?
AK: It’s fantastic! I’m the only Indian in that and I think it’s a great feeling of achievement. When you’re a child you are told when you do this you get that, and when you win this race you get a trophy. That thought processes never goes out of your system. The only thing you can keep consistent is your talent and hard work.
But it’s a great thing. I don’t want to be modest about it; I feel on top of the world! I’m very proud to be part of Silver Linings; it has the A-listers of Hollywood, the best producers and directors and cant really get better than this. I’ve enjoyed the shooting of the film and now I’m enjoying its glory. I was just at the world premiere in Toronto. It was great to be on same stage as Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence and all. Ironically, 4 years back on the same stage I did a play based on my life called ‘Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai.’
I have not yet stopped being amazed at the wonders that life offers you. Not yet settled to that feeling. That is what life is all about; spontaneity. Unfortunately we kill our spontaneity as we grow older age wise. For me that small town boy will remain with me until I’m 90!
DB: How did you come on board for the film and how was the audition process?
AK: I am now looking at different horizons. I had about 3 auditions due to some technical problems finally when I got it I was very happy. It was a great acting workshop for me. I decided that I would go back to 0 and pretend that I didn’t know anything about acting. It gave me an opportunity to reinvent myself. David O. Russell is an actor’s dream director. It’s not a question of me doing a film in Hollywood, it’s a question of which film. To be in the same frame as Robert De Niro is unbelievable. We have all grown up on Robert De Niro‘s movies and we have watched, appreciated, talked and analysed them in acting schools. Then to actually meet him and be in the same scene; not as an audience but as an actor, it can put u into a litter delirious situation. For half an hour I kept looking at him!
DB: Can you tell us more about your role?
AK: It’s an ensemble cast role. My character is interwoven in the film. The film is about dysfunctional people and I play Bradley Cooper’s therapist Dr Cliff Patel.
DB: How does your role in this film compare to the other Western or crossover films you have been part of?
AK: I must thank Gurinder Chadha for putting me into an English film, because Bend it like Beckham was my first English speaking film and it was a global hit. But no one really recognised me as such. That happened with my first film Saaransh where at 28 I played a 65 year old, and everyone used to think where is this old man?
Although just one scene, I also had had the pleasure of working with Woody Allen who to me a kind of 8th wonder of the world. But the point is that films like Bend It Like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice and Slumdog have an Indian background. However in Silver linings I’m just a character who happens to be Indian
DB: How much did you prepare for your role?
AK: For me I just became completely as a newcomer. I used to lock myself in a room and work on focusing myself as David does a lot of improvisation on sets and he doesn’t shoot in a fixed manner. Even when I was not shooting I would go on the sets. It was not that I had to learn acting for the role buy I needed to be focused and I need to be calm and have that person of a therapist. I had to work more on that than my acting if you know what I mean.
DB: Had any of your co-stars watched any of your films?
AK: Bradley mentioned to me he saw Bend it like Beckham. David played an interesting exercise with us. He told Bradley Cooper that Anupam Kher doesn’t know any English at all, except for what is in the dialogues. He told me to play the game and just speak all the lines in Hindi. We did this for half an hour and Bradley was horrified. But that was David’s own way of making us feeling comfortable with each other.
Being part of the film was like being part of a family. I will have great memories of this film for a long time, not because I was part of the film as an actor but because as people we had a great time. It was a very creative movement shooting the film and was very satisfying.
DB: What are your thoughts regarding the Oscar buzz surrounding Silver Linings Playbook?
AK: My character doesn’t have the mileage of an Oscar (but miracles do happen!) However I have a strong feeling that the film will be nominated for best film, actor, actress and screenplay. I will be happy to be party of the film whatever award or nomination it receives.
DB: Can you tell us more about your motivational book?
AK: The book is called ‘The Best Thing About You is You’. It is basically about how in these times you need to draw your strength from yourself. The world around you is constantly telling you that you are incapable of doing things or someone is doing better than you. Marketing, media and the news are always telling you that you are an underachiever. I believe the easiest and the most difficult thing is to be yourself depending on what path you take.
You don’t have to go therapist. The best thing about Indian’s is that we don’t need therapists as we talk to everybody. We talk to the ‘pan wala’, this aunty and that uncle. We literally share our problems and grievances with everyone. When you communicate with people you don’t need a therapist. Whereas In Europe and America because of the lack of trust and communication you need to say the same things to a therapist and pay them £500 hour!
In terms of the book, I have already written what people know but just in simple English. You know I have never got high marks in my studies so I was so horrified when my publisher told me to write a book after hearing me speak at a motivational lecture. My reference point for anything is my life. Whatever I have written is the first hand account of what I have experienced in my life. What I don’t believe in is not written in the book as I don’t understand that.
DB: How important is social media?
AK: I enjoy being on Twitter for self-expression and understanding and knowing people. I don’t tweet that I drank coffee or brushed my teeth, but I communicate with people about life and my high points which is great. I get to know about people, which is best thing! I’m a people’s person you see; just from our conversation I can even tell what kind of person you are…
Silver Linings Playbook is released today in cinemas nationwide.