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Anupam Kher comes full circle

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BHARATHI S. PRADHAN   |     |   Published 31.05.09, 12:00 AM

It’s the first time in the world,” emphasised Anupam Kher, as he celebrated his silver innings in the Hindi film industry. Indeed, watching Saaransh, the taut Mahesh Bhatt film which turned a non-entity from Shimla into a much-feted celebrity, at a ‘premiere’ 25 years after its release was a strange first-time experience.

It turned the word ‘premiere’ on its head — a premiere show is supposed to be the first public screening of a film. Everything about a premiere glitters — the screening of Saaransh was just the opposite. At 4 ’clock on a lazy Sunday afternoon, nothing can glitter. Even the print, exhausted with overuse, was faded and fatigued. It was a premiere where nostalgia overruled newness.

Anupam had gone to great pains to make it a memorable celebration. Apart from personal invitations, the staff at Metro was trained to welcome with a namaste, Barjatya-style. Few would remember that it was the traditional Tarachand Barjatya’s Rajshri banner that had backed Saaransh 25 years ago, a fact that Mahesh Bhatt appreciated at Anupam’s ‘premiere.’

“Can you imagine,” Bhatt held forth during interval, “that Tarachandji, such a traditional man, backed such a film 25 years ago? He’d asked me, young man, are you trying to say that rishis and sadhus are all fakes? I said, yes, sir. But he still backed me. Saaransh went totally against the Rajshri genre.” Twenty five years ago, the Rajshri banner was only known for small, cute films like Amol Palekar’s Chit Chor or Nadiya Ke Paar and an impressive name like Sooraj Barjatya was still to make his mark in Hindi cinema. A very young Sooraj was up there with dad Rajkumar Barjatya in old, nostalgia-filled photographs that were put up all over Metro.

Watching Saaransh that noon were Kher favourites, ranging from a stately Yash Chopra to a portly Satish Kaushik. Everybody trooped out making sentimental comments on a film that could still hold you in an emotional grip. But guess who came out red-eyed and teary? Anupam himself!

A few facts:

Was Saaransh well received in its time? Mahesh Bhatt bluntly pointed out that it was more a ‘critical success,’ well appreciated by critics, than a box-office blockbuster. In fact, Saaransh belongs to the community of films that is rated high as classics but is low on commercial viability. Saaransh stands as a great and rare example of a film that didn’t make money but was a goldmine for its fine lead actor, Anupam Kher, who straddles mainstream Hindi films with as much ease as intense offbeat cinema.

Was wife Kirron Kher, who was by Anupam’s side last Sunday, around 25 years ago? Yes, she was, but surreptitiously. Kirron had entered Anupam’s life but was married to businessman Gautam Berry who was Amitabh Bachchan’s partner then. It was Gautam who fathered her son, Sikander who took on the Kher surname when Anupam and Kirron finally wed each other officially. “I was having an affair with Anupam at that time but chhupke se because I was married to Gautam at that time,” the three-times married Kirron Kher laughed. Before Gautam, Kirron Thakur Singh (as she was known) was married to Bobby Garewal, a Chandigarh boy who gave her so much grief that dumping him and seeking an acting career in Bombay was the more sensible option. Those were the scandalous 1980s.

In the new millennium, a story that has gone unrecorded is Anupam Kher’s big patch-up with publishing tsar Nari Hira, after a nasty showdown 16 years ago. Anupam Kher whipped up frenzy against journalists, vowing to have them all rendered jobless within months. Anupam had got actors like Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan to ban the press.

The ban had started when, objecting to a story that was yet to be published in Stardust, Anupam Kher had infamously slapped a journalist from that publication on the sets of Yash Chopra’s Parampara in Pune, and had called for a ban on ‘yellow journalism.’ Ultimately, the film flopped and the ban was a failure but Kher could never completely retrieve that rare and wonderfully easy camaraderie that the Saaransh boy shared with the media.

Today, Anupam Kher is acting in a film produced by Nari Hira, the publisher of Stardust, a film called The Apartment directed by Jagmohan Mundhra. Kher sure has come full circle.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor of Movie Mag International

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