I've no fear of failure: Anupam Kher

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By HT

Mumbai, May 30 -- At 28, Anupam Kher made everyone sit up and take notice when he played a 60-year-old man in his debut film, Saaransh (1984), which completed 34 years on May 25. 

Interestingly, the tables seem to have turned now, as you just can't miss the excitement and exuberance of a 20-something in Kher even though he is 63 today. 

"My life has been a series of taking risks," says Kher, who recently got his second nomination at the Screen Actors Guild Awards (after Silver Linings Playbook; 2013) for The Big Sick and a nomination at BAFTA for The Boy with the Topknot. We caught up with the actor to talk about life, his career, and more.

Do you feel this is a new chapter in your career?

I am passionate about life, so I do everything extremely passionately. Also, I am my own yardstick, so I don't believe in gloating or taking things for granted, and I am not scared of failure. As for it being a new chapter in my life, in filmy parlance, I can say that the film has been very good until the interval, and now the first reel of the second half has started. Honestly, I am way more comfortable today with who I am. I am not in a zone where I have to constantly keep proving myself. Now, I am like, 'How do I make my job difficult as an actor?'

What keeps you going with so much gusto even now?

I love people, and believe in relationships. So when Mr (Robert) De Niro sings happy birthday to me or when I get a call from Lataji (Mangeshkar) about me getting the Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Award, no honour can be bigger. That call from Lataji itself was like an award. Also, when I work abroad, I always feel I represent India as unlike sports people, we don't get to represent our country officially.

So, you remain the same guy?

I am still the same Bittu from Shimla. In fact, my mother still calls me that. And the small-town Bittu should not lose that ID card (his office desk has a picture of his first-ever identity card, which carries the name, Anupam Kumar Kher), because if I compare today's Anupam with that one, I will always be doing better in life (laughs). I have kept it as a reference point. Also, I've always spoken about work, but sometimes, it is really important to speak your mind. But people get confused and say, 'Yeh politics join karne wala hoga'. But I have no interest.

All the honours and even projects such as BBC's new drama, Mrs Wilson, must also be keeping you on your toes.

I feel humbled, great and also arrogant (smiles), as I feel a self-made man has an arrogance that comes from survival. It's gratifying and makes you a better person, but it also makes you realise the triumph of hard work. I don't carry the burden of being Anupam Kher on my shoulders. It's too boring and tiring to keep reminding myself ki maine yeh sab kiya hai. Life is all about reinventing yourself. I am very proud that I am a selfmade person. I came to Bombay with just Rs37 in my pocket. I was 28 when I did Saaransh. My life has been a series of taking risks and me having no fear of failure.

You are the FTII chairman and run an acting school, too. How are you managing everything?

I don't need to be there everyday. It is my job to encourage students to do great work. In fact, if you want to use the term, 'struggling actor', I am a prime example of that. Today's kids can teach you so much by their attitude and understanding of things. I never go to the film institute feeling, 'Now I will teach you since I have done so much'. I always go there as a student and learn.