With his latest movie, ‘Hotel Mumbai’, released last week, Anupam Kher goes from Bollywood to Hollywood as he starts to make his mark in American Film and TV.
Already starring in the show New Amsterdam where he plays Dr. Vijay Kapoor, Anupam is looking to make the transition like other famous and talented Indian actors are doing.
We got a chance to sit down with Anupam to talk about his role in Hotel Mumbai, New Amsterdam, as well as where he wants to see his acting career go in the future. Check out our exclusive below:
The Knockturnal: What drew you to this movie?
Anupam Kher: It’s a great role. It’s a great film to be attached to. It is something that needs to be told to the world. It is unfortunate that this happened. Actors recreate those emotions, the traumas, the hardships, the difficulties. And that is what happened 100 years back or even recently and that is what gets told to the world. When you see “Schindler’s List” and films like “Saving Private Ryan,” you discover that this is what must have happened. It is important to celebrate life as well as examining what has happened in the past. Also, Anthony Maras, the director of this film – the way he was looking at the film was very important to me, with the compassion that he looked for. His interpretation was that this is about a terrorist attack on the Taj Hotel but also about the resilience of the people, the extra ordinariness of ordinary people and how they rose to this event and dealt with this situation. The togetherness, the compassion. It had all the reasons for me to do this film. And when this event happened, I was in Mumbai and I felt I should be a part of this film.
The Knockturnal: Did you talk to any of the survivors from this attack while filming this movie?
Anupam Kher: I knew a lot of them. But not necessarily before the film because everything was in the script which was provided by the writers and the director. I have a very dear friend who lost his wife and two children in the attack. You don’t have to be researching every role you need to do. There are some universal emotions, the sense of loss, the sense of joy, the sense of belonging. I know that if I am playing the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then I have to do my research such as how he walk. The difficult thing I had to do was to relive what these people went through. But still, after reliving this, I am able to talk about this and live my life. But what about the people who actually went through this. And they lost their families – their daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, and mothers. For them, their whole life was changed for the rest of their life.
The Knockturnal: And in the movie you do a very good job of portraying these emotions you talked about. Did you do any preparation when stepping into this role?
Anupam Kher: It’s my job to do well. I am my own barometer. There are very few people whose opinions matter to you. It’s your family members, some friends, and your professional colleagues. And with time, you are competing with yourself. The more difficult you make your job, the more joy you get out of watching it. Initially when I started to act, I was like, ‘I know this, I know this, I can do this, I can do that, I can show off this and that.’ Now, when I do the work, I make it very difficult. Let me make it really hard for me and let me not take shortcuts. Because I feel like when you can become really competent then you can become really brilliant. Making your job difficult gets you better results sometimes.
The Knockturnal: This film has other stars such as Dev Patel and Armie Hammer. What was it like working with this cast?
Anupam Kher: It was wonderful.They are wonderful people, wonderful actors, great human beings. That was a discovery and a bonus that I got to meet such wonderful people. Nazanin, Tilda, Anthony, Armie Hammer, Jason Isaacs, Dev Patel. It was a group of people I can rely on. You see, to me the richness of life is how many people you know and love. This film gave me a family for the rest of my life. We bonded greatly when we shot this film in Australia for 35 days. And everyday we were going through this traumatic shoot because we had to feel all of that. In the evening, we will meet together and unwind together. We may not meet very often, but when we do, we have the same joy that we created with all those associations over time.
The Knockturnal: What was your most favorite scene to film?
Anupam Kher: It’s very difficult to say that because it was a film where every emotion was felt. Actors are very smart because they can give the impression to the audience that they have felt this because you will see their tears. But I can say it proudly – or I will say it realistically, that this is one film that I had to actually feel everything. But of course my last scene with Dev Patel when everything is over and we meet outside the hotel and we hug each other. And we shot that as the last scene of the film also. So by the time we had gone through with what we felt not only as actors, it changed us as people. And that scene is memorable. And also the scene where I tell the staff, ‘You can leave if you want.’ And I feel like that is a very important scene.
The Knockturnal: This film was very intense and emotional. Were there any challenges you faced throughout filming this movie?
Anupam Kher: I don’t think in English, I think in Hindi. So when I am working on an English language project, I have to work double, triple, ten times more. In my mind, I am translating my dialogue from Hindi to English. Because I feel in Hindi, I think in Hindi, and I have to also make it natural when I am saying English dialogue. But that is what makes me challenge myself. It is one of the primary reasons why I picked up ‘New Amsterdam.’ I had reached a stage where people called me veteran, thespian, legend which was frightening. They were trying to give me a compliment like I have done a god job but they were also saying, ‘you have done enough, you need to retire now.’ So I picked up something which would be very difficult. I brought a medical drama in my life. It is not only in English but the medical terms are killer. Almost every time they stab at me.
The Knockturnal: What is it like playing Dr. Vijay Kapoor in your show, New Amsterdam?
Anupam Kher: Well I am very fortunate that this show is successful and that people love it. It is based on a real doctor’s life. I think when you make something that is real and you stick to the pure form, it somewhere touches people. The show is about togetherness, about compassion, about diversity. It is what the world needs at this time and what is important. It resonates. It is about this Indian doctor that brings this calmness that most medical dramas do not have. I bring the Indian-ness to the series which translates to slowing down things. And there are so many factors. The actors are phenomenal. And we have brilliant writers. I think they are the heroes of the series because every script is so amazingly written that I am very happy to be a part of it.
The Knockturnal: What is the dynamic like on the set of the show?
Anupam Kher: I am constantly feeling like a newcomer on the set because I am constantly dealing with my lines. And these are all senior actors who have worked much more than me in terms of television series. So I treat them with great seniority and that I am the junior. They are not allowed to call me sir or Mr. Kher or something. They have to say Anupam so I feel like a newcomer.
The Knockturnal: You have been in so many Indian films and have even done some Western films. What is it like making that transition from Indian films to making things in America?
Anupam Kher: I will get bored with myself. And if I get bored with myself then audiences will get bored with myself. I could have easily worked for another 30 years in India. But, if you don’t try hard – there is a very beautiful saying, ‘If you try, then you risk failure. But, if you don’t, you ensure it.’ So I need to find different horizons and that can only happen if I am lost. And it is very good to be lost sometimes. And then you only find the horizon. If you only walk on a beaten path or track, then you will walk on the road where other people have walked. And for that you have to find your own path and venture out into situations where there is a possibility of failure.
The Knockturnal: Other Indian stars have made it into American television and have talked about their struggles making that transition. What are some of your struggles that you have faced besides the translation of Hindi to English in your head?
Anupam Kher: It is great being at the age of 63 and starting your life all over again. How many people get to do that? It’s fascinating. It’s fascinating to walk on the streets of New York and be recognized as Dr. Kapoor by Americans. I have never thought of that being possible. As long as you are thankful to God and you are working hard, there is no end to what you can achieve. I am an eternal optimist. So that makes it easier for me.
The Knockturnal: What other roles would you like to take on in the future?
Anupam Kher: I don’t know. I am happy. My manager, Lisa is going to working hard for that. And I am glad you asked me this question. I think whatever is happening is happening for the good and it is a great space to be in.
The Knockturnal: What advice could you give to prospective actors?
Anupam Kher: It is very difficult to give advice without it sounding like advice. But, I think be original. If you are trying to be someone else, you will neither be yourself or that somebody else. So your originality will give you your work. Especially in today’s time, I think actors of any culture or background can get work.
The Knockturnal: Do you have anything else coming up for you?
Anupam Kher: I have a film in India which is called, “One Day.” It is a film about a judge who is just retiring. And on the day he retires, he is just discovering that in his entire career there were only four people that he knew was guilty but had to let them go because there was no evidence. And he finds them and deals with them. It is a thriller.