He is the consummate actor who can handle comedy and pathos with the same ease, his recent foray in Hollywood proving him worthy of international recognition. Writer, teacher and motivational speaker are new feathers he has added to his cap, earning him an ever growing circle of fans and admirers.
She is a stage and screen actress and now a popular TV personality with a devoted following. Her sense of style is the envy of fashionistas.
Actress Kiron Kher shares her life with Anupam Kher in a freewheeling interview.
Firstpost : You are both from the theatre. Was it the actor in Anupam who first attracted you?
Kiron Kher : Yes we both were in theatre in Chandigarh, and we were the best of friends. There was nothing he did not know about me, and I knew everything about him, up to the extent of knowing which girl he was planning to patao. It was fun and we worked together well too. But there was no attraction of any kind beyond friendship.
Firstpost: Who changed, or what changed things?
Kiron Kher: Well, I came to Bombay, I married Gautam, and we discovered that the marriage was just not happening. Anupam too had been married, and that had gone wrong. He and I were still good friends, doing plays together. I remember, we were going to Calcutta for Nadira Babbar's play, he came looking different, his head was shaved, for some film he was doing I think. When he was leaving the room, he looked back at me, and something passed between us.
Later he came and knocked on my door, and said '" I want to talk to you." He then said " I think I have fallen in love with you." And suddenly there was this immense, intense change, the chemistry exploded. I got a divorce and married him. He had nothing then.
Firstpost : Your backgrounds were different, did that matter?
Kiron Kher : Yes, they were very different. I was from what you call landed aristocracy. We were big zamindars, my father was in the army, there were uncles in the Administrative and Foreign services...you get the picture? My sister and I played badminton for India with Prakash Padukone and his peers and my sister was an Arjuna Award winner. I was an all rounder through school and college.
Anupam came from a very happy family, his father was a clerk in the Forest Department in Shimla, but he went home only during the holidays to Srinagar where the rest of his Kashmiri Pundit family lived. His parents were very fun loving, lovely people.
Firstpost : What was life with Anupam like once you were married.
Kiron Kher : The first ten to fifteen years we just travelled together everywhere. Sikandar -- my son from Gautam -- was still a baby, so all theatre work stopped for me. Sikandar was from a broken home, and I wanted him to be spared any trauma, did not wish him to feel rudderless. He went with us everywhere. He went with us on Anupam's shoots, his shows with Amitabh Bachchan abroad. Those were great days for Anupam, and we sailed along with him basking in the glory.
Firstpost : Did he not feel bad about you giving up your career?
Kiron Kher : I don't think he had the time to think, so much was happening, I think those years he won awards in almost every category of acting, villian, supporting, comedy, main... And I for one was completely happy being just a wife. I think I did one small role in Pestonji because Sai insisted. That was all.
I did get many assignments (the play Saalgira with Anupam) : Kurukshetra on TV, my chat show, then there was Sardari Begum, then Bairwali for Rituparno Ghosh, which Anupam helped produce because Rituparno could not raise enough money. The awards came in plenty and international recognition for Khamosh Pani. But they were all small films, parallel cinema almost, so there was not much public adulation.
I don't think it bothered him, he was a commercially big star in mainstream cinema, after all. In fact he was very proud of me, ensured I went to all the award functions to take my awards personally.
Firstpost : But there was a bad patch...
Kiron Kher : Yes, it was terrible. Anupam started his entertainment company, and he would produce for tv... But he expanded it too quickly. He told me his plans. I told him, 'Don't do it…' and so he stopped telling me. He hid from me the fact that he borrowed heavily to produce many shows simultaneously. Then, without warning eight of his shows were off the air in one month. TV bosses changed, the money did not cone in for months.
We were in a financial mess. And his own career was at a low, he was being typecast in wretched comedy roles. I had to start working in earnest for money.
Firstpost : How did he face the lean times?
Kiron Kher : I think he was very stressed. It was a dramatic change from the sunshine he had enjoyed. He was however very positive. I think he is somewhere between an optimist and an ostrich. He wanted to be made to feel good all the time. So I was the one to make him believe all was well. He continued to have his life, and I was left holding the baby!
Firstpost : Did that strain your relationship?
Kiron Kher : It did. But I learnt a lot. I call a spade a spade, I am very straight, don't mince words. He does not like criticism, so when I told him what he had done wrong, he could not take it. He likes to be liked and loved, he takes criticism as being not loving. But I am a wife, not a concubine, to keep saying you are the best...so there was a strain. I realised this trait about him much later in life.
Firstpost: Anupam as a husband...
Kiron Kher: He is all about himself. Very driven, does not give any time at home. He has never taken a day off, not even a Sunday, August 15 or January 26 . Even the night of the flood, he just spent in his office.
Firstpost : When you started getting offers in commercial films, did it create the Abhiman syndrome? Was he insecure then?
Kiron Kher : My first commercial films was Devdas. Then all the big banners that he had worked with signed me on, and he was not working with any of them. It hit him then, but I was so busy, I did not realise it. He missed the drug of being on top, of being popular.
He would laugh and crack a joke about my work. He would ask: "How much did you get paid?" I was getting paid much more than he got, because times had changed, and also I am very particular about the contract. It made me realise he was reacting to my success.
Firstpost: How do you face the fact that women chase stars...
Kiron Kher: Why blame women, men are equally to blame. I have had my suspicions at times something is going on, but do not try to find out. I don't ask the driver, or his office staff. I don't go down that lane because if it's confirmed, what is my option? Yes, three or four years in the middle were very bad, but it made me stronger, taught me to live with myself, travel alone. It was a lot of pain, but luckily it solved itself.
Firstpost: And you, have you never been tempted?
Kiron Kher: Many men find me very attractive, but I am the mother of a son, and will never do anything to embarrass him, to be less dignified in his eyes. The boy won't be able to handle the fact that his mother is fooling around. He is very close to me, and he knew everything when I was going through my bad times. And Anupam will not be able to handle it at all.
Firstpost: Did you and Anupam not want children of your own?
Kiron Kher : We did, as much because Sikandar needed a sibling. But it never happened, despite medical help.
Firstpost: Now that Anupam is doing well again, is everything back on the rails?
Kiron Kher: He is very excited over his work. When he is excited about some project he shares it with me, but mostly we hardly meet. He leaves home without fail at 9.30 for school or shooting. When he returns, I am watching my serial. I don't like to answer his questions then, and tell him go to the other room, let me watch in peace. And we both also travel a lot, separately. Only the phone keeps us together. He has the bimari of calling four five times, so we stay in touch.
Firstpost: One last question. You are known for being impeccably dressed for every occasion. He is much more casual in his approach. Does it bother you?
Kiron Kher : It does. It is a direct result of the difference in backgrounds. I used to buy ties for him, shoes. Earlier I used to do his film clothes too, Then I got busy and he got independent of me, and started dressing the way he liked. If I say anything he says, "I am like that," and sometimes when he goes out with me dressed wrongly, I do feel bad about it.
I never pack for him, luckily he never makes those typical demands...he is very easy to live with. But when he packs, he forgets so many things. Once he landed up somewhere without any spare underwear. I tell him make lists but he wont. But I can't change him, don't try anymore. He can look very nice, but he needs to be interested in doing so. His taste is not developed, and since I cannot babysit him and now, it doesn't matter.
Firstpost: In a way then, it is a marriage of opposites.
Kiron Kher : Perhaps. He is such a bechain buti, he cannot sit still, he will walk about, go from one thing to another, make a call...
I am much calmer. Then the other differences: he needs to sleep immediately after dinner, while I like to read, unwind. He will say put off the light. Luckily now I have all my reading on my ipad, and don't need the light.
In marriage, one learns to find solutions.