Anupam Kher is unarguably India's most successful crossover actor with BAFTA nod, Netflix show, rich filmography

Abhishek Srivastava

May 14, 2018 16:05:21 IST

The role of a schizophrenic patient that Anupam Kher aced in BBC’s TV drama The Boy With The Topknot was shot in freezing conditions of Manchester in a span of just 20 days. Kher has admitted on occasions that getting into and out of the character was perhaps the toughest thing he has done in his acting career. The perseverance and hard work paid off on 4 April when nominations for British Academy Television Awards were announced.

Anupam Kher. YouTube

Anupam Kher. YouTube

Whether Kher will bring home the coveted trophy for his superlative performance in The Boy With The Topknot will be known only on 13 May but the nomination also proves that the Saaransh actor has successfully crossed the Hollywood barrier where most have faltered. His recent Hollywood filmography is replete with work which could be a matter of envy to fellow actors. While Silver Linings Playbook and The Big Sick ensured that the veteran actor was part of the Oscars ceremony amidst stars like Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence, his Netflix series Sense8 is nothing less than a phenomenon. If his Hollywood work is peppered with names like David O Russell, Wachowski Brothers, Ang Lee, Deepa Mehta and Woody Allen then his achievements as an actor with universal appeal and immense potential to cut across language and cultural barriers is worthy of applause.

The call of crossover that Shashi Kapoor first gave, in the '70s when he featured in films of Merchant-Ivory, has surely attained its peak now with Kher. There were moments when Om Puri and Irrfan Khan, with their powerful acting abilities, ensured that the world took notice of Indian actors, Kher has ensured that it is cemented now.

One may be forgiven if he were to assume that the recent success story of Kher is an amalgamation of sheer luck and work of his talent agency but not many know that baby steps for the journey were taken long back when he gave his consent to blink-and-miss appearances for BBC’s Spooks and the much loved ER, the show that hurled George Clooney to dizzy stardom. The effort, which started in the beginning of the millennium, is now starting to pay dividends in the autumn of his life.

It was Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham which opened doors for Kher in Hollywood. The film’s success made sure that Hollywood filmmakers took notice of this "bald and not-so-good-looking" actor. The struggle to get work in an alien industry also forced him to say yes to a mere three-minute appearance in Lee’s Lust, Caution.

In the West, agents play a crucial role in shaping an actor’s career and Anupam has been fortunate enough to be represented by an agency whose work is nothing short of exceptional. A lot of Anupam’s success can also be credited to his agent Ruth Young from United Agents, the agency that also manages James McAvoy and James Cordon. The agency has managed to fetch plum assignments for the actor both in the UK and the US in the past few months. His London-based agency has managed to crack the glass ceiling for him, which for many years remained out of bounds for Indian actors.  

The events that happened before he signed his 500th film – The Big Sick, aptly demonstrate that the actor’s fame have truly crossed frontiers. The film’s script, based on actor and stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani’s own life, also required someone to play the character of his own father. Several auditions tapes too could not help Kumail decide which actor should portray his father on screen. The disappointment forced him to resort to his own father with the question that who could play him best on screen. His one-line reply was – Anupam Kher.

While other actors may have missed the Hollywood bus, Kher has slowly and steadily carved his own way and followed a well-defined strategy. His social media platform has helped him immensely in making use of every opportunity and thus, helps him be in news in some form or the other. For the precise reason, his highly visible photo ops with Robert DeNiro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Bradley Cooper invariably found place in media publications. He never fails to mention even the minor things that transpire with him on his social media handle. He actually bores people to death whenever he mentions his adulation for the Taxi Driver actor at every given opportunity.

In a nutshell, the veteran actor is relentless when it comes to self-promotion. It would be fair to assume that this is where he holds an edge over Irrfan. Irrfan never went to town beating his chest over his images with Tom Hanks, Patrick Stewart and Angelina Jolie or relating anecdotes to media publications. The moral being the mantra of self-promotion simply cannot be ignored when social media is the norm.  And Kher has the material worthy of putting ‘out there’, given his repertoire of work in Hollywood.

Luck too has played a vital role in the actor’s Bollywood sojourn. While he could manage his work permit visa only at the eleventh hour for the shooting of The Big Sick, technical glitches and an inability to conquer the nitty-gritty of Skype almost made him opt out of Silver Linings Playbook. Guess it is all in tune with his favorite quote, Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai, which incidentally is also the name of his autobiographical play. Future definitely looks rosy for the actor. While Love Sonia and Hotel Mumbai will guarantee more screen time, New Amsterdam, the recent TV series he has signed, will only ensure that Anupam is visible everywhere for a full season promoting himself endlessly.

Updated Date: May 14, 2018 16:05 PM