When Anu­pam Kher cursed Ma­hesh

As Saaransh turns 34 this year, Anu­pam Kher re­calls his stormy meet­ing with Ma­hesh Bhatt

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - Live - - FRONT PAGE - Prashant Singh prashant.singh@htlive.com

Back in the early ’80s, he spent three years as a strug­gling ac­tor be­fore get­ting his big break. But Anu­pam Kher’s tryst with star­dom wasn’t de­void of some off-screen drama. At the Khush­want Singh Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val in Kasauli, Hi­machal Pradesh, the ac­tor opened up about his jour­ney from the first play, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, to a ver­bal duel with film­maker Ma­hesh Bhatt, who cast him in Saaransh (1984). The role of a be­reaved re­tired teacher — Kher played it at the age of 28 — made him a star.

We ask for more de­tails, and Kher says, “I was thrown out of the film 10 days be­fore it was to go on the floors. I re­mem­ber, Bhatt saab had sug­gested that I do the part of the other old man (finally played by Suhas Bhalekar). San­jeev Ku­mar had been brought in in­stead. So ob­vi­ously, I was very up­set.”

An en­raged Kher packed his bags, ready to leave Mumbai. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to live in this city; it doesn’t de­serve me.’ I was like, ‘Since I am go­ing to leave the city, I want to set things straight with Bhatt saab.’ So, I took a taxi and went to the build­ing that he lived in. I went up to his flat but kept the taxi wait­ing down­stairs. When he saw me, he said, ‘This is very good. This is called the sports­man spirit. It’s good that you are okay do­ing the other old man’s role,’” re­calls Kher.

Bhatt told Kher that since [late] San­jeev Ku­mar was a “very big star”, Ra­jshri Pro­duc­tions (the film’s back­ers) “doesn’t want to put money on a new­comer”. Bhatt thought that Kher had come to ac­cept the other role. He said, “So, I’m very happy that you have ac­cepted the other role. Kher re­torted, “No, it’s not what you are think­ing. Can you see the taxi down­stairs? My stuff is ly­ing in it and I’m leav­ing the city for­ever. But be­fore that, I must tell you that I haven’t seen a big­ger fraud and a cheat than you.”

Through­out this, Kher was “howl­ing and cry­ing” he re­calls with a laugh. The ac­tor says, “I told him, ‘You’re mak­ing a film on truth, but there’s none of that in your own life’, and that ‘I give you a Brah­min ka shraap.’”

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