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MUMBAI — He has effortlessly straddled arthouse and mainstream cinema in India for 25 years, and now actor Anupam Kher is going to Hollywood to work with American director Woody Allen, a filmmaker he has always admired.
Kher, 54, made a memorable Bollywood debut with “Saaransh” in 1984, earning critical acclaim for playing a 65-year-old while still a young man.
Twenty-five years later, he’s a familiar sight in Indian movies and has also acted in British productions like the 2002 film “Bend it like Beckham.”
By bagging a role in Allen’s next project, Kher has joined other Indian actors — Aishwarya Rai, Irrfan Khan, Om Puri and Freida Pinto — who have made a mark in Hollywood.
Kher plays Pinto’s father in Allen’s untitled project, which is to be filmed in London later this year.
The Indian actor spoke to Reuters about clinching the role on the same day “Saaransh” was specially screened at a Mumbai cinema to mark the film’s 25th anniversary.
Q: How did you get the role in the Woody Allen movie?
A: “I got a call from my agent in London, saying Woody Allen wanted me to come for an audition for his new film. I asked her to show him the show reel, with some of my work. She showed it to Allen’s casting director, who in turn showed it to him in New York and I am told he liked what he saw.”
“I, on my part, had forgotten about it, until on the morning of the premiere of ‘Saaransh’, I got an email, saying ‘Woody wants you.'”
Q: Do you know anything about your role?
A: “I know that I will be playing Freida Pinto’s father and that we start shooting in August in London. Beyond that, I don’t know and I don’t care. After all, it is Woody Allen. And the film has such a great ensemble cast. It has Sir Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman. I am happy to be a part of the film.”
Q: Do Hollywood roles figure high on your priority list?
A: “If you are asking me whether I chase Hollywood roles, well, I don’t. But there are some filmmakers you really admire and want to work with. Like Ang Lee, who I worked with in ‘Lust, Caution.’ Or Woody Allen. I admire his work, I have seen most of his films and I am really happy that I will get to go on the set and shake hands with him.”
Q: Your first film “Saaransh” completed 25 years this month. What do you remember of the film?
A: “I was just talking to director Mahesh Bhatt this morning and we were discussing that even 25 years later, it is more relevant today. There are so many new elements which are now even clearer. It has given me so much, that film.”
Q: Do you remember the premiere of the film?
A: “Actually, the film didn’t have a premiere. There were riots taking place at the same time, so in fact we had to postpone the release of the film. It wasn’t possible to have a premiere anyway. In fact, I remember being this starry-eyed actor, thinking that my first film would have a glittering premiere.”
“When I went to see the film at Metro (a Mumbai cinema), I stood outside once the show was over, hoping that the crowd would come out, recognize me and offer some form of congratulations. But nobody even recognized me. They expected to see a 65-year-old man, not a young actor.”
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