Anupam Kher
Deepali Singh (DNA; August 4, 2018)

Anupam Kher is currently in the Big Apple to shoot for New Amsterdam, an upcoming American medical drama TV show, in which he plays Dr Vijay Kapoor, a neurosurgeon. When we speak to him over the phone, he is looking down from the 39th floor of a building, philosophising about where life has taken him, proving that ‘kuchh bhi ho sakta hai’. “I’m here in New York, talking to you in India, about my work. It’s an achievement for a forest department clerk’s son from a lower-middle class family. Isse zyada khushi ki baat kya ho sakti hai?” he asks.

Over three decades of being a part of showbiz, numerous films and shows — both Indian and international — running an acting school, being the chairman of The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII)... how does he manage to juggle all these balls and keep them from falling on the ground? “One needs to have balls to not let the balls fall!” he laughs.

However, on a serious note, the veteran actor recalls his grandfather’s words. “He used to say, ‘a busy man has time for everything’. I’m passionate about whatever I do. Happiness is something that you have to rehearse and then you get used to it. We’re constantly unhappy because we want to be somebody else. I’m happy to be myself. I don’t carry the burden of being Anupam Kher on my shoulders. It’s too tiring to do that,” says the 63-year-old.With the premiere of his American-Australian thriller, Hotel Mumbai slated to take place at the Toronto International Film Festival next month, the Padma Bhushan recipient tells us about his criteria for choosing international projects and more. Excerpts...

How was the experience of shooting Hotel Mumbai?
I think it’s one of the most beautiful films made about the human spirit. The whole world is a victim of terrorism, so it’s not a movie about the actual event (the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai). I think writer-director Anthony Maras wanted to show the compassionate side of the people of Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and the metropolis through this tragic incident. Apart from that, it has a great cast and screenplay. It’s an important film for our times.

Tell us about New Amsterdam...
We had done a pilot of the show and it got picked up by NBC. It premieres next month. It’s fantastic to play an Indian doctor in an international show. It talks of the passion and compassion of six doctors who have their own personal lives, how they come together and work in this hospital called New Amsterdam. The medical drama is hopefully going to be quite big in terms of its reach and theme. I’m working with an amazing cast.

You recently posted a picture of yourself with some of the cast members, captioning it ‘friends that become a family’...
I’m with them from 7.30 am till night, so it’s like being with family. Also, I’m away from my own family. I’m not a reserved person. I like to be with people. Even when I had to find an apartment here, the estate agents showed me some secluded locations, but I told them I like to live in crowded places. I thank God the show is set in New York. I love this city’s energy and spirit.

You have acted in a number of international projects, both movies and shows. Are there lots of friends who are like family now?
That is so true because when you meet people abroad, the bonding has no interpretations. When I did Silver Linings Playbook (2012), I got Mr Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and director David O Russell as friends. I’m happy and fortunate I got like-minded people to bond with. I can easily say that these films have given me a new dimension to relationships.

Is the criteria to green light an international project different as compared to a show or movie back in Mumbai?
I think I’ve been fortunate to get roles in films that were not only critically acclaimed but also did well commercially. You can’t do that by choice. There is no artiste in the world who has only done great work. I feel life is 10 per cent excitement and 90 per cent monotony. You have to find work and keep doing it. You can’t sit at home and say, ‘Main achhe kaam ka wait kar raha hoon’. Zindagi nikal jayegi aur accha kaam nahin aayega. But I have been lucky that projects like Bend It Like Beckham, Silver Linings Playbook, The Big Sick and Hotel Mumbai came to me. In India, working for me is not just acting in the studio. It’s also about going to my acting school and taking a class. It’s about travelling to other cities for my motivational talks or plays. When I’m in India, I want to work every single day.

You’re going to be in NY for quite a while. Apart from the show, what else do you plan to do while you’re there?
I’m thinking of doing a shorter version of my play Kuchh Bhi Ho Sakta Hai. I’m also planning to learn to play the piano, something I have wanted to do all my life. I can’t play any instrument. I met one or two teachers here and they asked me about my past experiences when it came to learning music and I said, ‘Disaster’! (laughs)