Published: 24th December 2020
If the pandemic hasn't changed you in some way, then there is something wrong with you: Anupam Kher
The actor was talking about his latest book Your Best Day is Today during the Dakshin Literary Festival 2020 session. He also spoke about mental health, social media and advised the youth as well
Anupam Kher has tested positive for everything. but Corona, says Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express during the panel discussion with the actor. And indeed, truer words were never spoken. The actor has been through depression, bankruptcy, loss of dear friends, his mother and brother had tested COVID-positive and yet, being the eternal optimist that he is, Kher emerged victorious. These experiences he has distilled into Lessons Life Taught Me, Unknowingly: An Autobiography and his latest, Your Best Day is Today, the book he was talking about at The New Indian's Express' Dakshin Literary Festival 2020 during a session titled, The Best Thing About Biographies.
The pandemic, which the 65-year-old called a "forced hiatus of sorts", brought death into sharp focus for him, especially with his dear friends and fellow actors Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan Khan having passed away, so much so that there is a whole chapter dedicated to this topic in his book. "Death had become just numbers rather than emotion. The lockdown made me understand, 'After all this, what did we get by achieving every day?" he rues. Thus, in his career spanning 36 years in which he has done over 570 films, he took a pause. "As a person, if you become a little more aware and mature, that is no bigger success than that," he shares. And currently, being known as an author is giving him a lot of happiness.
While Your Best Day is Today, a title he picked up from his mother's sayings, is number one on Amazon, his autobiography is trailing right behind at spot number two, a happy serendipity Kher is grateful for. "People are currently going through insecurities and self-doubts, and when someone talks about his own doubts and failures, they relate," says the actor, sharing that when he was a struggling actor in Bombay, he used to read Charlie Chaplin's My Autobiography. He also says that the lockdown has made him more attentive as a listener. "If the pandemic hasn't changed you, then there is something wrong with you," he shares.
Kaveree Bamzai, Anupam Kher and Prabhu Chawla | (Pic: Express)
Never one to shy away from talking about bankruptcy or depression, both of which he has been through, Kher humorously shares how it was his eye doctor who suggests that he see a psychiatrist for his insomnia. "I laughed at his suggestion because I am a motivational speaker," he shares. But he went to the psychiatrist anyway, with a copy of his own book in hand. In the clinic, he asked the psychiatrist all about his problems and even offered ways to deal with them. "When I was leaving, I noticed the doctor was writing something. I asked him what it was, he said, 'Your medication'," he laughs as he shares. The lesson learnt was that Kher's own optimism made him push everything back while he should be confronting everything instead.
However, the "hiatus" hasn't made Kher any less ambitious, he states. "The truth is, I like to be known and happening. I am a people's person. Hence, I still have my ambitions intact, of doing something great." He does feel the need to keep himself relevant on social media as well. "Today's actors have to prove themselves after every single film. We are so exposed by social media, that everyone's a critic," he says.
When the conversation veered towards cinema and about Bollywood actors making it big in the South, Kher opined, "Though on both sides actors are seen as larger than life, in Bollywood, the actors don't enjoy the same connectivity with fans. That's why in the South, there are temples in the name of actors. At the same time, most heroines from the South are Punjabi or from other places.”
Having acted with late actor Sushant Singh Rajput who died by suicide earlier this year, when asked for advice for young actors, Kher said, "Never give up and reach out to people and talk. It was on June 3, 1981 that I came to Mumbai with Rs 37 in my pocket. From that point of view, I am rich now. But if you compare my tax returns of this year to last year, it was less," he laughs and goes on to add, "So, just never give up."