When one of the co-producers, Ashoke Pandit, first approached me for the role, I didn’t think I should be a part of this film for a number of reasons. It is not easy to portray somebody who is a current political personality,” said Anupam Kher at the trailer launch of his latest film, in Mumbai last afternoon. He was talking about
Dr Manmohan Singh, whom he plays in The Accidental Prime Minister, directed by debutant filmmaker, Vijay Ratnakar Gutte.
Based on the 2014 memoir by policy analyst Sanjaya Baru, who also served as Singh’s media advisor between 2004 and 2008, the film also stars Akshaye Khanna as Baru, German actor Suzanne Bernert as Sonia Gandhi, Aahana Kumra as Priyanka Gandhi, and Arjun Mathur as Rahul Gandhi.
Kher’s reluctance thawed one evening not long after that first phone call. “I was watching TV and the footage included some moments of Dr Singh walking. The actor in me wondered if I could walk like him. I practised for some time and then attempted the walk in my living room — it was a disaster,” said Kher, who agreed to take on the role, and devoted six-seven months to prepare for it. “I watched over 100 hours of footage of Dr Singh. The voice was most difficult. Right before we were heading to London to shoot, my wife Kirron told me that I shouldn’t ‘act’ like Dr Singh — I should ‘be’ him. I’ve done 515 films, I know this is a brilliant film and it is the most difficult role of my life,” said Kher.
The 63-year-old actor has recently been in the news for criticising fellow actor Naseeruddin Shah’s comments about how he worries for his children, who don’t identify as Hindu or Muslim. “There is so much freedom in the country that you can abuse the army, bad-mouth the air chief and pelt stones at the soldiers. How much more freedom do you need in a country?” responded Kher.
At the trailer launch, he offered a more composed answer: “He is my senior and I love him. He has every right to disagree with my views. If I have to say anything to him, I’ll pick up the phone, or go to his house and say ‘aao jhagra kar lete hai ya galein lag jaate hai’ (let us fight or call a truce),” said Kher.
The Accidental Prime Minister will release on January 11. Kher is a vocal supporter of the BJP but demurred from speaking about his political affiliations at the launch. “People will say that I support a particular political party. But I have always supported my country, and if that goes in the favour of a particular party, then that’s a different issue. Unfortunately, when you speak about the country, people think that you have political ambitions. But I would like to talk about my country as much as I can,” says he.
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