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Anupam Kher: Until I was 18, I hadn't even heard of Valentine's Day

Veteran actor Anupam Kher, who has played both doting and stern father, prepares for the release of his first-ever Valentine short film

A still from Kheer, featuring Anupam Kher in the lead role, with child actors Stuti Dixit and Abhimanyu Chawla. Pic/TERRIBLY TINY TALKIES

When asked if he celebrates Valentine's Day, Anupam Kher's prompt reply is, "Until I was about 18, I hadn't even heard of this thing. In small towns, such as the one I lived in (Shimla), 'Valentine' word istemaal hota nahi hai." If that sounds like a dampener, Kher has something to add. "Let me put it this way — I am a believer in love."

That's not surprising coming from an actor who has played a steady role in Bollywood's incessant supply of love stories. Be it DDLJ's happy-go-lucky brat Raj's 'Pops', or Rajjo's foreboding patriarch in 1942: A Love Story, and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai's foot-in-mouth college principal, smitten by Miss Braganza — Kher's 'old man' has had myriad expressions on screen. But clearly, the veteran actor hasn't had enough. February 13 marks the release of his first ever short film, Kheer, a production by Terribly Tiny Talkies (TTT), the video incarnation of the popular online mini stories series, Terribly Tiny Tales.

As the principal character of the nine-minute long film, Kher portrays Govind, a widower, who has a rather daunting task ahead. His grandchildren, who visit him from time to time, chance upon his friend — an elderly woman — in his house. "They are upset at seeing a strange lady in the house and refuse to accept her. How will he convince them to come around?" Kher says. While he is no stranger to the rigours of acting, he muses that a short film has come to demand a lot from him. "You don't get much time to express," he says.

Surya Balakrishnan

The film also stars Natasha Rastogi and child actors Stuti Dixit and Abhimanyu Chawla. It has been directed by Surya Balakrishnan, a 30-year-old filmmaker experienced in advertising, who co-scripted the film alongside Sharanya Rajgopal, creative producer at TTT. Set as an interaction across generations instead of a mushy romance, the plot choice is unconventional for a V-Day themed film. "It is a little unusual," says Balakrishnan, adding, "But, it is a sweet story between two old friends — a tale companionship." The title of the film is relevant to the situations the story explores. We are not told much, but Balakrishnan says that all events in the film happen during the course of preparing kheer.

TTT, which has earlier given us short films timed around occasions such as Republic Day, could have potentially stirred up a different perspective on 'love', where roles are reversed — a grandparent having to convince his grandchildren, who don't want the image of their grandpa tainted by any means. A far cry from the days of permission seeking Raj in DDLJ.

Kher points out that there is a common misconception that love tends to grow platonic with age. He adds that love stories in one's golden years have been part of Bollywood too, such as Jeevan Sandhya, a 1984 Pravin Bhatt film, which featured Kher and Asha Parekh in lead roles. "Even though I was 28 then, I started as an old man on screen. And, now, at 61, I have again been cast as an old man. That's why people think I don't age," he signs off.

To watch the film, log on to Terribly Tiny Talkies channel on YouTube

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