While growing up, Anupam Kher was lucky enough to spend some time with his grandparents. His grandfather often wisely said: A busy man has time for everything. Kher sure lives by that philosophy even today. It might have taken him three years to finally stage his new play, Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha, but Kher couldn’t happier, or more petrified! “Even after 320 performances of my earlier play, Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai, I feel nervous on stage. After all, kucch bhi ho sakta hai (anything can happen), and I can’t put up a disclaimer saying, mera woh matlab nahi tha (I did not mean that)!” he laughs. Excerpts from an interview:
Actor Anupam Kher
Q. You’ve been doing Kucch Bhi... for more than 10 years. What took you so long to do a new play?
A. I was looking for an original play. We keep doing adaptations of Ibsen or Arthur Miller or Adhe Adhure, but no original play has come out for a long time. For me, to take out 40-45 days for rehearsals is a big deal. Kucch bhi… is an original play, a monologue. I could rehearse alone, but here, I needed to adjust my schedule with other actors. Three years ago, while shooting in Kullu-Manali for a movie, Rakesh (Bedi, the actor and writer) narrated this story and I loved it. Kirron (Kher) was supposed to do it, but she got caught up with politics. Then Nina (Gupta) came on board. I believe in plays which can emotionally resonate with the audience. This play has a contemporary theme — two lovers meet after 35 years — it has drama and humour.
Q. Do you dislike adaptations?
A. Not at all. But I’ve done enough adaptations at drama school. I have nothing against other actors who prefer adaptations. Some of them are fantastic. But it’s very important to do all kinds of plays. Original plays are more interesting to perform.
Q. Once a theatre actor, always a theatre actor, they say — what does this medium mean to you?
A. We, who come from theatre, owe our success and talent to it. There is, of course, a constant risk of failure. I recently tweeted that my labour pains have begun, because a play is like a baby. You rehearse for long, the music comes in, the make-up and costumes are conceptualised, and finally, the performance takes place. Theatre stops you from rusting. We’re constantly exploring and discovering ourselves. You get to know your stamina, its reach and also its limits. That’s the joy, and the fear, of theatre.
Q. Do you get time to watch plays?
A. Yes, sometimes. I would like to watch Naseeruddin Shah’s Einstein. Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha, premieres at Tata Theatre, NCPA, at 7 pm