Anupam Kher, Neena Gupta and Rakesh Bedi in Conversation with FUCHSIA

By Ruchi Gulati
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It is not every day that you get the chance to witness talents of such stature come together on one stage. There was no way Team FUCHSIA was about to miss the opportunity to chat with Anupam Kher, Neena Gupta and Rakesh Bedi as they visited Singapore in May 2015 to perform their play, Mera Woh Matlab Nahin Tha.

 

There are very few among us who have not laughed and cried with Anupam Kher. The versatility that gave rise to the loyal, goofy friend in Lamhe, the passionate, intense revolutionary in 1942 A Love Story and the retired Hindi professor with dementia in Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara; his is a name that needs little introduction.    

 Neena Gupta has been a rebel of sorts with her writing, acting and directing. While the masses will remember her alongside Madhuri Dixit in Khal Nayak’s famous Choli Ke Peeche, many will also remember her stellar performance as Nawab Jaan in Gulzar’s television miniseries, Mirza Ghalib. With a degree in Sanskrit, she has lived and loved on her own terms. A feminist with a penchant for all things Indian, she has highlighted many a cause for women.

 

Finally, Chashme Buddoor could not have been half the success it was without Rakesh Bedi, who has both written and directed Mera Woh Matlab Nahin Tha. His career spans over a hundred movies and television serials, and he is still going strong.

We start by asking Anupam Kher about his wife, Kirron Kher.

Anupam Kher : “Kirron and I hardly see each other, but we have grown in comfort. She hates that I am terribly laid back. And she loves, apart from my looks, my sense of humor. And that I am a kind man.”

Kirron was supposed to have starred opposite her husband in this play, but she found it a challenge to juggle dates, so the beautiful Neena Gupta was roped in.

 

Neena Gupta I have done a play after many years. It was tough at the beginning, but now I am enjoying it. In todays day, it is very difficult to hold somebodys attention for 2 hours. Yet, I can feel the connection on stage, and that gives me the energy to perform even better.”

The artistes were extremely proud and excited about debuting on an international stage here at the Esplanade Theatres to a sold-out audience.

 

What is theatre work like? Does it get monotonous?

Anupam Kher : “No, never! This is what we live for. While the context of a play remains the same, our personal emotions change in every performance. Theatre does not accept any indiscipline – I have a headache, I cannot come etc. Every single word is according to script, and cues are very important to each of us.”

Neena Gupta : “Staging a play is one of the most beautiful experiences, there is passion. We are not machines. We were just discussing amongst ourselves earlier, how we have to be both physically and emotionally fit. This particular play is emotionally exhausting, and saps a lot of energy in 2 hours. We were asked to do 2 shows on the same day, and we refused, it is just not possible! The cues are so fast! If we miss a cue, we can jump 5 pages on stage and will totally lose the plot.”

Rakesh Bedi : “From Chashme Buddoor to today, the world has passed in between, but one thing that has not changed is my love and excitement for theatre. In theatre, the discipline is very important; people report on time and will always rehearse together. The thirst to be good is very strong. I do not know if today’s generation understands how demanding and tough theatre is, it is not a casual experience. I am proud that a few of us – Naseeruddin Shah, Paresh Rawal, Anupam Kher – have stayed the course, and I am so grateful to them.”

We ask Neena how she manages to remain looking this beautiful over the years.

Anupam Kher : “You could have said the same thing to me.”

Neena Gupta : “I am basically a very happy person who does not get perturbed easily by challenges in life.”

Do Bollywood stars have it easier today than they did yesterday?

 

Anupam Kher : Earlier in Bollywood, people were very kind, and had time for other people. There were more opportunities given, you became part of the family then. Superstars like Dilip Sahib stayed for 60 years, even the Shahrukh generation has stayed for about 30; the coming generation will not have to work hard to survive even 10 years. There is just so much competition today, in everything from actors to television channels.”

Neena Gupta : Women were not given roles to shine in then. Life began at 30, and we were asked to play older women, even grandmothers. In Bollywood, the person who is going to stay longer isn’t necessarily the good actor/actress; there are many other factors – luck, being in the right place at the right time …”

 

Team FUCHSIA decided to move away from the topic of theatre and film for a bit. It is well-known that Anupam Kher was very affected by the attack on school-children in Peshawar last year. Does he agree that every act of terrorism/violence stems from an injustice the perpetrator was subjected to in his own life?

Anupam Kher: I feel that we are living in a time when death is just a number. Media has gotten us used to so many people dying – of hunger, in earthquakes, in terrorist attacks but the attack in Peshawar was the ultimate brutality of any philosophy of life. I was so moved, so sad, that I thought I must write a letter to the terrorists that letter is on my blog. When I saw the visuals of those small little kids, I dont think any cause, or any fanaticism, can be worth killing innocent children like that. I think Pakistani people were moved, they felt a little better, when someone from the other side, someone well-known, showed some concern. If it had happened anywhere, I would have done the same thing.

 

Anupam Kher expressed misgivings with Vishal Bhardwajs film, Haider – he felt Kashmiri Pandits had been disrespected. Given this, and incidences like the recent Charlie Hebdo shootings, does he think creative license should be given free reign?

 I never shirk away from speaking the truth. So yes its a very good film, as a filmmaker, he is very good. As an audience, I loved the film. But as a Kashmiri Pandit, part of the community that was massacred, brutalized, forced to leave the place I think he should not have done that dance at that sacred place. I don’t think he would have been able to do that at a masjid, girja or gurdwara. That was still ok, it was his cinematic liberty; I didn’t make an issue out of it. But then he dedicated his National Award to the memory of Kashmiri Pandits; that I thought was a little hypocritical.

 There are directors who genuinely believe: this is how I want to show it, but there are also people who want to create controversy so the film gets a little mileage. So creative liberty and all that, why not, you have freedom of expression. But if it hurts the sentiments …”

We see no need to push him to complete his sentence.

 We end off by asking the three stars about Pakistani films and television, as well as Pakistani audiences. We grabbed the chance to request Rakesh Bedi to write for FUCHSIA’s Urdu Podcast!

Rakesh Bedi : “I would be very happy to write for the Urdu Podcast in English or Hindi; but please find someone to translate for us. As for Pakistani serials, Zee Zindagi has brought such a revolution in India; kitna thehraav hai Pakistani serials mein. Humaaray serials thorray mukhtalif hain.”

 

Anupam Kher : “I would love to take this play to Karachi and Lahore, where the sensibilities of theatre are very similar, and I know it will be appreciated. We have great audiences there who love us. The first show was supposed to be staged by Dawn, but unfortunately, it got cancelled. Nonetheless, I am hopeful it will go through.

Neena Gupta : “I performed a pure Hindi play, Suraj Ki Kirnay, in Lahore, once, and I was so well-received I was in awe of the audience.”

Even if for a short while, FUCHSIA had the pleasure of chatting with 3 names that come up whenever we take a trip down movie-night memory lane. And it looks like there are many more memories to make with these names even in the future.

How better to end this interview than with Anupam Kher’s description of his Singaporean audiences as:

 “Pure magic! Singapore is a mature, disciplined and lovely audience; I have performed here before, and I expect the same excitement this time. There is a whole lot of love that people come with, and we know we are loved. We will definitely bring Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta back to Singapore.”

“There is nothing more exciting about performing to a live audience, to a 1,800-strong-packed audience, that is full of energetic vibe and sensibility.”- Rakesh Bedi

 

Rakesh Bedi brings another theatrical production to Singapore on 25 July 2015, in which he singularly plays 24 characters on stage. Look out for that.

 

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About Ruchi Gulati

Ruchi Gulati aka Curvy Craze will always welcome a pair of Jimmy Choo patent leather heels into her life and wants Karan Johar to cast her in a role opposite Ranvir Singh.Having worked as a consultant for Atom Consultancy, Ruchi is interested in Change Management and quotes her most significant achievement as establishing fair practice within Singapore. She has a Master in Human Resource Management, is married to the man of her dreams, and a mother to 2 handsome boys. These days, she is enjoying consulting curvy women on fashion and presentation of self.