26/11 Needs to Be Fresh in the Memory of People: Anupam Kher
Anupam Kher and Dev Patel starer Hotel Mumbai is finally set to release all over India on 29 November. The film is based on the 58-hour seize that went on inside Taj Hotel, when terrorists attacked major areas in the city of Mumbai on 26 November, 2018.
The Quint spoke to Anupam Kher who plays the role of Hemant Oberoi, an executive chef at the Taj Mahal Hotel, who along with his crew stayed in to save lives during the 26/11 attack.
What does Hotel Mumbai deal with?
Anupam Kher: Apart from it being a film based on the terrorist attack on Mumbai, and specially at Taj Hotel. People who were chefs, junior chefs, housekeeping staff, receptionist, laundry people how they, without worrying about their life, they saved so many people from dying and that’s what humanity is all about.
I play the role of Chef Oberoi who is a celebrated chef and how he saved so many people. There are a lot of people who went out – the people who were employees – and they came back to rescue people and some of them in the process died. I didn’t meet Chef Oberoi before shooting the film. I met him directly at the premiere in Toronto. I was on the stage and he was introduced. He got a standing ovation which seemed never-ending. I met him then. He came backstage, hugged me and thanked me. That thank you was bigger than any award because I was a little nervous thinking whether I was able to justify the character or not. Not from an acting point of view, but from a nobility and compassion point of view.
We have seen documentaries on this subject, how is Hotel Mumbai different?
Anupam Kher: A lot of films have been made on many issues. We make remakes. 1,2,3,4 remakes are made. This tragedy is part of the history. More films can be and should be made on this. To heal some wounds, we need to keep them fresh. Unfortunately, the casualties during terrorist attacks are becoming statistics. They are becoming numbers on top of the fact that people are dying.
Having spent over 35 years in the Hindi film industry, what do you think has changed over the years?
Anupam Kher: Technically it has changed. Professionalism has changed. The people have changed. The interaction with media has changed. Now there 3-4 reporters standing together, waiting for their turn. If anyone takes more than 7 minutes, they start pushing each other. I remember 10 years ago, or 15 years ago we just used to sit in Lonavala or Chennai or anywhere. We used to work together. Some of my best friends were journalists. Bhawana Somaaya, Sudhana, Bharti Pradhan, Jyoti Venkatesh, Ali Peter John they have been my friends since then.
Now it’s difficult to make friends. We didn’t have mobiles or mobile vans back then. After shooting a shot, we used to sit back and talk about each other. When we used to get tired from talking about each other we used to ask about our fathers. Then after getting tired from that we used to ask about our mothers. So everyone knew about each other’s relatives. Now when a shot ends, actors look at their phones or go to their managers or media managers, or social media manager or their van. So I don’t think those relations can be made. So I am a rich man because I have seen both the phases. I am seeing the phase of today’s time also but the kind of relationships that I have with Jackie, with Sunny with Anil Kapoor, Madhuri, I don’t think that people today enjoy those kind of relationships.
Out of 400-500 films, I got only 25 scripts. Rest of them used to just narrate it. They bring my dialogues written on matchstick box. They used to say, “We have just written this fresh scene for you, I’ll narrate it to you.” Then they used to say, “Whatever you say is the dialogue. You say whatever you want to say.” With that cinema also, we are able to convince 130 crore people that the joy and magic of Indian cinema. So I don’t carry the weight of Anupam Kher on my shoulders. I always work as a newcomer, a junior actor, sometimes even junior than that.
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