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The spiral staircase of Love and Separation
An exclusive interview with Anupam Kher and Neena Gupta
Interviewed and Written by Anu Gopalakrishnan
Miindia Exclusive ©2015

Anupam Kher - the man who donned many hats, improvising several characters, winning awards for a myriad roles will be in town in a different avatar playing the protagonist in the play “Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha”. The play, directed by the very talented actor Rakesh Bedi will have the beautiful Neena Gupta as the female lead. The play has been on a road trip in the United States for the past several weeks after its stint in India with several remarkable reviews from the Indian Film fraternity and theater enthusiasts.

Anu Gopalakrishnan, had an exclusive opportunity to catch up with the versatile and talented Anupam Kher and Neena Gupta. Here are some excerpts:

Anupam Kher about Theater Arts:
As an actor I always try to reinvent myself. Every now and then I see if there is rust on me and theater is the best way to get rid of it. Four years back, when Rakesh Bedi mentioned about the play “Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha” to me in Kulu Manali, I instantly gave my approval for two reasons – the title and then the limited cast. It is very difficult to handle a bigger cast play especially when it comes to logistics and international assignments. I deliberately took time to get out of the movies for a bit, travel with the play. We have done a handful of shows in the US, around 20 shows in India and Singapore – it is fun meeting people and exchanging ideas on a beautiful platform such as theater. Of course, being an alumnus of National School of Drama (Delhi), I guess theater always remains an integral part of our DNA.

Anupam Kher on “Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha”
The title is so real. Most of the men would agree with me when I say that almost all times when you speak to your spouse and they misinterpret, it is because we never say what we mean. It happens more to men because women are more forthright in the very first instance. This play is very beautiful as it revolves around two people – Pritam and Hema Roy who are ex-lovers. Circumstances have thrown them apart and Hema (played by Neena) has decided to settle abroad. She would like to give it a closure. The sweet dialogs, the memories and the flashbacks are all put in front of the audience. The technique of using cinema and theater together with the flashback on screen gives a very interesting perspective. Every segment of the audience can relate to this, the first love of their lives. This is not classical theater exploring the Shakesperean saga, but a simple story of two interesting lives and what set them apart. Everyone has an inspirational story to offer. We do not have a reference point to the past.

Anupam Kher about August 7th and his mentor
I started as a lower middle class boy in Shimla where my dad earned 90 rupees a month. I was very bad in studies and none had hopes that I would make it to where I am today. My dad was an ordinary man with the extraordinary quality of just being soulful when he meets anyone. His simplicity is something I look up to. He always asked me to “Live Life” through various roles – in a genuine way and that is exactly what I am doing with my movies. He is not with me anymore, but I know every time I sign or complete a film, he would be thrilled to see what was written about my acting skills. For a simple boy from Shimla to August 7th 2015, it has been an amazing experience. The respect and acknowledgement I received from the Houston community is simply mind-blowing. I will be back in September 2015 to do a repeat of this play due to public demand. (Note: For those of you who are reading this for the first time, the mayor of Houston, Annise Parker and The City of Houston after watching Anupam Kher in the play that is spiraling the country “commended Mr. Kher on his commitment for providing quality entertainment to the community” and therefore declared August 7th as Anupam Kher Day). Indians outside of India are much more Indian. It is important to bring this play and more theater to cities for people to see their lives.

Anupam Kher on an artist’s creative ability
Theater is a collective effort. It is about how close you can get into the skin of the character and make it your own. You have to feel, yearn and experiment it. Yes, appropriate ambience, costumes and other theatrical effects are important but remember, the theater was initially born to communicate through expressions – the happiness, the anger, the sadness, the pain, the excitement- all emotions need to switch one after the other instantly as there is no re-take. In that aspect, it is challenging. It is always good to be a spontaneous person when it comes to theater where in a split second when you know something is wrong, you take charge and fix it without the audience knowing it.

The story of Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha is phenomenal. Rakesh has allowed us to touch the soul of the characters in a very realistic way and you are going to enjoy watching the story unfold. Expect a lot of love on stage.

Anupam Kher on Neena Gupta
The entire film fraternity knows how fantastic and exceptional she is. Initially I wanted Kiran to do this play, but she got involved in parliament and Neena’s name was proposed. We share a mutual respect and bond. Neena has brought in a certain authenticity to the play through her witty overtones. She was one year junior to me in Drama School and we have worked together in one film. Today, I can’t name another person to play Hema Roy.

Neena Gupta - a woman who chose to lead her life with the choices she has made and not with the way the world told her to live. An independent, spirited woman with a sparkling talent, she has graced theater and movies including her stint with the small screen. Neena’s breezy, romantic and witty performance in the play has been commended by several artists of remarkable caliber. Here’s an honest, simple and very short chat with one of India’s finest actresses – Neena Gupta.

Neena on her disappearance from public life:
It is 26 years since I did any consistent mainstream work. I believed in the choices I made and I do not think I would do anything different given the circumstances I was in. I was not busy with anything else outside of my household. I loved being a home maker and also manager to Masaba’s fashion work. It is important that people make the right choice that they can live up to and for me at various stages in my life, I belonged. I lived and I did what made me happy. You do get vulnerable at times but it is all part of being real.

Neena on Theater and Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha:
I liked the script very much. The production is Anupamji and I felt comfortable and enjoyable. Hema Roy is a witty person with shades of romantic and fun loving and exploring spirit. No, the role is not autobiographical at any point. I don’t think I can play “me” all the time. I was convinced with this character and when I started to rehearse, the role got more interesting and real. Theater is all about changing lives. What I love about theater is the spontaneity in emotions. When I got into this role, one moment I was crying, the other I was happy, then sad, then laughing. Life is like that. It goes on and it is very deep and I feel happy that pleasant moments come out of unpleasant situations eventually.

Neena on movies:
Well, I don’t think I will be working in films unless there is a valid authentic character I could play. Films are not made for my age group women. Television, I cannot spend 24/7, 30 days for that as I am currently on a tour with this play, managing Masaba’s business and that’s the reason it becomes difficult to do it all. There is nothing worthwhile in television. I can’t work on something that I am not convinced about. I have lived with that conviction and managed so far. Either you are a beggar or you are a chooser. I was a beggar and I have become a chooser. :)

Anupam Kher and Neena Gupta request the Michigan audience to be a part of the evening filled with laughter and tears. Thanking Rajinder, the national promoter, Anupam Kher hopes to see the dawn of new contemporary theater in the country and has promised that the audience will have an unforgettable evening of camaraderie and fun. Neena Gupta in the same vein hopes that you as an audience would be hungry to see more plays and encouraged people to promote Theater Arts.

When two actors of the calibre of Anupam Kher and Neena Gupta come together to act on stage, you are bound to witness stellar performances. And that’s what happened in Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha, a new play written and directed by Rakesh Bedi. Do not miss an evening of romance and wit on Friday, August 28th as “Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha” makes its debut on the Michigan soil. Thanks to Dr. Priyankar Sharma and Seema Kohli for bringing such quality entertainment to Michigan art lovers! Click here for ticket information:

Interviewed and written by: Anu Gopalakrishnan
2015 © Exclusive

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