Five hundred may just be a number but when it’s the 500th film for any actor it’s a milestone. The Michael Showalter-directed ‘The Big Sick’, an upcoming American romcom, is inspired by the real-life story of comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V Gordan who’ve written the screenplay. Besides Kumail, the film also features Holly Hunter, Oscar and Golden Globe winner for ‘The Piano’, Emmy Award (Everybody Loves Raymond) winner Ray Romano, Zoe Kazan as Emilyand, Anupam as the patriarch of the dysfunctional Nanjiani family. It will premiere at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival on January 20.While it’s a story of the trials and tribulations of an American immigrant family and a father-son conflict, Anupam insists it’s not heavy duty serious and his is not a stock Caucasiun character. On his suggestion, he was turned into a mystery novel wruter seeking his son’s approval with the recurrent query, “Have you read the manuscript?” “For the first time I’m playing a comic-comic role in an international production. Michael did not stick to a fixed script but let us improvise on the set,” says the actor, revealing that he almost lost out on the role because there were issues over his work permit so he’d return to his hotel everyday without shooting. Finally, unable to wait any longer, he makers set a deadline. “They told me that if the work permit didn’t arrive the next day by 2 pm, they’d have to replace me. An hour before the deadline expired, I finally got my permit,” Anupam recalls, speaking to Mirror from London.
In 2017, he has three other international projects, including Tabrez Noorani’s film about sex trafficking, ‘Love Sonia’, the American-Australian thriller, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ on the 2008 terror attacks, and a third project he can’t talk about yet. Quiz him on numbers, 500 in particular, and he says he was lucky to come into the industry in the 1980-’90s when a lot of work was happening, admitting that one year, he was shuttling between 27 films.
Not all the roles were memorable but he’d been told by maker Manmohan Desai that it is better to keep your diary full because people came to you more if you were not available and he took the advice to heart. “I was a gold medallist, from NSD, yet I was jobless for three years. I was hungry and humiliated so when the offers started coming, I was loathe to turn anyone away,” reminisces the actor who hates tags like ‘legend’ and ‘thespian’ because in India that would mean a Lifetime Achievement Award and retirement. “I’ve only reached the interval.”Today, he agrees, things have changed but he’d still work in a Chinese film for the joy of being directed by Ang Lee and give the nod to a Robert De Niro or Clint Eastwood film even if it is a one scene appearance. But India is now a large market and he when touring the US, he was so delighted to see Priyanka Chopra’s solo billboards that he’d get out of my car and click pictures. He’s equally proud of Deepika Padikone who trained at my acting schoolWhat keeps him going? “I like to challenge myself and still fear failure but now I am more relaxed and have started enjoying my work,” he says.His debut film, ‘Saraansh’, is being remade. His take? “I don’t want to sound arrogant but ‘Saaransh’ would work only if I return as BV Pradhan and Bhattsaab (Mahesh Bhatt) as director. It was not just a film, it was life’s philosophy created from the depths of passion, hunger and desperation. How do you replicate that?” he asks.