Anupam Kher (born 7 March 1955) is an Indian actor and the former Chairman of Film and Television Institute of India. He is the recipient of two National Film Awards and eight Filmfare Awards. He has appeared in over 500 films in several languages and many plays. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for his performance in Saaransh (1984). He holds the record for winning the Filmfare Award for Best Comedian five times in total for: Ram Lakhan (1989), Lamhe (1991), Khel (1992), Darr (1993) and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995). He won the National Film Award for Special Mention twice for his performances in Daddy (1989) and Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (2005). For his performance in the film Vijay (1988), he won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor. His biography Lessons Life Tought Me Unknowingly published on 5 August 2019 by Penguin Random House.
Besides working in Hindi films, he has also appeared in international films such as the Golden Globe nominated Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Ang Lee’s Golden Lion–winning Lust, Caution (2007), and David O. Russell’s Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook (2012). He received a BAFTA nomination for his supporting role in the British television sitcom The Boy with the Topknot (2018).
He has held the post of chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification and the National School of Drama in India. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri in 2004 and the Padma Bhushan in 2016 for his contribution in the field of cinema and arts.
Anupam Kher was appointed FTII chairman in October 2017, however his appointment was cited as problematic due to his pro-BJP stance and prolonged absences. On 31 October 2018, he resigned as the chairman of the FTII, citing his work commitments for the American TV show New Amsterdam.
Kher was born on 7 March 1955 in Shimla, into an Indian Kashmiri Pandit family. His father was a clerk and he had a modest upbringing. He was educated at D. A. V. School in Simla. In his struggling days as an actor in Bombay (present-day Mumbai), he slept on railway platform for a month.
In 1978, Kher graduated from the National School of Drama (NSD) in New Delhi. Some of his early roles were in plays performed at the Himachal Pradesh University. He taught drama in Raj Bisaria’s Bharatendu Natya Akademi in Lucknow for a small part in his directorial debut movie Sheeshay ka Ghar.
In 1984, a 29-year-old Kher played a retired middle-class man who loses his son in Saaransh. Kher said that he lost his hair at a young age, and thus, his first role was playing a 65-year-old at the age of 29. Subsequently, he hosted TV shows such as Say Na Something To Anupam Uncle, Sawaal Dus Crore Ka, Lead India, and The Anupam Kher Show – Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai.
Kher has had many comic roles but he has also played a variety of roles. For his role in Daddy (1989), he received the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance.
He has starred alongside Shah Rukh Khan in many films such as Darr (1993), Zamaana Deewana (1995), Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Chaahat (1996), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Mohabbatein (2000), Veer-Zaara (2004), Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), and Happy New Year (2014).
He ventured into directing with Om Jai Jagadish (2002) and has been a producer. He produced and starred in the film Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (2005). He received the Best Actor Award from the Karachi International Film Festival for his performance. He played the role of the Police Commissioner, Rathor, in the critically and commercially acclaimed film, A Wednesday.
Kher is known internationally for Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Bride and Prejudice (2004), The Mistress of Spices (2006) and Lust, Caution (2007), Speedy Singhs (2011), and TV show ER. In 2012, he co-starred in the Academy Award-winning Silver Linings Playbook.
Kher has written and starred in a play about his own life called Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai, which was directed by Feroz Abbas Khan.
In 2007, Anupam Kher and Satish Kaushik, who studied togeher at NSD, started a film production company, Karol Bagh Productions. Their first film, Tere Sang, was directed by Satish Kaushik.
In 2011, he starred alongside Mohanlal and Jayaprada in the Malayalam language romantic drama Pranayam. Kher chose Pranayam as one of the seven best films of his career.
He also starred in a number of Marathi films such as Thoda Tuza…Thoda Maza, Kashala Udyachi Baat, and Punjabi films such as Yaaran Naal Baharan.
In 2009, Kher voiced Carl Fredricksen in the Hindi-dubbed version of the Disney-Pixar animated film Up.
Anupam Kher has also appeared in The Dirty Politics. The movie also features Om Puri and Jackie Shroff.
In 2014, Kher starred in the British film Shongram, a fictional romantic drama set during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
In 2016, Anupam Kher was a narrator in the ABP News documentary TV series Bharatvarsh, which showcased the journey from ancient India to the 19th century.
In late 2016, Anupam Kher produced Khwaabon Ki Zamin Par, a TV drama airing on Zindagi.
Starting in fall of 2018, Anupam Kher starred in a new NBC medical drama TV series New Amsterdam as Dr. Vijay Kapoor (a neurologist). He also appeared as Shahbaz Karim in the BBC1 drama Mrs Wilson.
In 2019, Kher starred as the former Indian Prime minister Manmohan Singh in the political, biographical drama film The Accidental Prime Minister.
From October 2003 to October 2004 he served as chairman of the Indian Film Censor Board.
Debut, career struggles, and breakthrough (1984–88)
In 1984, Kher made his acting debut in Bollywood, with the Mahesh Bhatt-directed drama film Saaransh, in which he portrayed a 65-year-old retired middle class teacher who loses his son. The film was a moderate box office success though Kher’s performance earned him widespread praise. He won a number of awards for his portrayal of the old father, including the Filmfare Award for Best Actor.
From 1985 to 1988, he continued to work in several other projects. All of them were moderately successful, and his performance in that film was not well received. However, Kher’s performance as Shyam Lal, a man whose daughter is forced to dance to make money for him, in N. Chandra’s action thriller Tezaab (1988), which was the top-grossing film of the year and co-starred Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit, was highly anticipated. Later in 1988, his performance in the poorly-received Vijay was praised too, winning him a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Public recognition (1989–99)
Kher’s career improved in 1989, when he received wider recognition for his performances in Ram Lakhan, a thriller by Subhash Ghai, and Daddy, a television film that reunited him with Bhatt. The former co-starred an ensemble cast including Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Jackie Shroff, Dimple Kapadia, Raakhee, Satish Kaushik, Amrish Puri and Paresh Rawal, and featured Kher in the supporting part of Deodhar Shastri, a man who disapproves his daughter’s marriage with her childhood friend who is also her love interest. Ram Lakhan proved to be the second highest-grossing Bollywood film of the year with a gross of over ₹326 million (US$4.6 million) worldwide. The latter earned him universal acclaim, with several critics calling it his best performance at that point. Both Daddy and Ram Lakhan earned Kher several awards; for the former, he won a National Film Award – Special Mention and a Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance; and for the latter, he garnered his first Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Comic Role (shared with Kaushik), also known as the Filmfare Award for Best Comedian.
Later in 1989, Kher starred in a sequel to the 1986 fantasy film Nagina, entitled Nigahen: Nagina Part II. Co-starring alongside Sridevi and Sunny Deol, he portrayed a snake charmer named Gorakh Nath. It did not perform well at the box office. He then appeared in a cameo for Yash Chopra’s love triangle Chandni, and portrayed a police inspector in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s action film Parinda alongside Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Jackie Shroff and Nana Patekar. Despite received a poor opening, Parinda was a critical and commercial success. Kher’s final film of the year was Pankaj Parashar’s slapstick comedy ChaalBaaz alongside Sridevi, Deol, and Rajinikanth. Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, ChaalBaaz emerged as an economic success.
In 1990, Kher portrayed the antagonistic role of Hazari Prasad, a miser who tries to find a rich woman to marry his poor son, in Indra Kumar’s directorial debut—the romance Dil, co-starring Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit. Dil received positive reviews from critics, and Kher’s performance was praised. With domestic revenues of over ₹180 million (US$2.5 million), Dil was the highest-grossing Bollywood film of the year, and Kher received a Best Supporting Actor nomination at Filmfare for his work.
In 1991, Kher once again received acclaim for his work in Yash Chopra’s romantic drama Lamhe, which starred Sridevi and Anil Kapoor in lead roles and featured him as Kapoor’s childhood friend. Lamhe was a box office failure in India, but was an overseas success. Despite the film’s poor performance at the box office, Kher won his second Filmfare Best Comedian Award for his performance.
The following year, Kher collaborated with Anil Kapoor for the fifth time (alongside Madhuri Dixit and Aruna Irani) in Indra Kumar’s drama Beta (1992), the top-grossing Bollywood production of the year with a worldwide gross of ₹235 million (US$3.3 million). His comical performance in the film earned him another nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Comedian. Later that year, he portrayed Dixit’s uncle in the drama Khel, which earned him a third and a second consecutive Filmfare Best Comedian Award.
Kher next reunited with Yash Chopra for the romantic thriller Darr (1993), co-starring Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, and Sunny Deol, in which he starred as Chawla’s brother. One of the top-grossing Hindi films of the year, it earned over ₹200 million (US$2.8 million) worldwide, and garnered Kher a fourth and a third consecutive Best Comedian at Filmfare. In addition to other awards, it won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.
In 1994, Kher portrayed the owner of a factory in Raj Kanwar’s thriller Laadla alongside Sridevi, Anil Kapoor, Aruna Irani, Raveena Tandon and Farida Jalal. It received mixed reviews from critics, though became commercially successful, and grossed over ₹110 million (US$1.5 million) worldwide. Greater success came to Kher later that year when he starred alongside Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit in Sooraj R. Barjatya’s romance Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, which became the highest-grossing Bollywood film at that point, with global revenues of over ₹1.85 billion (US$26 million). He eventually earned another Best Supporting Actor nomination at Filmfare, and the film proved his second consecutive movie to win the National Film Award for Best Popular Film.
Kher’s only release in 1995 was Aditya Chopra’s romantic drama Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, about two non-residential Indians who fall in love during a trip across Europe. Kher’s work as Dharamvir, the father of Khan’s character, fetched him a fifth Filmfare Best Comedian Award. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge emerged as his second consecutive film to earn over ₹1 billion (US$14 million) worldwide, becoming a blockbuster just like Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, and third consecutive film to win the National Film Award for Best Popular Film. His next two films were the box office flops Chaahat (1996) and Gudgudee (1997). In both these films, Kher’s performance was not well received.
He next starred alongside Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Rani Mukerji, and Archana Puran Singh in Karan Johar’s romance Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). In this film, Kher played the comic role of Mr. Malhotra, a college principal. It was the top-grossing film of the year, with a worldwide gross of over ₹1.07 billion (US$15 million), to become Kher’s third blockbuster success in the last four years, and garnered him another Best Comedian nomination at Filmfare.
In 1999, Kher played the father of Anil Kapoor’s character in Satish Kaushik’s women-centric drama Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain, that received positive reviews from critics and was a commercial success. He then teamed with David Dhawan for the comedy-drama Haseena Maan Jaayegi starring Sanjay Dutt, Govinda and Karisma Kapoor. Both these films were major commercial successes and among the highest-grossing Bollywood films of 1999, with the latter earning over ₹361 million (US$5.1 million).
In 1985, he married actress Kirron Kher who is a Member of parliament from Chandigarh, belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Her son, his stepson, is actor Sikandar Kher. In 2010, he was appointed as the goodwill ambassador of the Pratham Education Foundation, which strives to improve children’s education in India.
Kher is an ardent supporter of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi.
In 2017, Kher was accused of threatening to ruin the career of a Bengali actor to cover up a voice acting controversy involving his actor wife, Kirron Kher.
Kher is known for his political tweets regarding issues of Kashmiri Pandits, ‘intolerant’ acting community, and state-sponsored terrorism by Pakistan. In January 2020, he was involved in a verbal spat with actor Naseeruddin Shah and called him frustrated and a drug addict after the latter called him a clown and a sycophant.