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Latest Cool in Films Is to Be ‘Desi': Anupam Kher on Small-town Stories Finding Takers in Bollywood

The year 2017 saw Indian film industry’s biggest superstars Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan’s films fall flat at the ticket window. But what made Bollywood keep going this season were films which had small-town India and its stories as their main theme.

From Old Delhi to Lucknow to Mathura, filmmakers explored small-town India and brought some unique yet entertaining stories to the big screen. One such story was Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which dealt with the issue of open defecation.

Veteran actor Anupam Kher, who was part of the Akshay Kumar starrer, believes such stories work because the majority of Indian population lives in small towns. Therefore, more and more people are able to relate themselves to such films.

In an exclusive chat with, Kher, who is set to turn producer after almost 12 years with Ranchi Diaries, talks about his upcoming production, his decades-long journey in the industry and how over the years Bollywood has evolved.

Directed by Sattwik Mohanty, Ranchi Diaries features Kher in the lead role alongside Jimmy Shergill. The film also stars Himansh Kohli and debutante Soundarya Sharma. It follows the story of ‘Gudiya’, played by Soundarya, and her friends, Taaha Shah and Himansh, who are out to make it big in a small town (Ranchi).

“Today you can be a Gudiya from Ranchi and expect to become a Shakira of the world. MS Dhoni is the biggest example of aspirations coming true. Most of our sportspersons are coming from small town. These stories have the power to bring a certain amount of quirkiness. The latest cool in films is to be ‘desi’.”

However, we usually get to see that whenever a new concept is introduced in Bollywood, many filmmakers tend to follow it blindly and end up making a bizarre movie. Even though Kher thinks it is fine to copy concepts sometimes, he feels it totally depends on how one tells the story on screen.

Jo bhi achi cheez hoti hai wo 100% copycat hoti hai. I should be the last person to talk about hairstyle, but if a person hairstyle gets popular everybody starts copying it. Hence, it’s not an issue. That’s the evolution of the society and cinema. But what’s also important is how you tell your story on screen.”

In 2005, Kher also produced Jahnu Barua’s Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, in which he also starred as Professor Uttam Chaudhary. What made him come back to production? “Sattwik came to me with the film’s script and I found it very funny and interesting so I said yes to it. But he told me that he did not have finances. I asked him to first find financers for the film and then I’d give my confirmation. I had no plans to produce the film.

“But Sattwik had worked really hard to make this film. He had done a lot of workshops so I decided to produce it. Then the government of Jharkhand also came in and helped us by giving subsidy since we shoot in Ranchi only.”

Kher, who has now become a popular choice to portray an onscreen father, started out in films in the early '80s. He says, “From Dilip Kumar to Varun Dhawan and Waheeda Rehman ji to Soundarya Sharma, this journey has been amazing." "But I think it's me who has to change. The time will change but I also have to change with time as it is the most important thing. I will just say that one should not take the burden of one's body of work too seriously. And then there's no stopping."