Actor Sikandar Kher is not a fan of looking at life through rose-tinted glasses, but believes in finding optimism in his experiences. What defines him, what keeps him going, how is he navigating an already crowded industry?
I nearly freak out thinking I’ve lost the interview opportunity when an unexpected call delays me from connecting with actor Sikandar Kher by a few minutes. But the son of actors Kirron and Anupam Kher greets me warmly on the call from his home in Mumbai, and instantly puts me at ease. We dive straight into the questions, and when I ask him to walk me through his journey, Kher playfully says: “Wow we don’t have enough time,” and laughs.
Effortless ease and calm pervade the personality of Kher, who doesn’t believe in letting success or failure define his identity and is very aware of his privilege, I discover during our chat.
How does he react to success and failure? “Of course, failure impacts you, we are all human. But I have been born into comfort, so the impact was probably not as hard as it would be on someone who is not born into comfort. They, perhaps, will not have the chance to go ahead like I have without having to worry about where the food will come from, or how will I pay the rent, or what would I have to do to sustain myself. I have, by the grace of god, had financial support from my parents, and I feel my core from within is positive thinking. I feel bad and bitter, but I don’t let these feelings overpower. There’s a journey destined and written for me, and I’m at it,” he shares.
Similarly, he says, when success happens, the feeling is amazing. “I feel very lucky to be able to do something creative. Yesterday, somebody said they really liked my work, and I was so happy to see that the character I played has connected with someone, and I feel I have done my job,” he explains. Ram Madhvani’s Aarya, a crime-thriller series, just finished its season 2, but the first season itself had the audience taking notice of Kher’s acting chops. As Daulat, Kher commands that attention, respect, and a belief in you that he’s here, and he is strong-shouldered enough to carry your expectations. “I really love the character that I play in the series, and given an opportunity to choose any part in this show, I would still choose Daulat, unless Aarya was a man. But the beauty of it is Aarya is a woman, and Daulat’s role in her life is superb, and a great part for any actor.”
Was he offered the character, or did he have a choice? “I wasn’t offered anything. I had to test for it. I got a call from the casting director, Abhimanyu Ray. He had previously called me to test for a few ads, and some of them were really bad, so it’s amazing he called me back for Aarya, (laughs). But bagging the role in Aarya was Ray’s doing because I didn’t know Ram Madhvani and Sandeep Modi. He took an absolutely wonderful test — a lot of times, when tests are taken, it really depends on how the person is taking the test, how much they understand the character, how they are feeding you the lines. He took the best out of me, and then the script was sent across to me,” he recalls.
Kher had made his debut with Woodstock Villa in 2008, and was also recently seen in Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif-starrer film Sooryavanshi. He believes he has constantly seen himself as an actor, and as a person, go through a certain evolution, one that’s much needed to progress.
“I keep changing. A great lesson for me, and I’ve heard this sentence phrased in many different ways, is that you can’t learn anything from success. It is the hurdles, barriers, and obstacles that really help if you learn from them and overcome them positively. This thought has a lot to do with the way I’ve been brought up by my parents, who’ve given me a lot of confidence in terms of being an actor, especially my mother,” he says, and adds, “My mother is brutally honest with me, she has always had faith in me as an actor. She said whatever you are doing, do it well, be at it. People have different paths, so whatever my journey is and irrespective of the days I feel down and out or wave of course, I am constantly learning.”
Speaking of learning and understanding oneself, Kher feels empathetic towards the youth today, and feels times are tougher for them. “We didn’t have mobiles in school, and the cameras were not constantly in our faces. So, when we were messing up, it was not being recorded. Today, you wake up in the morning and relive that shame, and therefore they have it much tougher than we did, and they are only going to become more sensitive and fearful, and rightly so It’s easy to say you don’t care about what people are going to think. But these things are taught to us from a young age — the rights and wrongs. It’s important to be kind, but it’s not easy to be constantly kind. But don’t ever take shit, or put your self-respect at risk as you will pass it down to your children and the coming generation,” he says. Quite an evolved way of thinking, I agree.
When he was seven-eight years old, Kher had decided to become an actor because he’s always been an extrovert. “Also, it makes a huge difference when you are born into an industry where everything around you revolves around movies. Even when you are going to Sunday lunches, they are talking about films, and somewhere it seeps into your mind ‘main bhi yeh karunga’ (I’m going to do this too),” he says.
He went to a few acting workshops when he was all of 17, and then attended one acting class, before attending an acting workshop with NSD in Mumbai. “There are two workshops — one happens on weekends and the second one that I did happens five days a week for six months. But I am not trained as an actor, I went and did these things, but to be very honest, I was doing it to open up, I haven’t really studied acting, and some people will say ‘Yeah it shows’,” he laughs, and continues “but everybody is entitled to their opinion.”
If not an actor, Kher would’ve been a sportsperson. “I was extremely heavy, though I did represent the city and the state in a lot of sports. I played basketball, handball, and tennis. I’ve enjoyed sports thoroughly, and always played a sport at some point of time in my life, till today. In fact, my family from my mother’s side, including my maternal grandmother, is very much into sports. My aunt is an Arjuna Award winner for badminton and my mother and my aunt were doubles partners. So as they say, it runs in the blood,” says Kher.
At the moment, Sikander Kher is busy, and is scoring goals with many movies. “I’ve done one film called Monkey Man with and directed by Dev Patel, and there’s Monica, O My Darling, and both will release next year. Currently, I’m filming a show, and have finished shooting a film for which I was in Gujarat,” says the actor.
2022 looks like a busy year for Kher. Here’s hoping we see the actor in meatier, performance-oriented roles, ones we know he truly deserves.