EXCLUSIVE: Anupam Kher is the Indian movie star who played Bradley Cooper’s therapist in Silver Linings Playbook (“Desean Jackson is the man!” was his killer line). Kher has used his experiences from that Oscar-nominated film to form the basis for I Went Shopping For Robert De Niro, a short film he has quietly directed about his quest to find the right gift to present to Kher’s idol after filming was completed on the Best Picture nominee.
Now, Kher has acted in over 450 movies of various languages in a long career that encompasses Bollywood, American and British productions. But he is absolutely starstruck when it comes to De Niro. He is so reverential that it almost made me feel bad that when I moderated a panel at the last Tribeca Film Festival with Judd Apatow and De Niro, Apatow pushed me to ask the iconic actor when he lost his virginity, this after I forced Apatow to recount his clumsy deflowering to stop him babbling on about The 40-Year Old Virgin. I don’t think De Niro answered — he’s too shy, classy and modest to say something like “I was 8 and both women walked away satisfied” (he is Bobby De, don’t forget), but I think had Kher been up there with us, he might have decked me and Judd. Clearly to Kher, De Niro is the Desean Jackson of actors.
“Mr. De Niro has been my icon and is a legend in global cinema and it was truly one of the greatest honors for me to share screen space with him in this film,” Kher gushed. “As a reflection and dedication to Mr. De Niro, I produced and directed this short film, which I dedicated to him.”
The effort turned into 29-minute film that Kher shot in Mumbai over four months. Kher describes it as “a journey of two girls who are at the crossroads in their lives, and are tasked by with one of life’s greatest challenges, to select a gift for Mr. Robert De Niro. This incredible endeavor impacts them beyond their expectations.” Rimal Arora and Yamini Kshirsagar play the leading roles in the film, and the latter wrote the script after they were tasked by Kher to buy a gift he actually gave to De Niro (I won’t say what it is because it will spoil the ending). But suffice to say their gifting plans go awry. De Niro doesn’t act in the short, but he is pictured with his gift at the film’s end, and he gave his permission for his name to be used in the short’s title.
Said the scribe: “What I enjoyed most was studying Robert De Niro’s life and his work, only to discover that I still don’t know much of the man at all. I realized that the impact of an artist like Robert De Niro cannot be expressed through words. It can only be experienced. I knew that we would have to push ourselves a lot more in the acting process as there was so much more to it than what we had on paper. Perhaps the most comforting factor for my script was that an actor like Mr Kher was directing it.”
It’s the first film Kher directed in 11 years. He’s hoping to get it shown in India, and submit it to festivals here, as De Niro deservedly finds himself in the Oscar mix for the first time in a very long time, thanks to his Silver Linings Playbook performance.