Actor Anupam Kher, right standing, posted this picture of Robert De Niro on his twitter feed (@actorprepares) taken by Priya Gupta, managing editor of Bombay Times (@priyaguptatimes)
Robert De Niro successfully navigated his boat through the gushing current of adulation that he encountered during his recent visit to India. He bobbed up and down but generally managed to stay afloat. (Don’t miss my college fraternity level punning on his name). It is reasonable to presume that the afterglow of the extraordinary warmth he was accorded by the Indian film fraternity and others would last awhile.
Indian hospitality and warmth can be particularly addictive, albeit overwhelming, for those who encounter it for the first time. Americans, while generally friendly, still find it hard to handle the sheer conviviality that defines the Indian welcome generally and the world of Hindi cinema actors particularly. Many of them may be cutthroat when people are not looking but they can pull out all stops when they welcome those whom they admire and worship.
Kher, for instance, tweeted: “Making Robert De Niro sit in my chair in my off(ice) @actorprepares will always be the Greatest joy of my Life.:)”
It is not simply joy but “Greatest” with the capital g of his life. Even if you discount the hyperbole, this is a truly touching way to welcome someone. I am not being derisive here at all even though it may seem like that given the default tone of this blog. It is a gift to be able to feel this joyous about anyone or anything.
The famously reticent and shy De Niro must have processed the warmth of his reception through his return flight. I doubt very much if he has felt this feted and fussed over before in a very personal sense.
De Niro was primarily in India to attend the annual ‘Think’ festival organized by Terun Tejpal, the founder and editor of the Tehelka magazine and media company. As part of the festival he was interviewed live on stage by Tehelka magazine editor Shoma Chaudhury. She subjected him to a sort of acting school viva voce of his own career asking painfully detailed questions about the processes that went into creating many memorable characters.
One could see that De Niro struggled to confect answers commensurate with the unnecessarily showy questions. At least once he said he did not understand the question. This is what happens when people read too much into what goes behind the scenes of any creative process. Overall, De Niro did say things that made eminent sense. For instance, talking about his acting process he said, “The less you do the better. It’s up to the director to get you to not do anything. (When the scene cuts to you) it should say it all… In every character you use something of yourself, whatever is applicable. Why not? It’s there.”
Coming back to the unequivocal affections that he received from the Indian film fraternity, De Niro visited Kher’s office where he met a bunch of people from the movies.One of them was Ranbir Kapoor, a third generation scion of Hindi cinema’s most illustrious movie dynasty of the Kapoors (Prithviraj, Raj, Shammi, Shashi, Rishi and Randhir Kapoor). Ranbir opened up the floodgates of his cutesy (See the pictures below)
Actor Ranbir Kapoor in what seems like part natural, part contrived gesture of affection for De Niro. This picture is taken from the twitter feed of Priya Gupta, Bombay Times managing editor
Ranbir Kapoor touching De Niro’s feet (knees to be more accurate) in a show of respect that particularly is observed in the Hindi film fraternity. This picture is taken from the twitter feed of Priya Gupta, Bombay Times managing editor
It must have been an interesting contrast between the garrulous and unctuous world of Hindi cinema and shy and retiring Robert De Niro. In the end though, it must be all good because what’s not to like in being loved and adored and deferred to and fussed over and feted and generally pampered out of one’s wits?
Five years ago when Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Farhan Akhtar met De Niro in Dubai during an event, the trio too touched his feet. I don’t think De Niro asked "You talkin’ to my feet?"