Nepotism: Late Bengali actress had accused Anupam Kher of bullying her to get Kirron Kher awarded

Avantika
·3-min read

Old clips of Alia Bhatt, Sonam Kapoor, and Karan Johar deriding Sushant Singh Rajput on the latter’s talk show, and Kareena Kapoor Khan suggesting Sara Ali Khan must not date her “first hero” in another one, have triggered a massive controversy. Outraged netizens have decided these and other “products of nepotism” are the reason behind talent not getting their due.

As peddlers of nepotism attract flak from audience bodies, many members of the industry, Kangana Ranaut, for example, have voiced out their angst against ‘Nepotism’. Anupam Kher too, took to social media to express his regret for this malpractice the industry is reeling under and insisted that talented youth must not let the unfortunate incident discourage them, and keep reaching Mumbai chasing their Bollywood dreams.

For the uninitiated, this video may appear like a benevolent and warm gesture from the senior actor. He, however, couldn’t impress those who have been observing his ways since times when social media wasn’t a thing and were quick to pick the contradiction between his words and actions. Bengali cinephiles unearthed a shameful incident from 20 years ago that projects the Accidental Prime Minister-actor in quite the unfavorable light.

Bariwali
Bariwali

Back in 2000, Anupam Kher had produced a Bengali film, Bariwali; his wife Kirron Kher was cast in the leading role and she executed the character of the middle-aged lonely landlady, Banatala impeccably. But, as Kirron Kher struggled with the Bengali language, a local actress Rita Koiral was roped in to dub for her. Though an unheard name for the Bollywood audience, the Bengali actress is an eminent figure in the Bengali film and television industry and commands an impressive fan following.

Directed by the masterful Rituparno Ghosh, Bariwali opened to much adulation, and the director bagged the prestigious Netpac Award for his unparalleled direction. However, the situation turned denser when Kirron Kher’s name emerged as the contender for the National Award for Best Actress. The nomination got stuck in limbo for a while because National Awards couldn’t be accorded to actors if they have used dubbing artists.

Rita Koiral
Rita Koiral

Rita Koiral, the dubbing artist in this case, had accused Anupam Kher of flexing his muscles to secure the award for his actress wife. She claims that Anupam Kher had called her up before the award was conferred to check if she had received her payment for the dubbing and enquired on how much had she been given. After she acknowledged receiving her payment, Kher offered her more money, this time to keep shut about having dubbed for Kirron Kher in the movie. When she refused to accept the offer, the Kher resorted to browbeating, alleges Rita.

"If you don't accept my offer, you won't be able to come to work in Mumbai for life. I will see how you work in Tollywood too."

The dust settled, and Kirron took home her National Award for Best Actress. Years later, in an interview, director Rituparno Ghosh accepted that Rita Koiral had indeed lent her voice to the leading lady. Adjudged the Best Supporting Actress for her role in Bariwali, Sudipta Chakraborty summed the guts to speak on how the senior Bengali actress was wronged, albeit, years later.

“Anyone who watches Bengali films will have no doubt about Ritadi’s voice. Rituda himself was upset about the whole incident. I was told that the version of the film sent for the National Awards had Kirron Kher’s voice and that she learnt the language under the guidance of a private tutor.”

In November 2017, aged 58, Rita succumbed to liver cancer; but they say, the artist left the world nursing the wound of being denied recognition for what was perhaps one of her best performances.