Asingle project can be a career-defining moment, believes writer, coach and actor Hemant Kher. “I believe you have to wait for the best to happen,” says the actor who played Ashwin Mehta—Harshad Mehta’s stockbroker brother—in Zee5’s runaway hit, Scam 1992, based on the life of Harshad Mehta. Needless to say, the series is very close to his heart. At present he is prepping for a negative cameo in an upcoming web series and is also mulling an offer from Hollywood. He also opens up about yet another project where he will be playing the lead. Based on a script he has penned, it is a travel film set during the lockdown period. “It’s the story of a lonely man who finds love in unusual circumstances. The film deals with multiple aspects of the pandemic and its impact on relationships and people,” says the actor.
Kher came to Mumbai from Surat in Gujarat to pursue acting in 2003, right after his training from the National School of Drama (NSD). However, life had other plans in store. Rejected by many production houses because “he did not have the face of an actor”, Kher began writing scripts for non-fiction shows, mostly reality shows such as Jhalak Dikhla Ja, Just Dance, India’s Best Dramebaaz, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Dance India Dance, Indian Idol and Amul Masterchef. Within a span of 10 years, he had written content for more than 30 shows. In 2009-10, he also coached the kid anchors of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil Champs on how to conduct themselves on stage.
Thereafter, he began training celebrities such as Javed Ali, Vikas Khanna, Ranveer Brar and Amaal Malik for their shows like Amul Masterchef, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil Champs and Just Dance. Soon he started an initiative called Rolexplore in 2016 to help actors familiarise themselves with the characters they were playing at any time. It all started during the show, India’s Best Dramebaaz. Kher was one of the creators for the show. The fact that he was a NSD alumnus and a trained actor with a theatre background, made him the natural choice when it came to training the kids on the show to hone their on-stage skills. His ‘coaching process’ started from there. He began doing workshops and people would request him to coach actors for their films. In fact, it was at one such workshop that he came across Pratik Gandhi, who played Harshad Mehta in Scam 1992. Kher admits that coaching is something he is extremely emotional about as he himself did not have anyone to guide him when he came to Mumbai, and he doesn’t want others to suffer the same fate.
But like all creative people, Kher itched to do more. He decided to quit writing for television in order to focus exclusively on acting and scripting for films. According to him, even as TV gave him financial sustenance he “was missing the creative satisfaction and the recognition”. One day out of the blue, he received a call from Mukesh Chabbria’s office to audition for Scam 1992. Though Chabbria was initially sceptical about Kher—he believed the actor was a non-Gujarati, and Chabbria was adamant to get a Gujarati for the character—he was impressed with the audition. The show gave Kher the recognition he duly deserved. And to the audience it brought an actor they could celebrate.