Mathematician Anand Kumar has been coaching underprivileged students for IIT-JEE since 2002. The cinematic adaptation of his life, Hrithik Roshan-starrer Super 30, is set to hit theatres on July 12, 2019. Kumar spoke to us about the casting process, why his story needed to be told and what he hopes people take away from it:
This is the third cinematic adaptation of your life – Discovery Channel made an hour-long documentary on you and Yoichi Itoh, chief economist of STB Research Institute, Japan, also made a film on Super 30 for NHK channel – why was making Super 30 then important to you? What are the challenges of telling this story but keeping it fresh?
It's been quite some time since the Discovery channel put out their documentary. The Japanese film did quite well, I was invited to Tokyo and now I have a good relationship with that country. But this story had not reached the common man. And not via a star. Our film's writer, Sanjeev Dutta, wanted the film to reach the common man. He worked hard and his efforts have now borne fruit – Hrithik Roshan is starring in it, Vikas Bahl is directing it, it's about to release. It's a meaningful story because it's a story about dreams, about faith. It's the story of one man's victory in the face of difficulties. It will inspire people and that's why it was important and necessary.
You said writer Sanjeev Dutta wrote this story nine years ago but no one was ready to make a film on it. What was the process of getting this made like then?
When he wrote the story, people couldn't believe that the story of a teacher had become so beloved. Slowly, the facts started coming to light, 'Super 30' became more well known, these children went abroad and started working in prominent positions – they became scientists etc in big companies. So then people started realising that if the child of a autowallah, the child of a plastic bag seller, the child of a tea seller had reached such heights, then there had to be something to this. They began to believe the same story they didn't nine years ago.
Many people said, 'Hrithik looks like a Greek God, he's handsome but you look like a 'dehati'. How will this work?' But when I spoke to him, I saw his dedication
How involved were you with the script – you said the makers had to change it 13 times because of you. Did you take an interest in casting choices?
I wanted the story to be both authentic and interesting but not too filmi. So there's not much that has been changed. I'd say it's been improved upon 13 times. And my family and friends are very happy with it. I believe that the film will do well. During the casting process with the director and producers, many people said, 'Hrithik looks like a Greek God, he's handsome but you look like a 'dehati'. How will this work?' But when I spoke to him, I saw his dedication. He said he would work for a year, lose his muscles, lose some weight and learn the language. That's when I knew he would do a good job and the whole team welcomed him on board happily.
Given the reach of cinema, what do you hope people take away from your story?
I know that this film will reach a lot of people. I hope people realise that this is the story of a man who fought against the odds to work for those 30 children. I hope teachers working all over the world get love and strength through this movie. I hope underprivileged children begin hoping that if they too work hard, no matter how difficult it seems, they will surely be successful. Privileged children will see that if underprivileged children are doing so well, they too should work hard. This story will inspire a lot of people.