Having made his acting debut with the 1982 movie Aagman, a 28-year-old Anupam Kher bagged the role of an aging father who loses his only son in Mahesh Bhatt’s 1984 drama Saransh. The movie went on to become a commercial success, being acclaimed critically and was also India’s official submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for that year. The actor’s phenomenal performance won him the Filmfare Award for Best Actor.
He then appeared in various supporting roles in movies like Utsav, Arjun, Jaanoo, Misaal, Rao Saheb, and Aakhree Raasta. He then donned a negative shade in Subhash Ghai’s 1986 action Karma, where he played the role of a terrorist organization’s head, Dr. Dang. The movie, starring Dilip Kumar, Nutan, Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Poonam Dhillon, and Sridevi, is one of the actor’s most refined performances and best remembered negative role. The following year, he starred in the Hindi and English feature film Nehru: The Jewel of India, which revolves around the personal and political life of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
He then shared screen space with his Karma co-stars Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit in 1988 action-romance Tezaab. He then collaborated with Dimple Kapadia and Raj Babbar in the same year in the movie Zakhmi Aurat. In 1989, Anupam Kher donned the role of Deodhar Shastri in the Anil Kapoor-starrer Ram Lakhan, where he played a comic role. For his performance in the movie, he won the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Comic Role. Playing the role of a snake charmer Gorakhnath in Nigahen: Nagina Part II, where he, yet again, played a negative character. The same year, Anupam Kher starred in Daddy, marking Pooja Bhatt’s acting debut. The movie revolved around a girl who has been brought up by her grandparents after the death of her parents, and she has absolutely no memory of her deceased parents. However, upon growing up, she receives mysterious phone calls with a man only saying ‘I love you’ to her and placing the phone down. She soon discovers that an old, shabby, and alcoholic man is, in fact, her father. Anupam Kher played the role of her father, and his portrayal of Anand won him the National Film Award – Special Mention, and Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor.
The same year, he played the role of Anju’s evil uncle Tribhuvan in the comedy-drama ChaalBaaz co-starring Sridevi, Rajinikanth, and Sunny Deol. He then starred alongside Madhuri Dixit and Aamir Khan in the romantic drama Dil, where he played Aamir Khan’s father’s role. Next, he was seen in Yash Chopra’s Lamhe where he played a rather comic role for which he won the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Comic Role. He again went on to win the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Comic Role for his performance in the 1992 romantic-comedy Khel. The same year, he appeared in movies like Beta, and Do Hanso Ka Joda.
In 1994, he starred in 1942: A Love Story starring Anil Kapoor, Manisha Koirala, and Jackie Shroff. His performance in the movie won him the Star Screen Award for Best Supporting Actor. Playing the role of Prof. Siddharth Chaudhary, Anupam Kher starred in the musical romantic comedy Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! Anupam Kher teamed up with Shah Rukh Khan in Darr and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, for both of which he won the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Comic Role, making him the only actor to have won the maximum awards in that category. In 1997, he made his Tamil movie debut with movie V. I. P. co-starring Prabhu Deva, Abbas, Simran, and Rambha. Anupam Kher was seen donning the comic character’s hat in movies such as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Haseena Maan Jaayegi, Mohabbatein, and Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge.
The actor starred in the 2000 drama Kya Kehna where he the role of a single, teenage mother-to-be’s father, who after disowning his daughter ends up forgiving her. Appearing in his second Tamil language film, the Saransh star was cast alongside Bentley Mitchum and Jyothika in the fantasy movie Little John. He went on to be a part of English language films such as Bend It Like Beckham, Banana Brothers, and Mistress of Spices. He went on to win the National Film Award – Special Jury Award for his performance in the movie Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara.
He played the role of Kamal Kishore Khosla in the movie Khosla Ka Ghosla, co-starring Boman Irani, where Anupam Kher ’s character cons a corrupt and powerful man to regain his property from him. The movie opened to mainly positive reviews. The actor then went on to star in Ang Lee’s Chinese erotic espionage thriller film Lust, Caution in 2007. The following year, he played the role of a police officer, looking out to find the man who has, apparently, planted a series of bombs in the city, in the movie A Wednesday! co-starring Naseeruddin Shah and Jimmy Shergill.
Having appeared in a series of movies as a supporting actor, Anupam Kher was seen in Life Partner, Dil Bole Hadippa!, Wake Up Sid, Desi Boyz, and Jab Tak Hai Jaan. He was also a part of the English movie Silver Linings Playbook, where he played the role of Dr. Patel. He teamed up with director Neeraj Pandey and actor Akshay Kumar in the crime thrillers Special 26, and Baby, both of which were commercial and critical successes. In 2016, he was also seen in Neeraj Pandey’s biopic drama M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, where he played the role of Dhoni’s father. The movie co-starring Sushant Singh Rajput was a commercial success and went on to become a big hit in its first week of release. The same year, he was seen in an ensemble cast of Manoj Bajpayee, Kay Kay Menon, Annu Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, and Aditi Sharma in the comedy Saat Uchakkey. Despite being packed with an exemplary cast, the movie failed at the box-office and was declared an average grosser. Reprising his role of Shukla ji from the 2015 action thriller Baby, Kher was seen in its 2017 spin-off Naam Shabana, which sees Taapsee Pannu in the lead. Next, he was cast alongside Freida Pinto and Richa Chadda in the drama Love Sonia, which explores the journey of a young girl through the world of international sex trafficking. Teaming up with Akshay Kumar, the actor was also seen in the satirical comedy Toilet – Ek Prem Kahani, which highlights the poor sanitary conditions in most part of India.