When art imitates life

Meet Anand Kumar, the man behind Patna's Super 30 programme and the inspiration behind the Hrithik Roshan-starrer Super 30.

Anand Kumar, an Indian educator and mathematician, started his Super 30 programme in Bihar’s Patna in 2002. As part of the programme, he coaches underprivileged students for IIT-JEE exams, which is the entrance exam for the Indian Institutes of Technology.

And in a time when Bollywood is witnessing an onslaught of sports and political biopics, it is no surprise that Anand’s story made it to he screen as well. Hrithik Roshan-starrer Super 30 will be the first time an educator’s life history is being reprised.

The film captures the trials and tribulations of Anand’s life, and the challenges he faced in order to set up his Super 30 institute. It is an inspirational story of his struggles and achievements, and shows how a man could make a difference in the lives of underprivileged students.

Speaking about the project, Anand says that he is excited to see his story being documented, and credits writer Sanjeev Dutta. “It was his persuasion that ignited a feeling within me to allow the filmmakers to take my story to the screen. He said ‘aapke Super 30 programme par hum film banaa sakte hain (we want to make a film on your Super 30 programme),” the mathematician says.

“He (Dutta) also wanted everyone to know how important it is to educate children. This request was my biggest aim as well when I decided to start imparting my knowledge to students. I had the same opinion as well. However, my aim was being defeated by the mafias. The mafias here tried to stop me from working towards my aim of imparting knowledge to the poor children via Super 30,” he adds.

When asked if Vikas Bahl was the first director to approach him, Anand says he was also approached by Anurag Basu. “He had also visited Patna a few times. But at that time, he was busy making Jagga Jasoos so probably he lost interest in making Super 30. Later on, director Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena came over to Patna and decided to make this film,” he says.

However, he says that Hrithik himself did not come over to meet him in Patna. “One of his close associates would come over to Patna and spend hours with me in order to capture my mannerisms in a video. But I have met Hrithik in Mumbai while shooting was in progress, and also before shooting began,” Anand explains.

Reminiscing his first meeting with Hrithik, the mathematician says that the actor was impressed. “When Hrithk first met me he said, ‘When I read about your life I was impressed. But now, after meeting you, I am more impressed and happy to portray you on reel, it gives me immense pleasure’,” he recalls.

Speaking about his students’ reactions to the film, the teacher says that they were all ecstatic. “Appreciation and love seems to be overflowing from all my students residing in London, America, etc. One of my students is a scientist in Toronto, while another owns his own company in London. They all said just one thing: ‘Watching the trailer, we all felt that it was our own teacher playing the character on screen. Hrithik has played me on reel with exuberance, there is not an iota of doubt about it. My students endorse Hrithik’s performances to the T,” he elucidates.

And as for his family, Anand says his daughter Suhani knew after watching the trailer that it was a film about him. “My daughter is just two-and-a-half-years-old. But she is quick to learn alphabets and words. To my surprise she has memorised counting from one to 10. Also spells ‘cat’, ‘mat’ and others. No sooner did she watch the trailer of Super 30, she immediately looked and me and said ‘Papa hai (that is papa)’. I can see the spark in my daughter. Somehow I feel she will like to do something different, maybe she will follow my footsteps,” he muses.

However, his and his family’s lives are still under threat from the mafia, the mathematician says. “We have got four commando security… My life is in danger even now. I cannot move without security. The Bihar government has given me security, and I am thankful to them. Any mishap can happen if the security guards are not accompanying me, so they are always with me,” he explains.

He further adds that his mother played a key role during his rougher days. “My dear mother, who also cooked food for my students, played an important role in supporting me during my tougher days. It was a herculean task to be able to gather students from all over the place,” he recalls, adding that his brother was a pillar of support for him as well.

“My brother is another important pillar to me, who would travel from one place to another distributing pamphlets despite being under grave danger of being attacked by the mafia. They would unhesitatingly disallow him from distributing pamphlets. He would still do it endangering his life, and helped us get as many as 30 students from all over the place. Until this day, we have been able to impart knowledge through the Super 30 programme. Our students from four successive batches have found good position all over the globe. This makes me feel proud,” he continues.

And finally, when asked about his hopes from the film, Anand says that education need not be restricted to only rich children. “Irrespective of gender, education needs to be given to every child. You never know who excels. However, if you work hard, success will be all yours,” he concludes.

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