The world?s a stage

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By Whether it?s method acting or Bollywood razzle dazzle, actors today have more options than ever before. Satish Nandgaonkar reports
  • Published 3.11.04
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Do you spend hours in front of your mirror talking to your reflection, imitating the characters from Kkusum? Do you try to perfect Amitabh Bachchan?s baritone angst from Deewar? Do you mouth the dialogues from Sholay as sincerely as you recited your school poems? If yes, then you are smitten by the acting bug. If you are serious about making acting your profession, this is perhaps the best time to head for Mumbai, the mecca of India?s entertainment industry.

With satellite television going 24x7, and mainstream Bollywood industry shaping for a tectonic shift, acting is one profession that is in great demand today. As Asha Chandra, who runs an acting academy in Mumbai?s star-struck Juhu suburb, remarks,?There are lots more of opportunities now than there were in the past.?

ACTORS’ ACADEMY

• Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, Ph: 020 25431817,
website: www.ftiindia.com

• National School of Drama, New Delhi,
website: www.nationalschoolofdrama.org

• Roshan Taneja Actor’s Studios, Mumbai, Ph: 022 26200650

• Kishore Namit Kapoor’s Acting School, Mumbai, Ph: 022 26361626/ 9820036584

• Padmini Kolhapure’s Acting School, Mumbai, Ph: 022 26357813

• Asha Chandra’s Acting Institute, Mumbai, Ph: 022 26604660,
website: www.ashachandra.com

Chandra?s acting institute has churned out Bollywood stars like Jackie Shroff, Akshay Kumar, Meenakshi Seshadri, Chandrachur Singh, and Sunny Deol, among others. Her institute is one of at least 20 such acting schools in Mumbai that groom youngsters for a career in cinema and television.

And there are two other big film schools coming up in Mumbai. The ambitious Whistling Woods International, to be launched by showman Subhash Ghai later this year, will offer training in acting and other film disciplines like cinematography, direction, editing, art direction etc. Sahara India group also plans to start a similar film institute. The fact that both Ghai and Sahara wish to invest heavily into such institutes is an indication that they want to tap into the booming entertainment sector that is expected to touch revenues of more than Rs 15,000 crore in the next five years.

Which is perhaps also why the Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the country?s premier and only government-run film school, has re-launched its acting course after a gap of 26 long years.

Seeking the arclights

The FTII acting course, begun in July this year, has been designed by its alumni and two of India?s finest actors, Naseeruddin Shah and comedian Ravi Vaswani. ?Filmmakers today are trying to make quality films in the face of intense competition from TV and Hollywood cinema. There is a serious dearth of trained film actors,? says Tripurari Sharan, director, FTII.

So what does it take to be an actor, one who can emote at will and bring any character to life? Perseverance, dedication, and the ability to improvise on your skills make an actor, feel experts.

Actor as messenger

Naseeruddin Shah believes that acting can be learnt and does not necessarily have to be in your genes. ?An actor is merely a messenger, not the focus,? he told students at the inaugural class at FTII.

FTII?s acting course has produced some of the biggest names in the film industry including Jaya Bachchan, Danny Denzongpa, Shabana Azmi, Tom Alter, Om Puri, Suresh Oberoi, Satish Shah, and Smita Patil.

Apart from New Delhi-based National School of Drama which grooms students for an acting career aimed specifically at theatre, FTII?s acting course is the only intensive two-year course that trains students for a career before the camera.

Course fees

The two-year course costs Rs one lakh per annum and includes course fees of Rs 80,000 and hostel fees of up to Rs 20,000. It also has a tough admission procedure supervised by FTII?s expert faculty. ?A written exam was conducted in the four metros. Nearly 80 shortlisted students were invited for a four-day workshop at FTII campus in Pune. Eight examiners judged the students after final discussions with course co-ordinator Ravi Vaswani and then 20 students were selected,? says Saran.

But, isn?t a plunge into an acting career risky? ?There is a degree of insecurity,? says Saran. ?But, then that is a hazard faced by every independent professional. The advantage with acting is that even if you don?t make it in mainstream cinema, you have the option of theatre and television.?

However, an acting course does not guarantee a career. As NSD alumnus Irrfan Khan, who did lead roles in critically acclaimed films like Asif Kapadia?s The Warrior and Vishal Bharadwaj?s Maqbool, says, ?You may not get a bright career in the entertainment industry just because you are an NSD graduate. But since television has come in a big way, it is now comparatively easier to get work.?