Naseeruddin Shah on acting schools is only partly right

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Naseeruddin Shah says “There are no acting teachers in the country, they are all shams..all these people running acting schools are absolute and utter frauds, they are fooling the kids who come to them and teach them nothing”. #NaseeruddinShah should be taken very seriously considering his body of work and stature as an actor, no doubt about that. However, he is only partly right. It is true that the two biggest stars to emerge from India, Dilip Kumar and #AmitabhBachchan never saw the inside of an acting school. There are also acting schools in the country that have no business teaching acting. However, to say that all the acting schools in the country are a sham and actors don’t need schools is a stretch. The truth is that a lot of people who sign up at acting institutes are simply not cut out to be actors and no one wants to be the one to bell the cat. Who will tell an aspiring actor to go back to Uttar Pradesh or Punjab when he or she is willing to sign up for a course and pay a large sum of money for it? There’s a clear conflict of interest here. This also raises the question whether such people are competent enough to separate the wheat from the chaff or they could just be turning back brilliant raw talent.

The other depressing aspect is the overwhelming desire of aspiring actors and even singers to mimic their screen idols which is why when you watch short films and webisodes these days, you’ll notice girls with #KanganaRanaut’s twang and guys with a #RanbirKapoor hangover. I had an actor proudly display a showreel to me, in which he played a scene from Sunny Deol’s ‘Ghayal’ doing his best imitation of the beefy actor. How that will get him any work is a mystery unless someone is working on a parody of ‘Ghayal’ or wants to cast a lookalike of Sunny Deol. The current system is partly responsible for this. Most reality shows that claim to be talent hunts do nothing to encourage originality among artists, whether singers, actors, musicians or lyricists. The singing contests have contestants singing songs that were once chartbusters, and doing their best to sound like the original singers, from Lata Mangeshkar and Geeta Dutt to Arijit Singh and Sonu Nigam. The fact is these songs have already been sung and were well received then. One is compelled to ask what these people aspire to achieve by recreating the same melodies over and over again? Film personalities who judge these contests get paid millions to appreciate the contestants and critique them. However, if I want to listen to ‘Mere sapno ki rani..’ I would rather listen to Kishore Kumar on my iPod than to some aspiring singer from Rohtak, whatever the sob story that he’s trying to sell me! Every singer has a unique style. Give the same song to two different singers and the way they sing will be entirely different. Similarly, no two actors will perform a scene in the same way. Hell! Even the same actor won’t be able to give the exact same take twice, if he is half an actor! Acting is an organic process and every performance is at least somewhat different from the earlier one, as actors tap into a part of their inner selves. It’s important for singers and actors to find their own voice and style and we need an ecosystem that will enable that instead of turning them into mimics.

I trained professionally myself as an actor at Roshan Taneja Acting School (run by Rohit Taneja, son of renowned acting guru Roshan Taneja) before I decided to make my first film because I knew it would help me put myself in the shoes of an actor when I direct him or her. A lot of directors run roughshod over artists and I wanted to avoid doing that. I was witness to and participated in the whole process myself. There are a lot of everyday essential technicalities, from understanding a script and accepting directions from a director to blocking and dubbing, that a good acting school teaches an acting student. In the process, I also met struggling actors, from the talented go-getters to those who make you wonder why they signed up!Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

To quote Sanford Meisner, ‘Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances’. I believe that acting as a craft and art can be taught by an articulate and perseverant teacher to a reasonably talented and keen student. Sometimes even a complete newcomer, an untrained actor at that, can get cast and deliver, given the right script and director. Some of the artists in my short film ‘Screwdriver’ had never faced the arclights but did a fabulous job! It’s also possible for a director to work around the limitations of an actor and every actor is limited in some ways. This is especially so if the artist looks the part which is half the battle won though bagging a role solely by virtue of looking the part may not take an actor very far in the long run unless he or she has talent to fall back on. Besides, acting is a very personal process, which takes a lot from the artist. You need life experiences, perseverance, sensibilities and a tremendous amount of patience. Rejection is also much more personal for an actor. It’s rare to come across sound designers and cinematographers giving up on life but failed actors taking the last desperate step is unfortunately far more common. Perhaps, this is why one hopes that genuine acting schools exist as talented aspiring actors do, so that the twain shall meet and create the magic that only moving images do!

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