Film Education


Discussing Acting Techniques with Actors Rasa Boxes with Vikas Garg

 

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discovering the child within

Vikas has been my student for the Michael(Mikhael) Chekhov Acting Technique and he discovers acting techniques with the curiosity and innocence of a child so I am happy to share his experience with yet another technique that adds to his vocabulary as an actor

Vikas Garg a practicing theatre actor speaks to Oorvazi Irani about his experience with Rasa Boxes

 

  1. Share with us your unique experience while performing the rasa boxes. How did you experience emotions in a new way as an actor/ artist. Can you compare how it was different and unique as  process and outcome compared to accessing emotions in other acting techniques.

    To me, Rasa box is a science that scans all of one’s emotions in a particular order. Rasa box is instrumental when it comes to preparing for a role.Our bodies and minds have individual memories and every day, we perceive something or the other. Sometimes, it is subconscious and we don’t know it overtly. Rasa box helps us to identify this hidden information. It helps us to tap into the associated emotions.

    When we write names and associated words in the Rasa box, it uncovers certain emotions and functions as a psychological trigger.

    At the same time, many variants are formed of a single emotion. This is also one of Rasa box’s functions. Emotions are displayed in varying degrees, given the circumstances. Rasa box helps one to find such nuances in one’s emotions and resultant physicality.

    All these different elements help an actor to develop his/her craft.

    I have always believed that all techniques help in one way or the other. All these different techniques share some common factor, directly or indirectly. It depends on the actor as to which one he/she chooses to practice, given his comfort and relatability with the technique.

    I believe that Rasa box can unearth an actor’s hidden emotions and that any actor can relate to its technique with ease.

    Can you share a personal experience with any emotion that surprised you as an artist and was a new discovery with this technique

    I had a moment when I was practicing Rasa box. I clearly felt a transformation in myself, when I was switching from one character to an entirely different character.

    I saw a place that was more than fifty years old, a time before I was even born. I could see props that were not supposed to be there, it was a singular experience.

    I saw a room and I saw things in it that were not really there. I saw a man sitting there and I talked with him. I could perceive him as clearly as I would perceive any other. This experience overwhelmed me to such a degree that is just indescribable in words. I cried like I never cried before. The thing to notice is that I only knew that room for three days.

    3. What was the biggest challenge this technique placed before you which other techniques do not pose

    Nothing

    4. So is emotion the central core of this technique and why and is characterization etc secondary or how does it work can you elaborate on this point for our readers

    I believe emotion is the central core of a human being. But there are also other things attached to it. We are like books. There can be a central theme but there are layers to it. One has to peal it one by one, read between the lines to get to the core. I think Rasa box is also like that. There is emotion at its core but to get to it involves a complicated, non-linear process, just like reading a book.

    How it works for me
    Every word has a corresponding image. This image triggers a certain emotion in us. Emotions affect our physical appearance, and voice. To develop our craft, we can choose some words in the script that is given to us. These words must have a strong corresponding image in relation to us.

    We have to write all these words in the Rasa box and then, we have to move from one box to another. This is followed by noticing our behavior in each box. It is important to observe our body language changing with each respective box.

    We can practice the Rasa box in more than one way. We can do it with a partner, more than one partner, with music, breathing, movements, or any other way that strikes your fancy. There is flexibility. It is this flexibility that allows one to really unearth his/her emotions with the Rasa box.

    As an actor, it is upon you to choose and discard elements within the Rasa box. You are the master of its design, you can customize it accordingly. Everything useful that you have learned with it, you must repeat it so that your mind and body can get used to it.

    Now, you are ready to perform.

 

The Rasa Boxes Acting Technique

Personal Experience Shared by Vikas Garg

I want to thank ‘Janice Orlandi’ who coached me personally in her studio, while I was in New York City this year. She didn’t leave any stone unturned in the process and I am indebted to her for the invaluable sessions I had with her.

Janice Orlandi is a certified master teacher and teacher trainer of ‘Williamson Physical Technique’ for actors, including period style movement and dance. She is also a certified teacher of Michael Chekhov Technique, trained in viewpoints and composition with Anne Bogart, Tina Landau and SITI Company, trained in Rasaboxes with founder Richard Schechner NYU Performance Studies.

In this article, I am going to describe ‘Rasaboxes’. Rasaboxes is an exercise, technique and process, all at the same time. Rasaboxes is an acting technique and has proved to be a very useful technique that is taught in the field of theatre and film all over the world. It involves unlocking, discovering and controlling the nine major emotions that a human being is capable of.

But before we start with Rasaboxes, we need to prepare ourselves with the following few warmup exercises. These exercises help us achieve the appropriate mindset to carry on the steps involved in Rasaboxes, in terms of psychological and physical states. They help us get more focused and responsive to emotional and physical stimuli. They also help us to follow the lead of our own bodies, to form a connection that we otherwise ignore; something skin to what ‘Steven Randazzo’ once said, one of the greatest Meisner teacher during one of my classroom sessions with him, “Good listening is a good piece of work.”

Warm up exercises

Moving in six directions

Stand straight and gather your senses. Now, start making the movements, one at a time. The six directions in which one has to move are – Left, right, forward, backward, upward, downward. One can start anywhere while moving, there is no particular order to it. Extend one hand in the direction you want to move in and move.

There are several kinds of movements such as homogenous movement, polarized movement, sequential movement etc.

In homogenous movement, one moves in an organic manner, by moving the entire body in a particular direction instead of just an extremity.

In sequential movement, one movement in a certain direction will be succeeded by another one, that looks seamlessly continuous. One can also move in different directions, but by making sure that the combination of movements, two or more, makes a comprehensive sequence.

In polarized movement, one moves with one extremity in one direction, while the other in the opposite direction. This is a very interesting exercise given the psychoanalytic finding that adults, in general, mostly move in a forward direction while children move in both forward and backward direction. This has to do with a subliminal grounding in adults rendered through experience, of moving forward, and not backward, in order to avoid an inopportune incident or accident. Children, given a relative lack of experience, do not have a developed sense of self-preservation, and hence move as they desire.

In every kind of movement, one must add several advanced steps such as flying, floating, radiating, flowing, in order to bring out the maximum effect of the exercises. A good way of extending these exercises is by learning to find the variants of the movements. For instance, one can move forward in a straight line or in an arch. These movements help us understand our bodies and give way to a resultant intimacy that contributes to a more intricately elaborate portrayal of a given character.

The Rasaboxes

Make nine boxes. Usually, it is made with white tape and its made in the following grid.

 

After this is done, nine pages, on which the following emotions are written, are pasted to the ground, one in each box.

  • Shringara (Love)
  • Hasya (Joy)
  • Adbuta (Wonder)
  • Shanta (Peace)
  • Raudra (Anger)
  • Veera (Courage)
  • Karuna (Sadness)
  • Bhayanaka (Fear)
  • Vibhatsa (Disgust)

 

The next step is to write the corresponding thoughts that the nine words invoke in you.

For instance: With the emotion ‘Shringara’, which translates roughly into love, one has to write on the same piece of paper, all the feelings, images, thoughts that the emotion brings out in you. One can choose to even draw, write a quote, a personal idea etc.

Each box has to have two or more participants. Props can be added to the boxes post writing the corresponding thoughts.

After the same process is followed with all the nine emotions, we can move to the next step, which is called ‘Shaping’.

Shaping/Molding – Shaping involves one person in the box molding or shaping his/her body corresponding to the designated emotion, while the other(s) in the box mirror his/her movements. It is important that the others mirror every facet of the movement, including body movements and breathing. After this, they will switch. At one time, only one person will shape and the other(s) will mirror. This process has to be repeated 4-5 times.

This exercise can also be extended by adding environment/substance to the box which will then supplement the position accordingly. For instance, one can add in the box of ‘Shringar’, something fragrant or odorous and then mold oneself, keeping in mind the additions.

Another thing to keep in mind while performing all these exercises is to make sure that all the senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, are receptive to everything around one.

After this, each participant will choose 3-4 positions/stances/sculptures in which they shaped themselves.

This will be followed with the participant stepping out of the grid and embodying the thoughts and sensations of each one of the sculpture that he has chosen and enacting it, one sculpture at a time, in the given space, including the props. He has to make sure that he has kept the corresponding mental status and sensations intact. He will walk out of the grid normally and then proceed to enact the sculpture.

Breathing is a very crucial part of these exercises since breathing contributes heavily to the enactment of an emotion or ‘Rasa’. Moving from one sculpture to another must incorporate a corresponding change in breathing as well.

This whole process, from start to end, has to be done with all the nine emotions.

These nine emotions make an ocean of different possibilities. These permutations and combinations of enactment of emotions help us prepare for a role in either film or theatre, since mastery over the enactment of these emotions will help one understand the nuances of acting out a character in its minutest detail.

Another extension to this exercise is: The participant chooses a corner of the room and imagines a window in front of him. He opens it and imagines a person in front of him, it can be anybody. The participant hugs them, talks to them, cull all information about them.

Then, he will close the window, open his eyes, he will walk away and transform into that person.

 

 

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INTERVIEW WITH BUDDING FILMMAKER NEMIL SHAH

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Introducing Hasan Khan                                                   Omkar Sakpal

 

“As a first time Director I was nervous shooting in uncontrolled public spaces in Dharavi. I had the notion that the slum people of Dharavi would be hostile but I realised how judgemental and wrong I was. They were very gracious and co-operative, many times they went out of their way to help and that was s big reason for the success of my film”

INTERVIEW

Oorvazi Irani Interviews

Nemil Shah – IBDP student batch 2015-17

It was exactly two years ago, when I joined Oorvazi Maam’s film class in the SVKM JV Parekh International School to discover a whole new different world of CINEMA and here I am today after two years where I actually discovered myself. I always say and will keep saying that she helped ‘me’ to find ‘me’ out of ‘me’.

1. Has your idea of filmmaking changed and how from the first day of class studying film as a subject offered by the International Baccalaureate ?

Definitely, I mean to me filmmaking was always very appealing and fascinating form of art because of the combination of the audio as well as visuals. What has changed is that now I call it as the ’Language of films’.

2. How do you define art and an artist? 

An artist could be any normal people who can express and reflect their own selves. This reflection is what I perceive as art.

3. Which filmmakers do you look up to?

Satyajit Ray, Alfred Hitchcock, Ritesh Batra.

4. Is there a rel between the form of poetry and film as art and how? 

The visuals and imagery is what bring these two different arts closer. However there are no restrictions in art. Therefore any art form can be expressed with respect to the choice of the artist.

5. As a teacher do you feel I have a unique approach to the subject? What did you like and dislike? 

The practical approach is what I feel was very helpful because that is what helped us to bring out the ‘art’ in us. What I like and dislike is the fact that you reply to us faster than we do…

6. What kind of films do you aspire to make?

Experimental Art films as well as Drama.

7. Why do you aspire to be a filmmaker? 

It’s the language in which I can express myself quiet well.

8. What has the greatest deepest lesson making your first short film teach you?

It is rigorous, painful, stressful etc. etc. but this is what makes me happy. This process is what I love.

9. What to your mind is the future of cinema?

Art often comes with no or very little expectations.



SVKM Culturama Filmmaking Mentorship

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FILM MAKING MENTORSHIP WORKSHOP By Oorvazi Irani

VIDAR JOSHI

Knock Knock !

Time was very less. 10-1 for 4 days that’s like 12hrs only but I swear to god watching 40hrs of YouTube videos on filmmaking, writing, editing and making 5 films on my own gave me less than this workshop.

Why knock knock?

You see a door and you kind of have an idea about what’s behind that door and you think that’s the truth. Maybe or maybe not. When you knock and when the door opens up you see the whole universe behind that small door instead of some boring room. After this one person comes and pushes you outside and tells you to explore this. How would you feel?

I was standing outside that door making films on my imaginations of what’s behind that door. This workshop knocked the door for me and Oorvazi ma’am pushed me to explore the world of cinema, paintings, literature etc etc.

“An amateur filmmaker to an artist” I am on this journey now.

Thank you so much for these things @Oorvazi Ma’am

 

OORVAZI IRANI

(Vidar this is for you)

Bathed in innocence
you are born !

Carrying the seed of a Dream

Tender are your steps
Careful is your breadth

Gently flows your sincerity
paving your way to a path unknown.

You are your Dream
Pure and Serene ;



Film is the most ‘modern art form’ and  it is a privilege to be involved in a medium that is an amalgamation of all the older arts.  As a Mentor on this platform I see my role to nurture and help young minds discover the medium and through that discover their true self and the world around them.

It gives me immense joy to be mentoring young filmmakers for the film competition in my international school cultural festival ”Culturama 5” to be held on Jan 28th and 29th 2017 in Mumbai.

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Testimonial by Nitin Neera Chandra

 

Nitin Neera Chandra

National Award Winning Filmmaker 2016

Attended Oorvazi’s Film Appreciation Batch 2009

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After I Completed my Masters learning Cinema for two years at Pune University, I came to Mumbai and started working as a production assistant but until I attended Oorvazi’s Irani Film Appreciation classes, I did not know what I was missing. Those 8 days of workshop literally changed the way I was thinking and streamlined a lot of thoughts about Cinema and how it is suppose to work. I remember making two short films for which I was rewarded with a DVD which I have still kept.

I directed two films Deswa and Mithila Makhaan, I had joined Oorvazi’s workshop as preparation of for Deswa. Deswa want on to become first film in the Bhojpuri language to get selected at Indian Panorama section of prestigious International Film Festival of India, Goa. in 2012

My second film Mithila Makhaan is winner of National Award, ‘Best Film in Maithili Language’ in 2016. Thanks to Oorvazi because one part of my little understanding has her contribution.



Testimonial by Nishi Panicker

 

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Nishi Panicker posing with Oorvazi Irani on her school Graduation day

 

Nishi Panicker

International Baccalaureate Film Student, SVKM International School(Batch 2014-16)

Currently awaiting her final results with IB

I joined IB thinking that film would be the easiest of my subjects and now when I reflect back it was probably the most challenging. Our very first class, I remember Oorvazi ma’am asking us why we chose film and what aspect we loved the most. I was confused because I remember feeling like I didn’t know anything about film,which in retrospect was true. I don’t know how two years flew by but one thing I can say confidently is that there’s not a single a class with ma’am where I’ve left with the same knowledge as when I entered.

There’s always something to learn from her whether it’s her undying love for the art of cinema,her enthusiasm or her unwillingness to ever stop pushing you to be the best that you can. She helped me develop my love for writing,she taught me to always dig deeper because when it comes to learning there’s never an end point. Every single moment of frustration was followed by an increase of reverence whether it was her pushing me to a better writer and director or just sitting on the sidelines and letting me learn from my mistakes.

Oorvazi ma’am strives to teach you about film but unknowingly teaches you how to be a better learner and a greater person and for that I will always be grateful to her. To me she was more than just a teacher who had an allotted two hours,she is someone I look up to because she will never stop caring.



Testimonial by Rahul Sharma

TESTIMONIAL 

 

Rahul Sharma

International Baccalaureate Film Student, SVKM International School (Batch 2011-13)

My talented young filmmaker is currently on his way to pursue MA Filmmaking at the London Film School

Director & Screenwriter – “Story of a Lonely Goldfish” (20min)

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Rahul posing with his Film Poster at the Seattle International Children’s Film Festival

 

‘Rahul. Take it easy. Plan it out well. You don’t have to shoot tomorrow. Let’s brainstorm first.’ These are the words that echo in my mind when I think of my film teacher and mentor Oorvazi Irani. As you can figure it, I was always in a hurry..to experience things…to make films…to live life…or even to be free. But it’s at times like these that you need someone to tell you to hold on, take a step back, understand and evaluate. And only when you’re ready, allow you to fly. Such was her role in my nurturing across the years.

She lent utmost support to me when I directed my first experimental film ‘Huma’ (7 minutes) be it in its conceptualisation or storyboarding to even the final touches in the editing suite. The best part about her involvement was that she gave me enough creative liberty and space to carry out my own ideas. She was just there to guide them and put them forth in the right direction.

Most of my love for cinema..its vast horizons of genres..its numerous techniques..and knowledge about some of the great masters of the artform were inculcated by her. During my IBDP (International Baccaulaureate Diploma Programme) course, I was able to write a 4000-word extended essay on Akira Kurosawa and portrayal of violence in its most unique facets in his films. I also wrote a 12-minute audio visual script conceptualising myself as a narrator talking about The French New Wave and its Influences on cinema from across the world such as the Hollywood New Wave and the Iranian New Wave. The IBDP film curriculum required in-depth research, thorough analytical skills and above all passion. I owe all of this to Ms. Oorvazi Irani’s guidance, effort and most importantly, belief.

I remember I was overjoyed when her debut film Path of Zarathustra was released in theatres. Here is the work of an artist who defied stringent cultural paradigms, related to the true essence of her culture and recognised her own voice. The film not only breaks traditional Zoraoastrianism barriers but also lucidates forward thinking with courage and spirit. I have also never seen anyone maintain the dualist balance of an actor-director better than my film teacher in her first work of art.

I look forward to seeing more of her films and would recommend her course ‘Filmmaking for Beginners’ to all cinephiles, cinema lovers and anyone even remotely interested in the art, as she is someone who can reinvigorate her energy into you.