Film Education


Discussing Acting Techniques with Actors Rasa Boxes with Vikas Garg

 

image

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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Testimonial by Nitin Neera Chandra

 

Nitin Neera Chandra

National Award Winning Filmmaker 2016

Attended Oorvazi’s Film Appreciation Batch 2009

Nitin pic

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.



The Documentary Goonj and Interview with the filmmaker Adhiraj Bose

Goonj Poster 2

DOCUMENTARY ON ‘CANNABIS/CHARAS’

A documentary featuring Naseeruddin Shah as an integral voice in the film along with other interesting characters and experts explores the issues revolving around the illegal cultivation of cannabis (the biological name for the derivative plant for charas or marijuana) in the Himachal Pradesh state of India.

A large section of people feel that cannabis, the holy weed, should be legalized for a number of reasons. ‘Goonj’ goes into the depth of the layers involved in the decision of legalization and cultivation of this weed.

The filmmaker in action in Kullu

The filmmaker in action in Kullu

It was a great joy to see this documentary by Adhiraj Bose who was part of my film appreciation family a few years ago. He is indeed a talented young filmmaker and it is my pleasure to share his documentary with you (entire film link enclosed at the end of this interview) and my interview with the young man.

1. How would you describe yourself?

I guess I’d have to say that I’m an aspiring director who is looking out to someday make the films I love and tell the stories I want to tell. But having said that, there’s a long journey before that where I just want to learn and gather as much knowledge as possible by working and observing.

2. What was the germ of the idea for this documentary and why this subject?

The idea was to make a documentary about a contemporary issue in a particular state in India which many people may not know about in depth.

This subject was extremely intriguing since the plant ‘cannabis’, the cultivation of which is illegal in India because is considered synonymous to drugs like charas and marijuana, in fact had several interesting dimensions to it. As we read and researched more about it, we felt the compelling need to dig further into the subject.

3. The biggest challenge in making it?

There were a few. But I guess the most crucial ones were getting people to speak freely about a taboo topic like this, and the locations that we had to reach out to for shooting (like the secluded Malana village in the Himalayan region).

The team trekking upto the Malana village

The team trekking up-to the Malana village

4. How was your project funded?

It was completely out of our own pockets. There were primarily 10 of us working on it and each one of us contributed equally to the total budget.

5. How do you plan to reach out with your film, who is your key audience?

This film’s primary motive is awareness. It’s an educative approach towards something that’s considered either recreational or illegal by the respective sections of people. So our target audience is nearly everyone in India or beyond. People who are either interested or talk or hear about the legalization of cannabis and and want to know the deep rooted issues involved.

6. Is there a similarity between documentary and fiction, do you feel the lines meet?

Yes I do feel there are similarities. Several, starting from the same 3 stages of pre-production, production and post production in both fiction and documentary while making them, to the same primary motive of both to provide your audience with something relevant that they would be interested in sitting through, and may be even revisiting.

One of the similarities as far as the making is concerned that I find most interesting is that, just like there is the crucial step of casting involved in a fiction film, similarly a documentary also involves a different kind of casting. It involves the key people that you really need in your documentary because of the credible knowledge they have.

7. What has your experience working with directors like Vishal Bhardwaj taught you as a filmmaker?

Well there’s something new you learn from every individual if you want to. Vishal sir has produced the first film I worked on and directed the songs in it. He also co-wrote the film. So there’s a new perspective you observe and lessons in hard work and perseverance you gain from someone who has been there and proved himself time and again.

8. What next?

If I don’t do a Post Graduate course in Film Direction or Screenwriting, then probably I’ll be working on a few more films in order to observe and learn as much as I can before I make my own.

VIEW THE ENTIRE DOCUMENTARY “GOONJ” – Link Below



IB Film Experience: Altamash Jaleel

The IB film experience

by Altamash Jaleel

SVKM IBDP Film Class 2010-12

I began IB film with no expectations, the same way I used to before starting anything new. It came as a part of my policy. Well, the experience has only strengthened my belief with the passage of time. That’s because this particular course necessitates exploring, passing through the uncharted, unfamiliar territories. And it has been, without a shred of doubt, the most fantastic learning experience. And it’s all kudos to Ms Oorvazi Irani for instilling the persistence, resilience and tact required to handle the subject of film within the 4 students that occupied a quiet classroom.

Those three hours of continuous discussion were gruelling, not to mention the amount of books and documents based on film research we had to handle! But the important thing was that every lesson bore fruit and that’s the lesson we will always have as a keepsake.

The course and assignments:

 I think the course is very well systemized to equip students with foundation skills in filmic analysis and appreciation. For those who learn to appreciate films and respect the various layers in meaning of a film realize that watching a film is not just a visual, rather, a visceral experience.

After completing the various assignments like the Oral Analysis and Independent Study, I found myself examining films in a very different light. It’s amazing how you find yourself talking for fifteen minutes about any film scene that barely lasted for 5 minutes, as we were expected to perform for the oral analysis. I was fortunate to analyse the famed café sequence from Casablanca, as the radiant Ingrid Bergman marks her entry, half an hour into the film. On the other hand is the independent study which challenges your filmic knowledge about a subject of your interest and then demands you to write a creative script for a documentary based on that knowledge. I extensively explored the genre of Westerns (cowboy flicks) and wrote a creative documentary for that.

The sheer amount of learning in this course is fascinating and one ends up coupling all these faculties in the most important and exciting assignment of all – the 7 minute film. Speaking for our class, as first-time filmmakers, we were faced with a terribly daunting task. But through persistence and reflecting upon our shortcomings did we manage to craft a film which would mark a new cornerstone for the films that our school had produced.

The IBDP Film Class 2010-12, under the informal banner of ‘Half-ticket Productions’ produced a film with a lot of heart and were fortunate to have received the compliments of our teacher, Miss Oorvazi. What an unforgettable experience! And it transformed me not only as a lover of the cinema but more deeply struck a chord within me as an individual trying to make sense of the complex world.

Conclusion:

 I took Film as a mere interest, but it slowly translated into a passion. And that’s the credit that IB Film and the teacher and everyone else involved deserve, in supplementing this course for the students. I think I can sum up my love for filmmaking by a quote by the venerable Winston Churchill – ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts’.



MARATHI NEW WAVE CINEMA: A Special Article by Rasik Tirodkar

Marathi New wave

A Special Article by Rasik Tirodkar

Started from Shwaas…Mainly first time directors…coincided with state funding…most people from theatre background…many people from Pune…

The consistency with which quality Marathi films are being churned out in the last 7-8 years  definitely deserves an identification. The significance of the films with respect to world cinema might be minuscule, but the shift from only cheap comedies and formulaic in the 80s & 90s to a cinema which has a conscience and at the same time an artistic leaning is definitely worth some attention. But there still hasn’t been a name for this renaissance of sorts. The National Centre For Performing Arts in Mumbai, being true to its reputation has been wide-eyed enough to notice this significant change in Marathi cinema. They have been organising a film festival for the past 3 years showcasing quality Marathi films made in that respective year. The name given to the wonderful event is ‘Nave Valan’ which roughly translates to ‘a new turn’ or ‘a change in tracks’. This has been the only major attempt to identify the whole lot of films with a name. But this sobriquet feels like a Marathi equivalent of the term ‘New Wave’ which the French Cinema of the late 50s and 60s was famously called. So for the time being, due to lack of ingenuity, one has to make do with the borrowed title of ‘New Wave’.

The Films

The Marathi New Wave doesn’t have a common cinematic thread like the Italian Neo-realistic movement. But a conscious effort to push boundaries is definitely visible. Gandha(The Smell) written and directed by Sachin Kundalkar is an apt example. The film has three independent stories that are not intertwined and are told in the most linear manner. The only common link being that the protagonists in each of the three stories are going through an experience deeply involving the sense of smell. Now, the sense of smell being explored through cinema is rare not only in India but in all of world cinema. Gandha succeeds handsomely in its attempt to use smell as a cinematic tool and thus becoming a landmark film in the whole of Indian cinema.

Then there are a string of films on socially relevant topics like the Vikram Gokhale directed Aaghaat which is a fine effort to portray the racket in the private health industry with some high credible performances. The most favourite social topic seems to be rural poverty mainly based in Vidarbha. Baboo Band Baaja is a unique story of Jaggu, a bandwallah in rural Vidarbha, and his family’s attempt to break the shackles of poverty. Aarambh by writer-director Akshay Datt deals with child abuse in the most sensitive manner. Satish Manwar’s brilliant Gabhricha Paus(The Damned Rain) is a tale of a cotton farmer’s struggle to grow cotton in Vidarbha and it easily stands out among the socially relevant films. Gabhricha Paus is not only beautifully shot but the grim story is masterfully interlaced with ‘dark humour’ which is again rare in Indian cinema. Gajendra Ahire’s films (around 20 of them in the last eight years) are almost always made with a social awareness.

Harishchandrachi Factory, directed by Paresh Mokashi, is a film which gives a very fresh treatment to a bio-pic. Taking a cue from Roberto Benigni’s ‘Life is Beautiful’, the efforts put in by Dadasaheb Phalke to make India’s first feature film, Raja Harishchandra, have been displayed by adopting a humourous approach which is also slapstick at times. But never does the film undermine the significance of the event. Dadasaheb who was reportedly a jolly fellow couldn’t have got a better tribute.

The one kind of films Indian cinema has completely neglected until the recent past would be films for children. Pakpakpakkak starring Nana Patekar is one such lovely piece of cinema meant for children. Gautam Joglekar, the director, has beautifully included a social message that fits into the story without even a hint of being preachy.

Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni’s Vihir is probably the most celebrated film of the lot. It is an incisive exploration of the existential crisis which adolescents tend to grow through. The striking feature of the film would be making the visuals speak for themselves, a peculiar quality of cinema that was majorly unexplored by Marathi filmmakers. Great filmmakers like Satyajit Ray have felt that cinema majorly being a visual art, it is the visuals as a whole that should be used more prominently to convey a thought than only the background score or the dialogues which is usually the case with Indian films. In that context Vihir, Gabhricha Paus, Harishchandrachi Factory and Gandha can be held the most significant of the Marathi New Wave.

Non-Cinematic Features

First time Directors

Like the youth being the heart of most movements the recent spate of Marathi films also have been made by young directors who weren’t seen in the 90s. Young minds with fresh ideas have been the face of the ‘Marathi New Wave’.

Brotherhood

In complete contrast with the notion of jealousy and egos that is associated with a film industry, this young brigade has formed a kind of a brotherhood where cinema is worshiped. It is not unusual to find a Girish Kulkarni writing the script of Vihir and also acting in Gabhricha Paus and Gandha. Sudhir Palasane and Amalendu Chaudhary have been cinematographers for a number of these films. It is also quite common to find the names of these young men and women in the ‘special thanks’ section in the credits of each others films.

Impact of Theatre

Many people involved in making the films mentioned above like Sachin Kundalkar, Satish Manwar, Paresh Mokashi have formerly been involved in theatre. Marathi theatre has a rich history. In Maharashtra, unlike cinema, theatre has been a medium which the more thoughtful audiences have approved of. The spirited Maharashtrian youth who wanted to share their ideas with the world more often than not chose theatre as a medium over cinema. Thus in the last 50-60 years the quality of Marathi Theatre is way above the cinema during the same period. This young talent in theatre has now spilled over into cinema. Probably the modern art of cinema has caught their attention due to the exposure to cinema from across the world first through the advent of cable television and then the internet and also the film festivals which had caught on in India by the late 90s.

But the impact of theatre is most visible in the acting department. The strong performances across the board that Marathi cinema boasts of must be credited to theatre as almost all actors are the export of theatre. Of them Neena Kulkarni, Jyoti Subhash, Sonali Kulkarni, Vikram Gokhale being the most famous ones.

State Funding

This is a feature which it shares with the French New Wave. Marathi films are given grants by the state government. From nearly shutting down in the 90s, today one can say that commercially Marathi Cinema is in a much better position. The policy of giving grants to Marathi films seems to have worked on this count. But it has also given way to a trend which is detrimental to its interest. It has been observed that some producers recover their money through grants and thus don’t care to promote the film resulting into very few people actually seeing it in a cinema hall and thus defeating the purpose of making the film in the first place. Vihir, for example, was inadequately promoted during its release and even after more than a year of its release there is no sight of its DVD.

Coming out of the shadow of Bollywood

Though Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra, the city of Pune can be called the cultural capital of the state. Expectedly, directors from the current lot like Umesh Kulkarni and Sachin Kundalkar and even actors like Sonali Kulkarni, Amruta Subhash hail from Pune. Also, premier film institutions like FTII and NFAI are based in the city. Some recent movies are even shot in Pune and other parts of Maharashtra like Kolhapur, indicating a shift back to the two cities which were also home to legendary production companies of the black-white and silent era like the Prabhat Film Company and Maharashtra Film Company. The presence of ‘Bollywood’ in Mumbai has always intimidated the Marathi Film Industry as it has failed to match the big budgets and nation-wide distribution of Hindi films. Also, unlike states in the southern part of India, Hindi as a language is widely understood in Maharashtra adding to the woes. With recent trend of shooting films with budgets of around 5croresin studios outside Mumbai one can say that Marathi Cinema is slowly managing to come out of the shadow of Bollywood.

Finally, it is also necessary to understand that though good films are being made at regular intervals, the number of low quality Marathi films being made is still high. It may be because very few of the films discussed have been lapped up by the masses. The commercial fail is understandable but neither have them been acclaimed by the mainstream Marathi or even the national media. Noticeably, directors like Paresh Mokashi, Satish Manwar, Gautam Joglekar and Akshay Datt haven’t yet come up with their second films. Sachin Kundalkar’s next film is in Hindi. Marathi cinema buffs would only hope that this kind of a dream run doesn’t meet its end so soon.



Meeting and Parting – PGDFT 2011 batch

I fall in love all over again

With every batch there is a meeting and then a parting and each remains a cherished memory. I share with you today one such meeting and parting.

They presented me with a small token of love (the image below) and I am sharing my response to their feedback to my film appreciation 10 sessions at Digital Academy – the Post Graduate Diploma in Film and Television 2011 batch


‘Made me realize the joy of being a student’

You gave me the joy of being a teacher

‘Enlightenment with entertainment’

It was fun and learning for me too

 

‘Woke up to a completely different world of cinema’

Privileged to be able to open new windows and doors through which you will expand your horizons of thought and living

 

‘Thankyou for your rebellious film talk’

Being an artist, I feel art is very much an integral part of cinema/film and glad you found some of it rebellious and exciting

 

‘Changed my perception about art cinema’

Very happy that I was instrumental in being able to create a perception of art cinema which you appreciated

 

‘The sea of knowledge’

The world of cinema is an infinite ocean and swimming in it is very pleasurable

 

‘You are so pure, will miss you for sure’

The innocent child inside me wants to expresses itself and that I guess is the pure you refer to. I am glad you met that self.

‘Thankyou for the lovely class’

Every gesture, every smile, every twinkle in the eye, every whisper is still fresh in my memory. Thankyou for the lovely experience

 

‘Got knowledge with entertainment and master of simplification’

I feel the process of reaching the essence is an important process and so happy that it helped you and you appreciate it

‘Experienced the growing child named cinema’

Great ! A child that we hope keeps growing each passing day

‘Moonwalk with excitement’

The class is like a dance where each side (one side is the teacher, one side the student) makes their move and with each step the dance progresses and takes form

 

‘Expressing beauty with intelligence’

The creative, mysterious and rational, logical – a fine balance between the two worlds is important to me and nice that you perceived the two worlds with me.

 

‘Fantasy Express’

Cinema is a fantasy which is a parallel reality and is very powerful

 

‘Passing ray of shine of which I got an opportunity to become a part of’

Hope this little ray of light reminds you of the joy and pleasure of cinema always

 

‘Got some meaningful information and knowledge through black and white period’

B&W is so beautiful, as an artist once said it is a canvas which takes you to a reality which is beyond the mundane

 

Ma, the concept in Japanese culture taught me a new way of watching cinema’

Ancient cultural roots and ways of perception are valuable and its an honour to be able to shed light on something deep and precious.

 

‘The keeda has been planted I hope it spreads’

I hope this keeda grows into a magical spirit that consumes you with the joy to create and appreciate



AN ACTOR’S JOURNEY: Struggle and Ecstasy

An Actor’s Journey of Struggle and Ecstasy

By Sahil Sethi

Childhood Fantasies


Generally childhood is all about your dreams and fantasies because in childhood your mind and soul is so sensitive that it gets influenced by an extraordinary thing or person or any fictional character. My childhood was also the same.

If I think back today, I was a very sensitive and emotional boy. I used to day dream at the age of seven. I remember I was very attached to my mother. But I was influenced a lot by my father. My father was a very angry and strict man and as children are initially influenced by their parents I use to imitate my father’s behaviour and mannerisms. I was also a fan of The Jungle Book and The Ramayana and I was very influenced by various characters. In my dreams I used to fantasize myself as Mogali and Hanuman. Then I was a big fan of the film Shahenshah and used to imitate Mr. Amitabh Bachchan.

From Childhood to Teenage

Soon as I started growing up and turning into a teenager, I became very conscious about myself, the way I looked and the way others perceived me. So  unknowingly I started portraying someone else, may be to impress people or make a strong impression on others. My dressing style, hair style everything was turning fake or it was not the real me. But all these things were happening unconsciously and that was the time that I immaturely realized that there is a performer in me. And also my dream and fantasies were pushing me to do something big and be famous.

Following a Dream to become Famous

Slowly the performer in me was evolving and I was attracted to acting. I personally believe that my childhood and teenage years are a very important phase of my life specially if one chooses to be an actor.  At sixteen I was still carrying my childhood fantasies somewhere deep down in my subconscious but there was no self realization. When I use to look at my self in the mirror there was just the external me visible in the mirror. At the age of sixteen till the age of eighteen my role models were Akshay Kumar, John Abraham etc. there was no space for the real actors or I didn’t bother about those actors.

The Years of Transition

When I turned eighteen I was pursuing my dream to become famous and  enrolled into an acting course and the theatre arena. So that was the first step towards my goal. I was very sincere and very committed to my work. But I didn’t know that I was jumping into a well from which I will not be able to come back because the water it had was sweet, healthy but poisonous and it was going to effect my mind and then my soul. But to realize the affect you have to completely surrender – like a wife surrender to her husband on bed like a disciple surrenders to his god.

In my case I entered into the acting arena with a dream to be one of the greatest actors of the world and that pushed me to completely involve myself  into the two years which involved meditation or rehabilitation programme or to witness the truth about everything, about me, about the world.

Slowly I started going through a transition, not one but many. A boy who lived in a materialistic world totally unaware about the truth, truth about his ‘self’- started changing. The fake identities in me were wearing off. The ‘me’ was coming out slowly and slowly. My dressing sense , the outer body language, the inner body, the walk, the mind, the soul started going through a process of transition. The role models changed instead of Akshay Kumar , Salman Khan actors like Nasseeruddin Shah, Dilip Kumar, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro , Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman became my inspiration.

Personal Truths

Today at the age of twenty-four being in the field of acting for five years I have come to an understanding of some deep truths and have experienced the process of acting.

Its very important that before anybody or anything else you first observe yourself, find answers about yourself, know yourself. Because the tools and weapons you have as an actor are only your body, your mind and your soul and believe me its like being naked in front of the world, its like living in the Antarctic without clothes. Its that painful and a torture sometimes. Its like being high without drugs. The questions keep arising and the process becomes very confusing, embarrassing and very pleasurable at the same time. As an actor I kept evolving not because I was focused but because I started evolving as a person. When I witness Marlon Brando, Pacino, De Niro, Naseeruddin Shah, Mohanlal , Om Puri, I realized its like playing with fire because as you use your mind your body, your soul to enact someone else it effects your identity.

At twenty while doing an acting course there was a moment when I had a fight with my mother and started crying, I was hurt, emotionally shattered, but was still observing myself. And that was natural I didn’t do any effort. That was the moment I realized the painful pleasure of acting had started.

The great acting guru Lee Strasburg said “an actor never plays a speech , lines, he plays a occurrence , a situation, a happening”. To achieve this level one has to become a great observer. There comes a time in an actor’s life when he starts experimenting with his relationships knowingly and it’s a painful process.  When I was in the initial process of this method to madness I seemed to be lost, psychotic, silent, dangerous. To be an actor you really need to get deep down in the mind, but the hurdles that occur are breathtaking, hallucinating.

Preparation for a Role

I have done 7 short films as a lead protagonist and I have done couple of plays on stage. Some characters in the films I portrayed needed thorough preparation or I believed that I need the preparation. One character I played of a psycho killer who 24 x 7 roamed the streets injecting infected AIDS syringes to people, and who does not bathe for days, smokes a lot. To start with I was not a smoker but the preparation I went through was painful – I slept on the footpath for a day with street dogs, I was wandering all over the city without any reason, smoked atleast 40 to 45 cigarettes in two days.

People liked my portrayal, applauded my performance and that’s how it becomes a painful pleasure. Believe me after going through a torturous process, a process which needs great amount of solitude to achieve the goal that is the applause this pleasure of the painful process overcomes the pleasure of sex, food or any materialistic object.

Of course the drawbacks are not just the ‘time consuming process’ it does or can effect your own identity because during the process of learning acting if you dive deep down into your thoughts you will find your own created fake identities which you get rid off slowly and that is only to again portray someone else’s identity but now knowingly. I have been on the edge of going mad or having a multiple personality disorder but have always saved myself.

Acting is a science about the mind

Acting according to me is a science about the mind and its almost next to impossible to understand your mind fully. Actors in the world who stand out among the crowd have understood this science but not completely and no actor can understand the mind completely.

Now as I am growing older and my observation power has become a bit stable I am understanding the present ‘me’ more completely and am ready for  more transitions because then can one evolve as a person and then as an actor.

Acting actually comes out of life – you live – the way you live, why you live and where do you live is all acting and I absorb acting out of my life to portray the truth which only few actors all over world get success in doing. So that means I have to live my life as truthfully and honestly and be as real  as I can. Also with this I have to keep observing myself and understand myself as deep as I can. Its such a torture – its like I am always watching myself standing in front of me, so does that mean I am not living with full honesty or I am nowhere truthful – now here is the edge where an actor has to train his mind , his brain in a way that both the activities observing and living life truthfully merge well balanced and go hand in hand.

Moksha through Acting

Acting has always been the source of entertainment for years but I feel actors who believe in showing the truth in each and every part of their performance are like a mirror to a society and they are carrying a great responsibility.

Listening to Osho and listening to Marlon Brando is like going on a spiritual journey because to achieve Moksha and to achieve the truth, one needs to play with his mind but also has to be careful that his mind doesn’t start  playing with him.

If today at the age of twenty-four anyone would ask What’s the best and worst decision of your life? I would answer – the worst decision is to become an actor because the process is painful, but the best decision is also to be become an actor as you experience ecstasy and its like a spiritual journey to achieve Moksha. I believe that through the art of acting some day I will achieve Moksha.

For me to be an actor means to carry with you all the insecurities of life, fears, joys, keep them alive in you and keep it safe in a box of  your subconscious mind without effecting your conscious mind. Its complicated but I have been trying to master it. I am trying to keep the child alive in me, the ‘bad me’ alive in me  and the ‘good me’ alive in me and trying to explore the extremes of all the faces of my personality. But I have to do this with the ‘real me’ always activated in me. Once a very great actor said become C.A., I.S., I.P.S. or any big rank holder but not an actor because the only tool you are provide with is your body, mind and soul.

Alone but not Lonely 

People usually hate solitude it tortures them, annoys them, depresses them but for actors solitude feeds their hunger to know the complications of the mind and they are in love with solitude. For me I can’t live without solitude, a public solitude is always there in my mind. I am reminded of a line from a song by Jim Morrison ‘riders on the storm like a dog without a bone an actor out alone’. I can relate to this line very well because to perform in front of the public or in front of a camera an actor needs to be alone somewhere in his mind.

* Sahil has been my student from Kishore Namit Kapoor for the Michael Chekhov  Acting Course April 2011. This article does not address his experience of the technique.