Film Education

Testimonials from the FTII Acting Workshop on the Psychological Gesture tool of the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique taught by Oorvazi Irani

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I was happy to be invited to FTII, The Film and Television Institute of India, Pune as an expert on the subject to conduct a week long workshop in November 2017 on ‘The Psychological Gesture’ which is a unique tool belonging to the Michael Chehov Acting Technique.

FTII group pic

The Experience:

The Michael Chekhov acting technique is not just a technique of acting but an ideal way of life for an actor thus each time I succeed to share the tools I feel a joy that springs within me that I have helped nurture an artist to explore their potential in a powerful and liberating manner going beyond their limited selves. So my effort is to address the foundations of that belief and then work upwards to practical applications of it. It always amazes me how complex yet simple the technique is and gives me great satisfaction if I have been able to empower an actor with a fresh way of looking at his art and craft.  These 5 days have been an experience to go through a journey with these dedicated acting students who grappled with the technique and came out shinning we all experienced some magic and moments of inspiration.

Student Workshop Feedback 

“The Psychological Gesture as a tool really helped me because before this I did not have a tool, a method to approach any part that I want to do. Now this tool does something to my body and which when I come to perform its original, unexpected and surprises me and there is an element of pleasure after the performance. As a whole the experience had blown be off. Once its understood its very helpful.” Shravan Kumar

“For me it was new to learn because before we have never used a specific tool for acting, from the start we use to rely on our own experience or prefer taking the characters that are close to what we have experienced in real life. Also when dealing with certain emotions we have a specific tendencies like anger is this way, sadness is this way but by doing the Psychological gesture its a new way of realising, and a new way of seeing the differences of responses to one emotion. It was most portrayed for me when we did the scene and i actually experienced the exact fear or shivering of the person who must be facing all this. So it was a new learning experience and I know its going to be beneficial for the future and it will remain for me as an actor for the rest of my life.” Manisha Joshi

“For me this was the first attempt at the Psychological gesture itself because previously I use to try internal to external. I personally use to believe that to get a feeling out of movement was illogical before. But now when I did it my perspective changed. The best part I liked about the Psychological Gesture was through movement you get into a feeling. Also I liked the concept of being able to get in a neutral gear and then as a person you are relaxed so it does not effect you. the feeling is not for a long time, you can control your feelings after that. That was the best part for me” Sandeep Bajpaly

” We were previously taught subjects like imagination and action problems and all those things. For those exercises we have to prepare our background and give so much of our time and I personally face some kind of problem in that where as with the Psychological Gesture we don’t need to make much background for this. If we have an idea about the character, you know the situation and if you find out the Psychological gesture that works for you it really helps you. If you prepare a Psychological gesture its like a vehicle for you, when you have to get into a situation and experience it. So this Psychological Gesture I felt personally of practices everyday it improves your body awareness and what the situation, the scene i have to play it does not take much time for the preparation, rather than other techniques that we are taught with. And whatever  experience I had these 5 days was very nice and a very joyful experience and even our madam when we did not understand things sat together and discuss and something came out of that and that is very helpful  and thank you m=very much for that.” Ashish Aradala

“This is the first time I am trying something from external to internal. I am forcing myself to be more physical rather than think about the situation, imagine something like I did in the scene work. I completely gave into the idea of first giving myself into the physical activity and then let a emotion generate from it so because from a year and a half we are studying a particular method to build relationships with imagination and go from internal to external. So this technique will help me that if I want to do a particular scene or role now I have two different ways of doing it. Now this will make me more aware of the little gestures that I do in my acting and I will be more aware of what people are doing. Because now I know from where this gesture is evolving and being generated. Even in the class while we were doing it even a small minute gesture effects your mental state, this awareness has tremendously increased with this class. I think in order to make more use of this class this class should have been longer because we have learnt the process now we need to implement it properly and get feedback on it that requires more time” Tushar Dutt

Feedback on Oorvazi Irani’s Teaching Style

Video link below

FTII Student Feedback for the teaching style in the workshop



What was the teaching style of the Workshop ?

It was thoughtful. It was very organised. No bullshit attitude, no idhar udhar ki batein, to the point. More practical. Experimental. Sharing. Good part is we come up new exercises, its not a particular type, we can create our own method, our own PGs, we can make something  that suits us. There was freedom to look or examine, individually we have done the process so the good thing is I got to examine myself and others how it is working. One good thing was nobody was being judged. There was no humiliation of any sort or pressure. It was very friendly and at the same time disciplined. There was a good balance between how to stay friendly and at the same time very very disciplined. You never not irritated when there were many questions.  And you also dealt with each personal individually the way they are so its not like everyone is in the same page.




The Mikhail/Michael Chekhov Acting Technique Workshop Presented by Oorvazi Irani


AUTEUR & ACTING – The Michael Chekhov Acting Technique


The Michael Chekhov Acting Technique

Presented by Oorvazi Irani


If cinema is the director’s medium 

And the director is an artist, an Auteur

An Auteur director works in collaboration with the writer which is the first stage of creation

But collaboration with an actor with an acting technique can lead to an exciting final stage of creation waiting to be explored

The question I propose to ask today is  – Can an auteur director involve with the actor with the technique of acting itself. Rather than orienting himself to the actor’s style of acting can he introduce and work with the actor together as a collaborative teamwork. Can they both work in a new collaboration where the character comes to life and is truly born from the marriage of the writer , auteur director and actor.

The next question will be how does the auteur director go about this process.

The first step would be for the auteur director to understand the challenges of the actor as an artist and put himself through the process. Not to become an actor but to experience firsthand the possibilities.

Also what this does for the auteur director is that it helps him to live the part of the character and become one with his creation, he might not be the most skilled individual to bring the character to life but he can share the joy of creation with the actor and discover his characters from a deeper source adding nuances that have escaped the writer. Ofcourse the writer could also be included in the process, as acting is the final phase of the written script and it actualizes the potential of the story and screenplay.

The challenges an actor faces are the demands to transform himself into other characters and to bring them to life by emoting truthfully. Every actor has his own way of responding to these demands which he either evolves with experience or by following a particular acting technique.

The most popular means used to act is – to use one’s personal memories and personality to act. As an artist I find that limiting the ‘art of acting’. I believe any form of art should put the individual in a position to evolve and not regress and high points in artistic creation are experienced by the artist and audience when the artist has transcended the ego.

The Michael Chekhov acting technique unlike some other acting techniques is not regressive but fun and creative and any individual who wants to creatively ‘play’ can start the exploration. Michael Chekhov himself was a great actor, director born in Russia in 1891. He devoted his whole life to developing and perfecting a revolutionary acting technique that does not use personal memories and one’s limited personality to act but at the core of the technique is the use of the actor’s ‘Imagination’ and the actor’s ‘Body’ . The actor is treated as a creative artist and the possibilities of creation are infinite with specific tools like the ‘Imaginary Body’ – ‘Imaginary Centre’ – ‘Psychological Gesture’ – ‘Sensations’ with which the whole world opens up to the actor and the world inside him  strives to reach out surrendering to the joy of creation.

An Auteur can rediscover himself and his film in artistic collaboration with the actor – are there any takers in India for this exciting journey to join the list of internationally respected actors and directors who are inspired by and follow the acting technique like Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Depp, Marilyn Monroe, Joanna Merlin, Anthony Quinn, and many more.

For more information on the technique do visit my website, link below


Article first published on the movie website

WHAT IS ACTING By Oorvazi Irani – an article in the magazine Silhouette

WHAT IS ACTING my article published in the cinema magazine Silhouette

What is Acting

 A process of discovery !

A yearning to look within oneself and an opportunity to experience the world within your own being.                                                                     

If acting as a profession, as an art form can offer you the opportunity to self discovery and knowledge what better place to be in then here. But the history of acting has not been so fortunate and it still continues till the present times. Many actors are not true artists and are not being enriched but are suffering due to a wrong approach or a limited point of view.

Tracing the history of acting , the old style of acting training laid a heavy emphasis on codified pantomime and a set of gestures which if perfected created the replication of the emotional state and it was only geniuses who in these parameters went beyond the framework and reached the soul in inspired moments of truth.   Aristotle  defined acting as “the right management of the voice to express the various emotions.” And  Romans were famous for their oratory skills and it is from the practice of these actors ancient orators borrowed the principles governing voice and gesture in public delivery. On the other hand the power of an oratory like Hitler can be seen who controlled the masses like an actor holds sway over his audience.

A major breakthrough in the history of modern acting is the “The System” introduced into the world with the great Russian actor teacher Constantan Stanislavsky in the early 20th century. He defined acting as “Living truthfully in imaginary circumstances”. What was radically different here was the shift to the focus now on the inner truthfulness of an actor and that the body would follow, it was an ‘Inside Out’ approach.  However it was Lee Strasberg who was a key figure in introducing to America the Stanislavski System which he redesigned as “The Method” which emphasizes the ‘internal process’ and the use of the personal emotions of an actor to act. This method became very famous in Hollywood (and all over the world) and was popularized by the use of it by stars like Marlon Brando among others. This technique is used till date but it puts to question the inner state of an actor as a human being and is acting being used an art form in its true sense. Many actors have suffered from this method and face mental trauma when playing characters that have shades of negativity in them.

The challenges an actor faces are the demands to transform himself into other characters, to bring them to life by emoting truthfully. The point remains – Can an actor emotionally participate and remain detached? Can an actor immerse himself emotionally into playing several different characters and yet not lose his own identity? Can this process be fun instead of being painful?

Going back to the roots of ancient art forms provides the wisdom and a modern framework provides the way. Ancient artforms ranging from Japan to India (Natyashstra) view art to be treated and not naturalistic but the actor as an artist along with other artists involved in the process treat the raw emotions in their final work and elevate it to a state of being higher and above the mundane where even a negative emotion enriches the actor and audience. The personal ego is lost and the actor is operating from a universal higher self which is creative and enriching.

Michael Chekhov in the 20th century a great Russian actor, teacher, director, the nephew of Anton Chekhov the famous playwright  and a student of Stanislavsky, seemed to have an interesting approach to these challenges and emphasized the art in acting.  Chekhov being a student of Stanislavsky when he joined the Moscow Art Theatre owed a great deal to him but slowly developed his own theories and techniques of acting . Michael Chekhov  devoted his whole life to developing and perfecting a revolutionary acting technique that did not rely on memory recall for creating emotions. At the core of the technique were the use of the actor’s ‘Imagination’ and the actor’s ‘Body’. Michael Chekhov believes that the approach to acting should be as a creative artist, that the actor’s identity is distinct from the character’s identity, and that the actor’s emotions are not to be used or confused in the creation of the character’ emotions. Chekhov used the psycho-physical approach to acting and put to powerful use the power of  imagination rather logic and rationality to create artists of the true kind. Chekhov developed tools like the Psychological Gesture, The Imaginary Body, Imaginary Centre, Sensations to equip the actor to set himself free and expand his consciousness.

Imaginary Body:

The actor creates an imaginary body in his imagination which is different from his own body. He collaborates with the imaginary body and then incorporates that in his own body.

Imaginary Center:

The actor for the character selects a centre and determines its quality and then places that imaginary center in his own body and transforms from his limited personality to the character. 

Every character has a Center. This is an area inside or outside the body where the character’s impulses for all movement originate. The impulse from this centre initiates all gestures and leads the body forward or backward, and to sit, walk, and stand etc. A proud character for instance can have his Centre in his chin or neck. The centre may be any shape or size, colour or consistency. A single character can have even more than one centre.

Psychological Gesture:

The Psychological Gesture can be understood as a movement that embodies the essence of a character. It gives the actor the basic structure of the character and can put the actor into the various moods required by the script.


The actor recreates the body sensation of balancing, falling and  floating to effect his feelings and transform to a character.   

By 1928, as head of the Second Moscow Art Theater, Chekhov’s innovative directing and teaching had provoked such severe criticism by the Communist government, he was forced to flee the country for safety. There followed ten years of wandering through Europe, with sojourns in Germany, France, Latvia, Lithuania and finally England. There, with the support of Beatrice Straight and the Elmhirst Family, Chekhov established his first acting school in English. The onset of World War II inspired the Elmhirsts to move the school to Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1938. Here and in New York, Chekhov trained numerous actors from the Group Theater and the Actors Studio before moving to Los Angeles in 1942.

In 1942 he was invited to Hollywood, where he became an acting coach to the stars, acted in many films, published his book, “To the Actor”. Prominent actors in Hollywood who studied with him were: Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood, Anthony Quinn, Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner and many more. Michael Chekhov died in Hollywood, California in 1955, before his work became widely known.

“As Michael’s pupil. I learned more than acting…Every time he spoke, the world seemed to become bigger and more exciting…Acting became important…an art that increased your life and mind. Acting became more than a profession to me. It became sort of a religion.”
– Marilyn Monroe

                                                                                                                                    Oorvazi Irani

                                   © Copyrights and all rights reserved SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd


About the Author:

Oorvazi Irani is a freelance film educationalist, acting trainer, filmmaker and director of her home production company SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd., (incorporated in 1975). She has introduced the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique to India, she conducts courses on the technique and has created and produced the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique dvd, the first of its kind in India which is a step by step guide to the technique.


The Actor’s VOID  

I began my acting stint at a very early age, won many awards in various plays through school and college for dramatics, elocution and poetry recitals.

Later I came to Bombay in the early 80’s. Pearl Padamse and Jalal Agha took a liking towards me and introduced me to Modeling and commercial theater. I did various print and T.V commercials along the way and continued with the workshops and plays under her guidance.

I have later trained as a voice over with Darrpan and then with Steve Hudson, in his patent technique named the P.S.R (presentation and reading skills)“Voice Master” who has been training Voice Over artists and actors like Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Dame Judy Dench, and Tom Hanks in his technique and the importance of Voice acting. I have dubbed over 50 Hollywood movies in Hindi and other foreign films.

This helped me to a very large extent to once again brush up my skills as an actor and have later been training aspiring actors in the importance of voice acting and voice exercises for an actor.

I have been the voice over for Times Now, and lent my voice to several launches and presentations including the prestigious V.Shantaram Awards 5 consecutive years.

On television I have had the opportunity to play different shades and received appreciation relatively from “Left right left”, Mahabharat, Bandini, Koi aaney KO hai, Crime Patrol, and Khottey Sikkey. And 2 movies with Shahid Kapoor – Paathshala and Chance pe Dance.

I have in the course of time kept working on finessing my skills, and attended various acting workshops. My father always said “That Man is a Student throughout his life” and I believe not because they were wise words from a father to son, but because I realized it.

I always felt a great void in me apart from all the appreciation I kept getting for my work, it constantly bothered me. I read various techniques on acting but this did not fill my void, as the technique itself felt void.

I have great admiration for Anthony Hopkins and regard him amongst the finest actors, primarily for his outstanding performance in “Silence of the Lambs” I must have watched the movie for the very sake over a dozen times and yet the character excites me as much. I asked myself what made him so believable, what do great actors do to be so? And the ease is so, as if “the character himself was the actor not the other way around”.

How do I create this magic? I needed to understand this at a deeper level and on a very spiritual plane.

While doing some research I found an interesting link amongst some greats like Anthony Hopkins to Johnny Depp and that was – Michael Chekhov.

I began on my quest and read all I could online whilst I began searching for his books and willed there was someone in Mumbai who taught the Chekhov technique just then an advert of Oorvazi popped up on my screen.

I truly relished each day of the course. Being a trainer myself I am aware that retention span of a student does not last beyond 20 minutes, however 6 hours felt less. I have thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and gained immensely. Chekhov training has connected me more spiritually as an actor, adapting a character, living him believably, portraying him with ease and consistently is where the magic is.
Chekhov’s training helps mould the body into pure work of art; it makes you the Master craftsmen, architect, enabling oneself to create characters beyond the realm of imagination. I often experienced a stressful state while and after playing a certain character, and by doing so it affects us to a great deal psychologically.

I have recently read an article about a young girl who had acted in a documentary film to promote awareness on growing suicide, took the extreme step herself.

Chekhov trains an actor to create that imaginary body of the character with tools therefore reversing the process of straining the mental self to alter the physical state. Therefore using Chekhov techniques we apply tools to the physical self to then alter the mental state thus without harming and effecting the mind, and it is easy to switch off from the character after the scene, and consequently not carrying the baggage and emotions, stress of the character into ourselves and our daily lives.

I have finally found the tools to fill my void, and I know it will take immense practice and effort to master these tools, the tools for the kill I would rather say and each kill will be different from the other, each time I will explore a new tool and probably a combination of them, and that is what makes this a great technique and it is limitless hence opening infinite dimensions for the artist.

I had wonderful experience learning with Oorvazi, and I am now looking forward to other sessions with her and the advanced course as well, she is an outstanding trainer who understands the art well.

Sanjay Nath

Sanjay Nath attended Oorvazi Irani’s Michael Chekhov Acting Technique

Course, January 2012