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.




Entertainment Vs Truth


Entertainment Vs Truth

A musing by Oorvazi Irani

The recent Oscar nominees and winner have got me thinking again. Do films reflect reality or a perception of reality, or is reality and the truth anywhere in the picture. A film always has an agenda and belongs to someone. So when we view a film we need to think deeper than the plot and be aware of an undercurrent ideology that the film promotes.  Sometimes intentional, sometimes in the name of formula and entertainment truth is put for sale.

I would like to quote Farrukh Dhondy(from his column Cabbages and Kings that appeared in Asian Age on March 2nd 2013) in regards the film “Lincoln” and the interesting views he puts forth

“Slavery in America was not abolished by Lincoln and his civil war but by the need of the nascent capitalist industries in the North for free labour from the South.

…….The question is, quite simply, “Did Abraham Lincoln intentionally and heroically liberate the slaves?”
A child’s first view of history is mythological. Figures loom largest. Noah saved all living creatures from the flood; William conquered Britain; Ashoka united India; Aurangzeb stubbornly brought about the downfall of the Mughal empire; Lincoln freed the slaves… People dominate. They are the movers, the shakers of the earth and it makes sense.
Then comes adolescence and the awareness that history is not the story of kings but the story of the people. One embraces that doctrine with all the enthusiasm of the new republican and then follows the theory… ” ( here is the link to the full article

The film “Argo” at the surface does not seem a Hollywood formula film and is based on true facts but why does the film have a climax that seems just too filmy to digest, a car chasing a plane and the heroes get away safe and sound.  What is the level of creative liberties in relation to depicting facts that do not dilute the heart of the matter is an interesting exploration. As facts were omitted , different circumstances created for a more entertaining film but as a certain critic rightly questions is that really necessary to create drama, a good storyteller could extract the drama out of real life but I say would that sell is the big question, but why not, do we want it to sell and to whom. When presenting a historical fact seeing it from the American viewpoint only could be dangerously pushing Iranian stereotypes and highlighting an event itself projects the makers in a certain light. Its not about how good or bad the Iranians are  but whats most important is about how great the Americans are.

“Argo” the Oscar winning film this year again highlights a supposed success story of America and the whole world starts talking about it. The film is cinematically quite good like all the films mentioned above and has a style of realism in its cinematic appeal (most of the time) but yet again the main focus of the film remains projecting the American CIA agent as the star. A popular film needs a active single strong protagonist and this character dynamics is never lost in the tale of all our Oscar films mentioned above. It just happens to be that two of those protagonists are CIA agents, isn’t it.

Reality is all perception and truth is but relative, in that web I search for my vision of discovery.

Plagiarism, Inspiration and Beyond

Plagiarism , Inspiration and Beyond

By Oorvazi Irani

‘Looking Within’

None of us artists are pure or not guilty of this crime in small ways and big but we need to strive to be original.

Creativity and originality are two of the biggest challenges for an artist. And consciously or subconsciously we are all copying from the past from  film, literature, paintings etc. Therefore one way to help escape this is being inspired by life – the need to look within and into our own lives. Be inspired by observing life first hand rather than sit back on a chair and soak in the observations of others.

But having said that if a great artist has moved us there is no harm paying homage to the work but we need to be able to take it to another level or make it our own. And if the tribute is very strong the source needs to be acknowledged.

Sometimes  our society pushes us to imitate, to plagiarize, eg a local fashion magazine has an international standard it wants to meet and be assured of success,  thus is not interested in originality, but imitating a successful photographer, his image that can guarantee success.  The new local fashion photographer is told to imitate that international standard image and not urged to be original. The film industry wants a success formula and its industry sometimes pushes the filmmaker to play safe and imitate successful moments rather than create them, but the artist and his conscience will not be spared. The current film “Barfi” (directed by Anurag Basu and produced by UTV) is being sent to the Oscars as an Indian nomination is a case in point.

Each artist needs to try and find means by which he accesses his imagination and creativity to be original. Surrealism as one art movement started in the 1920’s, besides being a revolt also encouraged the artist to a more primal source of inspiration – our subconscious, and a realm beyond logic and rationality. This technique is still used by creative artists today to help them find a voice of their own.

How to be truly original – the search continues for each artist and infact each human being. To make an invention, a breakthrough, atleast strive for excellence and we will be closer to living a more authentic life and create a more authentic world.  Those are moments of inspiration which we need to strive for rather than take the easy route.



ASAB SPEAKS to the Filmmaker Oorvazi Irani

Asab: Oorvazi ! hi ! I was happy to read the Bombay Times headlines ‘Kasab is now Asab’. I have taken a second birth after your film and it feels nice to be in the spotlight. Tell me oh master why did you create me and why this name ?

Oorvazi: You are not Kasab but an artistic persona that represents and symbolizes Kasab. So I take out the K and with that I put you into the realm of artistic imagination and beyond real life. You are an abstraction of all terrorists who wrongly take the name of religion and strike terror. At the root of terrorism is the evil desire of greed and power.  I created you to symbolize that evil.

Asab: Being your creation, I have two selves one is the artistic character that speaks to you and one is the character that has taken birth. Its interesting to be having this dual consciousness and be able to have this conversation with you. But I am sorry if I did not meet up to the expectations of some of your audiences.

Oorvazi: It’s a great pleasure to be talking to you too. Film is a subjective experience and I am sure there are enough people who appreciated your existence and understood your worth and let me tell you these are people I highly respect in that list. A dear friend once told me, its impossible to satisfy everybody, don’t even try.

Asab: But tell me Oorvazi, why did you make me one dimensional and not explore my motives my inner world. Is not having complex characters a sign of intelligent cinema, you should know better you are a film educationalist.

Oorvazi: Ha ha ! Asab you do ask intelligent questions  and I see you have been reading some of my film reviews too. Agree to what you say but the danger in exploring your inner world and motives would be to put you in centre stage and give you prominence and sympathy which this film did not intend to do. I am sorry but in this film you are a means to an end and not an end in itself. Your one dimensional character was important to bring about the aspect of the ‘killing machine’ which a lot of these terrorists are with a lack of conscience. But I am sure meeting a real terrorist will make another film and reveal new realities.

Asab: Was the film about me or the Minister who was the hero and who was the villain ?

Oorvazi: Good question ! this film has no hero and no vilian in the conventional sense.   If you look at it from the plot point of view, the Minister is the hero as he kills you, Asab the hated terrorist. But going deeper, the Minister is no hero himself he does not kill you for justice but for his own gain. He is equally evil as you are. For him the issue of terrorism, justice, human life is not important, what is important is his self-centered world of power and politics.

Asab: But who actually fired the bullet, this is a question that many are unclear about

Oorvazi: I am happy the way its turned out, that its got a ‘gap’ for audience interpretation but as a filmmaker I intended the Minister’s smile in the end to explain it all.

Asab: Now the character is taking over….” Sali mutton biryani kabhi khilayegi ?”

Oorvazi: If I meet you in hell I’ll treat you for that …

Watch the movie “The K File” if you have not yet done that, on the blog

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

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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.


OORVAZI Talking Cinema – Film Review Show AGNEEPATH (2012) – Episode 6



“The Turin Horse” a film by Bela Tarr