A few good actors
I have often gone into a theatre to watch a Bollywood movie and been struck by the histrionics of a lesser known actor. And then see the face a few days later fleetingly in a TV commercial (and sometimes at Prithvi in a meatier and in most cases better written role).
I wonder about these men and women. They look like the ones who pursue acting for the sheer love and passion for it - so how do they cope with the superstar-struck culture of Bollywood? Do they feel like a misfit in an industry where writing and characterization is often added as an afterthought well after the big actors and their 'look's have been decided? How do they balance out the aesthetics of theatre with the primarily commerce-driven ethos of contemporary Hindi cinema? I wanted to hear their stories and know their craft better because very frankly I don't think I can stand one more story on the Khans and their living room décor or their ugly public spats.
So I met Anand Tiwari or as many know him (and as he calls it - "the godfather role of my career") the 'Jaago Re' guy. He first caught my attention as the laugh-riot and very credible (my day job is in Dalal Street, so I know) stock broker called Kapil Dev in the crackling comedy 'The President is Coming'. He told me that he enjoys all form of acting- whether stage, screen or for that matter, even TVCs.
Cinema gets him greater access and he is thankful for it. So do ad films and he thinks at some level it is a test of his capabilities to convey the right pitch in those few seconds. But theatre is where he started out and theatre is what sustains him creatively, even if it means no or very little monetary rewards. So even if cinema had not happened, he would still have been happy doing just theatre.
"Would the lure of a big banner work on you?" I ask. And pat comes the emphatic no. "I have 2 criteria to choose a film: the story or the contribution my character has to the story. And luckily till now, I have stayed true to myself". I ask him about Aisha - the movie in which he played the accountant boyfriend of Amrita Puri.
Did he not fear his small role will get lost in all that fancy designer labels and uber glamorous cast?
Anand confessed that he was actually surprised at the audience response to his role Aisha and the recognition it earned him. Maybe in all the bigger-than-life crowd, his middle class role struck a chord. He has a busy schedule with a couple of films and plays lined up. Within the cinema space, he holds a special fondness for independent cinema and would go out of his way to support a project he believes in (he has ambitions of turning a director someday). He mentioned a work-in-progress movie titled 'Charlie Ka Chakkar' (starring Naseeruddin Shah amongst others) that he is mighty excited about. As we finished our coffee, he told me, "Theatre is very personal, it changes you."
Next up I met Namit Das. You will probably remember him best as Ranbir Kapoor's friend Rishi in Wake Up Sid.
How does it feel to share space with a big star and doing as good or maybe better, and yet knowing the limelight won't be yours to claim?
"Oh I have made peace with that...of course there will be bigger stars but as long as I get my space to perform my art, I am happy." After a pause he added, "I am in no hurry. I know I have a long life (90 is his guess) and I know I will keep working till the last. So I'm not running the race for quick fame."
"Theatre and film are so different in terms of the creative process. Film is entirely a director's medium and you are cast because you fit the role and you are expected to deliver on the cue. Theatre is more consuming. You strip to your basics, unlearn and then the first show happens and then if it becomes popular, you evolve and often feed off the audience."
He summed it with "Theatre is a larger process, cinema is a bigger conclusion. Theatre is transient, cinema is preserved for posterity." The trained Indian classical singer then went on to tell me about his play 'Stories in a Song' and soon enough I was engrossed in the story of Gauhar Jaan, the first Indian singer to be recorded.
Next on my wish list was Nawazuddin Siddiqui. I first noticed him in Peepli Live playing the impressionable local newspaper reporter. I had loved his journey from the naive rookie to the disillusioned, slightly-jaded man. Then I saw him again in Paan Singh Tomar (even in that ensemble cast of high calibre, he managed to stand out) and then as the irascible IB officer Khan in Kahaani. He is the new promising actor on the block and has a busy year ahead with movies such as Talaash and Gangs Of Wasseypur.
But my attempts to contact him met with no success. I would like to believe he is swamped with meetings with directors who have spotted his potential and are clamouring to cast him in their next.
There are so many others - Radhika Apte (of Antaheen fame and who shone in her brief role in Shor In The City), Neil Bhoopalam (Shaitan) and Kunaal Roy Kapur (the one with the affliction in Delhi Belly that gave the movie its title) to name a few.
It is reassuring to know that when Hindi cinema is going through a serious imagination crunch, we have a pool of such talented, committed actors. These actors often second fiddle and yet enrich our cinema for the better. I hope that they get their deserved share of attention and then one fine day will blow us away in a lead, powerful role. Maybe our next Irrfan will emerge from one of them.
More about Sharadiya Dasgupta
Sharadiya Dasgupta has a day job in the financial services industry. She enjoys fashion and all things fabulous. She hopes to have her wardrobe spilling over with Chanel, Marchesa, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Sabyasachi, Manish Arora some day but till then she is happy writing about these labels and their creations. She has a degree in Mathematics. Books (strictly fiction), films, music and microfinance are her other areas of interest.
- + What is wrong with Indian cinema?
- + Some old fashioned love over the holiday weekend
- + Cannes Film Festival: Stellar style moments
- + For my fellow shallows, call me shallow if you may
- + Lakme Fashion Week: Where are the big stars?
- + The curious case of Gaddafi and Galliano
- + Asian darlings of the fashion world
- + 'Live' from New York Fashion Week
- + The designers my favourite characters should wear