Monday, June 27, 2011

Reflections: Actors and the Act of Acting

Now a days we see a lot of people trying to make a perfect top 10 list of actors. Well here are my views on acting and actors and why I don’t agree with most of such lists and why such lists should not be attempted.
First. It is the writer, and not the actor who speaks on screen. It is the scene, the context, the environment and the treatment which translates into a performance. So naturally the general view is that dark, disturbing and edgy movies comprise of the best ‘acting performances’. So Abhay Deol is hailed as a great actor after DevD, while most people rubbished his performance after Socha na Tha (actually how many people saw Socha Na tha?). After DevD worked and once Abhay was accepted as a great actor- people see Socha na Tha on TV and cant stop singing praises. This example brings me to the second point.

Second. The general sentiment is seldom argued. If ABC is a good actor, and DEF is an over the top actor. Then ABC is a good actor and DEF is an over the top actor. An example- when you ask people who are the best actors ever- people who want to sound intelligent and knowledgeable (almost everyone) will say Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Irfan Khan, PANKAJ KAPOOR. Then ask them how many movies of Pankaj Kapoor have you seen? “I don’t remember. Recently I saw Dus. He was brilliant”… So there are many youngster who havent seen any work of Guru Dutt, Ashok Kumar etc. but will still include them as the best actors ever.

Third. Histrionics / EDGY/ EMOTIONAL= good acting. Now again this is my view and people may choose to disagree. I didn’t like Aamir Khan the actor in TZP. Now this is blasphemous almost. If I say this to anyone- ANYONE- they will say- “Are you mad? How could you not like him?” Well I was very uncomfortable while watching him cry and shed tears when he saw child labor etc. (in the title song). His dialogues seemed too rehearsed- an actual teacher like that wont talk like they way he did in the movie- in that sense it was not a natural performance. But because he is a good actor in general and the movie was great- he was great in TZP. Now I hear that the people in Shaitan are such good actors- they all pitched in with fabulous performances- but the truth is- most of the times they were looking into the camera and acting weird. I am not an actor- but give me those parts and I would be able to do them (it’s another thing that I would have refused them). This brings me to the fourth point.

Fourth. There is one simple test. I am not an actor. Most of us are not. (its another matter that all of us are actors). So when I see a performance sometimes I wonder- can I do this? could I have done this? I could have easily attempt what Abhay did in DevD (thats what I feel), what Rahul Bose does in many of his movies, in fact what Aamir did in TZP (I could have made an attempt at least). Maybe this point sounds a bit weird. But how many of us can attempt Dabangg. So when a man does that and makes it a huge phenomenon- people just say that he is a star- what was there to act in it? common try. give it a try. Okay its a larger than life role. But if somebody can carry it off- he needs skill- and that skill describes acting for me.

Fifth- Now a days actors are defined by the company they keep. So Ranvir Shorey, Vinay pathak, Rajat Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla are brilliant actors. So if some one acts in their films/ or films of similar sensibilities- he is a good actor. Neha Dhupia a case in point ( I have made this point earlier but cannot resist)- After Qayamat she was deemed a bad actor- now a days she gets praise from leading critics and public alike- how perceptions change.

Sixth- it is very easy to experiment when there are almost no stakes. So a Irfan Khan, Kay Kay Menon, Abhay Deol can experiment and do hatke stuff and win accolades ( I am not saying that they are not good actors- I am really fond of both Irfan and Kay Kay) – it is just that they act in films and subjects that people associate with good acting. And people dont even remember their bad works- or they easily forgive them for that- who remembers a HISS when you have a YEH SAALI ZINDAGI to praise? Can someone like Salman Khan really afford to do such roles? When he tried in London Dreams- he tried to please the masses and mix commercial elements- and it ended up as a confused film- he did great- and had the same role been done by say a Kay Kay menon- it would have been hailed as an awesome performance- because it wouldnt have had the comic /fun elements salman’s character had-

Seven. And last ( I am tired of typing- and you guys would be tired of reading- if you are reading that is) ABUSES. EDGY STUFF. Dont know what is happening these days. So when Rani Mukherjee says fuck- it makes the audience go WOW- WHAT A REALISTIC PERFORMANCE- Vidya Balan in Ishqiya was good- but I feel she was as good in her bad films too- like Kismat Konnection- but there it was her wardrobe that got the attention- Bad film is not =bad acting, good film is not = good acting.

THESE ARE JUST MY VIEWS. People are free to disagree. As they are free to have as many top ten lists as they want.


  1. i agree with half of the things u said...
    and the other half seem debatable... at least in my opinion..

  2. Of course :) It is perfectly fine to disagree!!

  3. Well... I'd say you're right on the whole. But judging about good or bad actors is a very subjective thing to do anyway, and as it's considered a matter of taste, that is, anybody can defend whatever s/he wants to say without being contradicted on rational grounds, people can pronounce even if they've only seen one or two films with the same actor or actress. Irrational aspects also enter the statements, like: I like him because he plays so well, whereas in fact what's behind is: he's sexy, or: he's Tamil.
    bye for now!

  4. Agree with you completely. This post was a reaction to a top-ten list by a famous Indian website- and essentially my point is the same that hundred people can have a hundred top-ten lists- and none of them would be absolutely incorrect or correct!


  5. clearly a true salman fan. enough said.

  6. Piyush, i discovered ur blog 2 days ago and have been reading it with much interest, whenever time permits. However, today i strongly felt that i needed to put forth my views on this particular post of yours. To begin with, i'd like to mention that an actor is definitely known by the co. he/she keeps much like any person in general. And much like any person in general, one goes through changes and transformations. A Dilip Kumar was quite mediocre in his debut film, JWAR BHATA... Yes, he was restrained as he was later in his films as well but he needed much polishing. With time, experience and maturity, it all did shine in his later works. Now, people grow as professionals, which include actors as well. Hence, if one is considered BAD in one's debut, doesn't necessarily mean one will remain so. With his/her growth, perceptions will change owing to the substance one adds to the characters one portrays and how it is portrayed. And i say this without taking any sides or making mention of any person or case in particular. Saif was BAD in Aashik Awaara but astoundingly superb in OMKARA ! Becuase, he grew.

    Moving further, Stella Adler, the great acting guru and philosophist, once very correctly stated, "IN YOUR CHOICE, LIES YOUR TALENT".. Period ! Nothing can be truer ! We may forget the excruciatingly bad films an actor did but then, great roles don't come by on a daily basis, nor does an actor afford to sit idle, waiting for that one role, which will immortalise him. Yes, Kay Kay and Irrfan have made several bad choices in their career but then the some of the films that they've done, is good enough for people to remember them by. I remember watching Naseeruddin shah's interview by noted journalist, Saeed NAqvi wherein Naseer said, "An actor is remembered by the roles that he did but not by himself. Like DevSaab made Guide and Jewel thief and these films are enough for people to remember him in the coming ages". I endorse his point of view. An actor doesn't have to do that many great roles to qualify for a good or a great actor. U may be one of the best actors around but if u've not done a single significant film to remember by, then u'll be forgotten ! Its for the films that actors u made mention of, that people swear by and will hold in high esteem in the coming times when the subject of acting and actors springs up.

    Here, i must also appreciate your point that a certain amount of talent is required to carry a DABANGG on ur shoulders. Not just any good actor may able to do justice to it. Though, brushed off a mere masala flick, DABANGG has many things going for it alongwith many layers attached.

    OVerall, its been a very interesting piece to read through. :-)

    1. Glad to know that you find the blog of some interest. And thanks for stopping by and sharing your views and observations on this post.

      I quite agree with you that actors evolve over time as they become more confident of their craft. You have mentioned Dilip Kumar here and it is amazing to see him in supreme control of his art in many of his films. Quite like how Roger Federer used to play at his peak.

      But when you say that an actor doesn't have to do that many great roles to qualify as a good actor, and especially when you site the example of Dev Anand- I am a bit confused. It is true to a certain extent- but isn't is more to do with how the media in general projects a certain actor? In that sense it is more how the star is perceived- rather than the actor in him?

      But I completely concur with you when you say that great roles don't come to an actor on a daily basis!

      Thanks again, for your appreciation :)