Rahul da CunhaIt’s time for movie awards again — Filmfare, Stadust, Screen running back to back with the Golden Globe, SAG, Oscars — and I find myself comparing Hollywood with Bollywood. Specifically in the area of acting.

While our filmmaking has improved, our actors haven’t moved. They’ve chosen to remain stars. Lots of sizzle, just not adequate substance.

Take Les Miserables for example. The actors went through severe deprivation to create their characters, uglifying themselves down to their fingernails. The tears are real, the toil is genuine, the trauma heart-breakingly true.

And I say this with all respect and admiration for our film industry — do our stars really want to act? When John Abraham says he wants roles to sink his teeth into, does he really want to bare his soul, or just bare his body?

illustration/ amit bandre

Is it just a profitable profession? An opportunity to pout, preen and parade?

Shah Rukh Khan once proudly announced that he had five emotional expressions. How can an actor possibly be proud of that? Call me old-fashioned, call me unaware of how our film stars work, but in my book, real actors work at their craft, not seek comfort in their complacency.

What are you scared of SRK - that your adoring masses will suddenly abandon you, not accept you in a different avatar or a deeper character? So you will continue to dye your hair, quiver your lips and have us believe that at 45, you are still a student in a foreign university? You’ve cried, cavorted and charmed your way through 20 years in Bollywood in an identical fashion. And it isn’t just you. All the top seven guys don’t really stretch themselves.

Hrithik moved a muscle in Guzaarish and Saif blackened his teeth in Omkara (even shaved his precious locks off). And Aamir does give it his all. But these are the exceptions.

And across the seas, George Clooney lets his hair go grey, his wrinkled face gets more wrinkled (the girls still love him). And he goes ugly to get a beautiful performance out.

Aamir and Co. will argue that our industry is different, there is an image that cannot be altered. What does that mean? That image is so important that you forget the universal truth about performance? About living in the moment?

Hollywood prepares for roles by doing homework. Bollywood prepares by going to the gym.

You see Anne Hathaway go through the pain of prostitution, while Kareena Kapoor drove through Kamatupura to prepare for ‘Chameli’. 

Look here’s what I’m asking of our stars — can you dig deeper, get more under the skin, feel more pain, go to the edge, take more emotional risks? Could you push a boundary if push comes to shove? Or is the effort just too much and not worth your time? Or are you just not capable?

And then there’s Ranbir Kapoor. Go dude, you’ve got acting chops.

Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.