Comedy is the toughest form of acting, says Anupam Kher

On April 18, Anupam Kher's academy Actor Prepares completes 10 years of teaching and learning acting. The alumni will showacase their talent with theatrical productions in April and May. In a candid chat, Kher talks about the dynamics of India's theatre landscape

Q. Why did you choose to teach acting?
A. I have always felt that in those days, Mumbai didn't have a professional acting school. There were many that were run as business ventures but none that gave actors the kind of training they deserved. When I worked with newcomers, they seemed very nervous because they liked formal training. It was important for the city that sells dreams to have such an institute. I believe there will come a time, where with growing competition only trained actors will be welcomed in the industry. That is something that is already happening. We get students from France, Poland and many other countries. I am not a retired actor who is teaching because he has nothing else to do. My travels and the different cinema and theatre I do in various parts of the world make my experience richer and help me teach better.

Anupam Kher with his students
Anupam Kher with his students 

Q. Is there a difference between learning to act for theatre and learning to act for cinema?
A. We teach acting; it could be for both. Cliché in Hindi cinema is dead. Today, you are either good at both or can't do either. You project a little more in theatre but that's the only difference. You need not necessarily be 'theatrical' in your performance.

Q. How has comedy evolved in theatre and film over the years?
A. There are various kinds of things an actor can do to make people laugh. It could be slapstick, deadpan or any other. Today, it is an increasing presence of double meaning dialogues and dirty jokes, which is fine for a certain audience. Comedy is the toughest form of acting. It is difficult to make people laugh as opposed to making them cry. A good actor doesn't need the crutches of double meaning to make people laugh. Greats like Chaplin (Charlie) and Laurel and Hardy could bring a smile to a person's face even without dialogue.

Q. What is your opinion of original screenplays in Indian theatre today?
A. Hindi theatre, unfortunately, has not been able to produce many great playwrights in the last few years. They have increasingly used works translated from regional theatre or adapted from the West. Regional theatre like Marathi, Bengali, Gujrati and others regions, however, have produced some masterpieces.

Anupam Kher
Anupam Kher 

Q. What about younger talent?
A. I see a lot of promise. They are focused and take their theatre and film careers seriously. A lot of this is also because of the tough competition that exists today. It is becoming like the West — you are as good as your last film or last performance. So people want to experiment with a variety of roles and show their versatility. Today's audiences are more aware; they know more, expect more. They have other means of entertainment like television and a few hundred channels to choose from. To draw them to a cinema or a theatre is not easy. There are bound scripts today. People do one film at a time compared to three to four like before. They invest more time in the art.

Q. Your favourite theatre venue would be...?
A. We need more world-class theatre venues in Mumbai. Except Prithvi and Jamshed Bhabha Theatre at NCPA, the others are fairly okay. I love performing at Prithvi because of its intimate setting. Jamshed Bhabha Theatre is nice because they have the right kind of people. It is a fantastic team
to work with.

On April 18 to May 3 Log on to www.bookmyshow (for tickets) For Schedule

Watch out for these
In its first season, the repertory will host Hindi adaptations of a diverse selection of acclaimed plays, ranging from romantic comedy to murder mystery. The plays will be staged in April in theatres across Mumbai with repeat performances thereafter. Among them include adaptations of Anton Chekov's Three Sisters, Isaac Bashevis Singer's Gimpel the Fool, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Vijay Tendulkar's Ashi Pakhare Yeti, Barah and Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men.

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