From short films to plays, there is a category of actors who are not caged by the trappings of big-budget Bollywood extravaganzas
If you thought Bollywood actors shunned small budget releases or a chance to make an appearance on stage after already being washed up on the shore of their marquee dream, then you are mistaken.
After stumbling upon El'ayichi, a short film featuring Nimrat Kaur, on the internet, and finding out that Shilpa Shukla was in Gurgoan preparing for a showcase of her interpretation of one of Dario Fo's masterpieces.
While veterans like Naseeruddin Shah and Nana Patekar have already been known to showcase their talent rather than mulling over the choice of medium, we list out some of the new age talents who have followed in their footsteps.
Hailing from Goalpara, Asssam is Adil Hussain. After seeing is work so far, it isn't hard to imagine what attracted all the opportunities in Adil's career. He won himself a seat at the National School of Drama, Delhi, from where he managed a scholarship to study at the Drama Studio London, and, at present, he has a global audience that tunes into his work, whether it be his appearance in Ang Lee's Life Of Pi, his role opposite Sridevi in English Vinglish or his upcoming foreign language films for which he says, "I cannot speak about". He firmly asserts that he would never say no to work because of a banner stereotype: "I feel actors who want to constantly stay in touch with the craft of acting do exciting work irrespective of the medium or length of a film or its banner." He rightly points out that "fame is not a guaranteed by-product of acting per se." He shuns the big banner films, especially the ones that present "uninspiring and stereotypical ideas" to an extent that he is willing to forgo a hefty fee as long as the work is exciting. If that doesn't add enough volume to the actor's passion for his craft, then what came as news to us would certainly take you by surprise; Hussain is a faculty member of the National School of Drama. On playing the role of a teacher, he says, "I tell my students at NSD to take up whatever exciting work comes their way. There is no surety that each one of them will become a Bollywood actor. However, that does not mean they should stop acting. The easiest thing to do is to prepare a play, invite friends over at home and perform before them. Anyone can do that till he or she gets noticed. Short films are less time consuming and strenuous. For actors, it's a less costly risk than a big budget one (laughs out loud).
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As mentioned earlier, Nimrat Kaur was seen opposite Divyendu Sharma in a humorous short film directed by Devashish Makhija. She was last seen in The Lunchbox, a film that often overshadows her other work. Those who are aware often implore others to watch her work in the American television series, Homeland. Nimrat also has been directed by some very important names in the theatre industry. One such personality is Manav Kaul, and when asked to describe his experience of working with her says, "Nimrat manages to make such an exceptional connect with her co-actors that it becomes so easy for her to lead the way onstage." Caught between two time zones — now that she travels to California to shoot for Homeland — she was ours for five minutes in which her zest for experimenting with her craft was made evident. "I do not look at myself as a film star who is bound and cannot do what excites me, no matter what the medium; to keep things interesting for me it is really necessary to do different kinds of films." Not a novice to the craft of short filmmaking, she says that shooting for El'ayichi was a luxurious experience because at times doing a low budget film is very difficult for it requires the actor and the crew to make up for the lack of resources. She admits that a short films are not glamorous like Bollywood films and are more about the "telling a story". In order to communicate the story there are certain sacrifices that an actor has to make: "…a constraint in budget does not permit you to look your best. This aspect might play on the mind of a female star and rightfully so. Also, the need to shoot on location-which can be difficult for stars- doesn't permit that. But I don't consider myself a star and I don't get mobbed. Besides, I looked better in El'ayichi than I looked in The Lunchbox.
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We all loved his character in 3 Idiots, but for the shortcoming of being plummeted to the uppermost rungs of success is that the humble beginnings get erased. Sharman Joshi the film star needs no introduction, but Sharman Joshi before the stardom does need a reintroduction. "I started from theatre and I am the sort who can never forget where I stemmed from. After all, it is the reason I am here today. Luckily for me today it's about being a good actor whatever the medium might be." Sharman started off as a theatre actor which would have been a natural instinct for someone whose entire family has befriended the stage. Hence, he says, "it runs in my blood". Whatever the medium, Sharman does ascribe to a principle that he has learnt so far in his line of business when it comes to choosing a script: "When an actor feels he or she can add more to a script half the battle is won." According to this star, playing a part in a play does not take away anything from his image for "today we are at a stage where it's not about the medium it's about the work you do and am glad my fans have loved me irrespective of the medium I have taken to showcase my talent." Just in case you've been in the dark about his return to plays, which took place after a hiatus of almost a decade; he was seen in Raju Raja Ram Aur Mein, a Hindi remake of a Marathi play that was directed by Kedar Shinde. In conclusion, Sharman Joshi speaks about why he was willing to sacrifice the comfort of a lavish film set for a small green room backstage: "Sometimes working with constraints bring out the best in you as an actor and person. It's amazing to get back to your grass roots and do something you believe in irrespective of the budget, time or any such obstacle. We do face a lot of challenges but it's only because of those challenges that I, as an actor, can try to make my work better."
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Raju Raja Ram aur Mein, Ame Lai Gaya Tame Rahi Gaya
Testing the elasticity of the invisible boundaries-seen only by the moral police-is Shilpa Shukla. What she has in common with the actors in this list is that she too is indebted to theatre for offering her the one role that she has chosen to play in our society, which is that of an actor. Hence, returning to the medium was an option she did not have to think twice about, even after managing to enthrall a cinema going audience, which is the standard benchmark for all actors. "I was found through stage. I am not different. If you have tasted it once-the joy of performing on stage-you want to taste more of it." As a film actress, her work so far validate her statement about the scripts she prefers: "I wait for my gut to answer. And it's the most honest inner voice. I love when the character has a point of redemption." The play that she has chosen to enact also runs along the same lines; A Woman Alone that will be staged at the Epicentre, Gurgoan, is about "an anonymous woman who seems perfectly fine from the outside but as she opens up to the audience, one is forced to introspect about their sense of empathy and compassion towards the society." May be a less glamorous medium like theatre doesn't attract too many Bollywood stars. For this thought Shilpa opines, "Yes, the stage teaches you to throw your ego outside the window. I think our stars are busy and distance themselves from finding or searching a better means of expression. Nevertheless, those artistes who were found on stage cannot distance themselves from it even after they become stars."
Chak De! India, BA Pass, Khamosh Pani, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi
Final Solutions, Antim Diwas, Rakt Kalyan, Log-Baag
In a casual conversation with this upcoming star, we were convinced that he is, by far, the most adventurous newcomer. Neil started his career as a radio jockey while still studying for his bachelor's degree, at the age of 19. He left jockeying to do plays and today he has been part of the very engaging television show called 24 and is looking forward for his big release opposite Anushka Sharma. Already on the verge of stardom, he feels that he must divide his attention equally between acting in plays and films. He says, "I will never leave theatre because I owe everything to it. The high that one gets on stage is incomparable to any other experience. Yes, the thought of being misunderstood for mixing the two mediums has crossed my mind, but I'm not serving an image and I rather carry on with what I like doing." A student of National College; Neil says that he realised much of what he wanted to do while pursuing a degree in mass media. Thereafter, trying his hand at the different forms of media. He admits, "I have been doing theatre for a while and it helps me in my work in front of the camera, but the two media are different and I still need to work on my skills as a film actor." These days the actor is busy with the promotions of his upcoming thriller, but he is also taking out time to rehearse for a theatre adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. In learning the skill set that both forms offer, he claims that the camera lends a very keen eye to the way the actor emotes and there is no need to go over the top like in theatre where the last benchers must get a taste of what the actor is going through. "Talent is present in each and every one of us, but the skill is something we pick up on the way," he affirms. Enjoying his dual personality as a stage actor and film actor, he concludes by saying: "…but I do not think it is necessary that a stage actor can make a good film actor."
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