By Sunil Kumar

0 Films, Acting and All That Jazz

The movies; a subliminal attempt at unravelling our psyches. Emotional manipulation, overt fun, and exploiting our inner subconscious. The seven billion population of this planet consciously may or may not realize the tremendous power of film. Last week, I saw a film shoot.

A Bollywood actor wearing prosthetics was attempting to perfect a shot. In cinematic language, probably the film was in the production stage; and one of the shots was being redone in a famous contemporary Mumbai setting. Studio Lights, Final Cut, Panasonic TVs and playback recording. It is strange how cities breed stories; their subconscious spews out so many tales. Most of us today are influenced by celluloid dreams; consciously or unconsciously.

The indie film scene is rather skewed in contemporary India, probably because of lack of established distribution channels. But, there is something to be said about individuality and freedom of vision in your own little space in the world. Shyam Benegal remarked in an interview that Satyajit Ray understood the grammar of cinema, he used the medium like a great writer uses language. A visual compendium, poetic justice. My favorite is Feluda; since I read the stories.

But, I have to interrupt in this pretentious intellectualism. Granted, there is a great individuality in this, but we should be open to all forms of cinema. After all, most people unabashedly view everything within the comfortable precincts of their own premises. And many directors have understood the subtext and narrative; albeit customized to local needs.

Another thought; on acting. The Stanislawski school and the Michael Chekov variant. I am rather new to this element of dramatics myself; so let me journey together in the sea of discovery. Apart from Western variants which have pulp fiction dominance globally, I will try to understand what India has to say on the matter. Kalidas and the Natyashastra et al are more than a millenium old.

Method  Acting: A family of techniques where the actor create in themselves the feelings and emotions of others, Method acting, affective memory. In simple terms, affective memory is recalling being in a somewhat similar situation. Realistic acting; characters who talk like real people, are in real situations.  The Scandinavian playwright Ibsen is an example.

Non-realistic: Theatre of the Absurd; Well-known playwrights include Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett etc. Commedia del’ Arte and Epic Theatre; in which acting is used as a means of social commentary. Bertold Brecht was one of the persons to use this method.

The Chekhov school and the Meisner method. According to the Chekhov school, use imagination to liberate every cell of your creative consciousness. Chekhov stresses on imagination, the incorporation of images. “I am always surrounded by images,” says another gentleman. Creative artist recognize the power of these half-filled wisps. Playing with the language. In acting, the person has to realize the psychological depth of the character the author has created.

Anyways, playwriting is fascinating in a sense. Concentration, mise-en-scene, changing the tempo, and creating something different in the image. Like in cinematography, we have framing, lights, sound, set design etc. The stage is the original progenitor of the popular form of entertainment today.

Improvisation, ensembles and different atmospheres. Now, for our great Natyashastra. According to sources, India has a trsdition dating from more than two thousand years back. Natya is the art of theatre that includes dance. The Natyashastra was a detailed manual that gave instructions on subjects including theatre building, the stage, the theory of poetry, the use of the voice, make-up, costume, acting styles, dance techniques, and even theatre criticism.

The two concepts here are bhava and rasa. Bhava includes the mood of the actor, and rasa is the emotion supposed to be evoked in the audience. These include the:

The Erotic (srngara),

The Comic (hasya),

The Pathetic (karuna),

The Furious (raudra),

The Heroic (vira),

The Terrible (bhayanaka),

The Odious (bibhatsa),

The Marvellous (abhuta) and

The Tranquil (santa).

Granted that in ancient times; this would have evoked a wholly different feeling that the 20-20 quick fix we are used to today. One can also fathom a little about Indian culture; a rich mix that influenced people all around the world. Concepts include gestures, inner moods and other detailed, complex thoughts are elaborated in the scripture. Stylized acting, natya usually emphasized on the following story arc; they are (1) the beginning, (2) the effort, (3) the possibility of attainment, (4) the possibility of resolution still overshadowed by conflicts and/or obstacles and, finally, (5) the fruition.

Will write more later.




 Films, Acting and All That Jazz
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