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Stage Screen

Bollywood actors, who have trained in theatre before making big screen debuts, reveal how the stage has helped them cultivate their acting skills

bollywood Updated: Mar 20, 2012 15:34 IST
Shalvi Mangaokar

Walking out of movie theatres these days, we find that we have a lot more to talk about than we ever did. Post-movie discussions now include not just a film’s stars, storyline and slickness, but also the smaller roles played by people we earlier never noticed — a whole new bunch of people who take a role, however small it may be, and turn it into something that sticks in our memories.

Most of these people have lived theatre as their professional background and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, known for introducing new talent to Hindi cinema, believes that is one reason why these new actors do so well. “I certainly think performing on stage has cultivated their acting skills,” he says. “This new lot is more confident and has a lot of talent to showcase.” Actors like Neil Bhoopalam, Gulshan Devaiah, Shiv Pandit, Ali Fazal and others who’ve the transition from stage to screen, agree with Anurag. Here’s what they have to say:

Gulashan Devaiah
He was part of Dum Maro Dum (2011), but his stellar performances as Karan ‘KC’ Chaudhary in Shaitan (2011) and Chittiappa Gowda in That Girl In Yellow Boots (2011) gained him much popularity. “I love working in movies, but theatre is more enjoyable. When you perform in front of a live audience, you can feel their energy,” says Gulshan.

Does he believe theatre has helped him perform better onscreen? He tells us, “It certainly has, but there are some things that I’ve learnt purely on the basis of working in movies. Theatre has helped me become more confident onscreen, because when you perform live, there’s no rooms for errors. There are no retakes, and if you do make a mistake, you have to cover it up immediately. Whereas cinema is more chilled out in that sense.”

Ali Fazal
He’s the boy who made the song ‘Give me some sunshine…” from 3 Idiots (2009) an instant hit. He also charmed women with his performance in Always Kabhi Kabhi (2011). And he’s quite a familiar face on stage as well. However, he thinks theatre and cinema are two very different learning experiences.

He says, “Theatre does teach you a lot, but it’s not necessary that all that knowledge will be applicable in cinema. Both are very different. I’ve had to unlearn a lot of things I learnt from doing stage shows when I entered Bollywood.” However, he says that doing plays has helped him improve his skills. He says, “Performing on stage has helped make fewer errors when giving shots for a movie.”

Shiv Pandit
He’s the man who made a villain look desirable. Dushyant Sahu a.k.a. Dash of Shaitan (2011) was one of the hottest villains onscreen and Shiv’s performance won him much appreciation. He hasn’t done plays in the recent past, but does admit that theatre proved to be a sort of gate to Bollywood.

He says, “I’ve done theatre in Delhi, but that was over six years ago. And I did enjoy every bit of it because it taught me a lot about acting and helped me in improving my skills. I wanted to do films anyway, but having this as a background did prove helpful.”

Neil Bhoopalam
“I’ve had no formal training in acting,” says Neil, a former VJ who is a popular face on the theatre circuit as well as television. The good-looking lad made his film debut with the 2006 movie Offshore, but got noticed for his role in No One Killed Jessica (2011) and later, Shaitan (2011).

He says, “Performing in front of a live audience is a different thrill. The experience of doing that has helped me tremendously in movies.” Does he believe that the new actors of Bollywood are a more talented bunch? He says, “I wouldn’t know about that. But I can say that, in my short period of being around, what I’ve noticed is that the audiences have become more open to new films.

Parallel cinema, I think is slowly becoming mainstream because it’s no more about just dancing around trees. That, I think, is why new actors are getting noticed.”