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Mera naam teacher?

india Updated: Sep 04, 2008 22:00 IST
Khalid Mohamed

Forget it. In a star-ruled system, the species is as dead as a dodo in Bollywood today. Despite the time lag, today movie teachers are most widely associated with a fey, tallish figure stepping out of shallow waters. Or Simi Garewal in Mera Naam Joker.

For sure, there have been vintage do-gooder flicks about the teacher-student chemistry, idealised by the black-and-white tear-wrenchers Jagriti and Hum Panchhi Ek Daal Ke, but by and large gurus are either fake bearded pundits, those imbeciles at the blackboard as evidenced in a Taare Zameen Par montage, or Ms Garewal the initiator of the first wet dream. Just joking, or something close to that.

Okay, so what are we talking about here? The need — is there a stronger word than this? — for practically everyone in show business to quit behaving like know-all pundits. A-list directors know every camera angle and cut of Tarantino, never mind if dear Quentin is as passé as split screens. Actors, particularly the male of the species, know exactly how to enter the frame, how to leave it, or just hang around to hog the scene. They ‘contribute’ to the dialogue. When they can’t mug up the lines, just beat it.

Actors call the shots. They’ll sit in on the edit, the music sessions, the marketing. If there’s something wrong going on here, that’s too tough babe. Actors are paid in the kind of crores that would finance a thermal plant, and don’t you quake, they are currently demanding a hefty percentage in the profits. If any, inshallah.

Celebrated technicians brag that Bollywood can match up to international standards, but they will not hop over for a crash course in FX. They already know the tricks. Result: India’s debatably first sci-fi extravaganza Love Story 2005. Stunt directors swagger that they are boss. So what if you detect American names in the supporting credit line? Indeed, if you set out to be in the movie business, remember everyone you’ll be dealing with are those who know their jobs, flawlessly. If you try to reason that it’s your script, you’ll get an add-a-scene-subtract-a-scene-there-yaar. If you want a veteran actress to commence a scene in the middle of a shot — instead of a theatrical entry and exit —the yelp will be, “Are you trying to teach me my job?” Right ma’am do it your own way, after all the theatrics will be left on the editing console.

If film teaching is respected, it’s the pre-debut phase. Graduates of the Film and Television Institute of India of the 1970s have had their decades of glory, though the recent batch of graduates from the revived course have not made waves yet. Roshan Taneja, Asha Chandra and Namit Kapur are referred to but that’s it. Subhash Ghai has his Whistling Woods, Anupam Kher his academy. That’s the score.

Like it or not, there are no grand movie moguls today who could teach the fraternity the simple maxim — that in cinema, as in any art, no one can ever know enough. Today, there are only yes-men who have taught the star actors and technicians to say no-no.