In a room strewn with the debris of earlier rehearsals, 19-year-old Salman K Khan puts on his clothes piece by piece in front of 15 classmates and the sharp eye of his professor, actor Benjamin Gilani. It is an imaginary exercise, part of his sophomore acting class at Whistling Woods International, the film institute in Goregaon.
Khan’s classmates watch in a silence that is part attention, part enforcement — Gilani does not let their whispers attain audible levels.
They’re all casually dressed; none displays any star-in-the-making airs. And none of them has any connections in the film industry.
In a business more driven by dynastic rule than the Congress party, where being able to drop in at Yash Uncle’s house can get you places, these students are almost an aberration.
But they’ve got it all figured out. “It has been a thought-out decision for all of us. We can’t afford not to be confident,” says Aru K Verma (23) from Delhi. So confident, in fact, that most have not even bothered with a Plan B. Unlike earlier hopefuls who got themselves a degree ‘just in case’, these aspirants are convinced they will get some work somewhere — in commercial or arthouse films, in TV or advertising.
And they are pragmatic enough to contend with the realisation that they may not all end up as the next big Khan. As Salman with-a-K Khan says, “I just want to be an actor. I don’t mind if I don’t become a star. Just ‘pretty good actor’ is good enough for me.”