Two weeks ago, TV actors Sara Khan, Ali Merchant, Karan Mehra and Nisha Rawal opened their acting institute in Kandivli called Reel In Reel Out. News is that soap queen Ekta Kapoor will also be starting her residential acting academy on the outskirts of the city very soon.
Reportedly, it will be a stock market-listed company, which will offer courses at affordable prices and will provide accommodation for the duration of the course. Apparently, a plot of land close to the Eastern Express Highway at a location outside the city has also been finalised for it.
When asked, Kapoor said that she is toying with the idea and indicated that something might materialise soon. “My mother and I had an arrangement called Lucky 52 a few years ago. Actors would be auditioned and the lucky 52 from across the country would be brought to Mumbai, provided a hostel-like accommodation by us, and trained at Balaji in different disciplines. That triggered off the thought of teaching various aspects of media academically,” she informed. “As an 18-year-old entering the industry, I was directionless. I don’t want others to go through the maze too. My initiative would be to guide people into various streams, and not just acting.”
Private acting and filmmaking institutes are flourishing like never before, as almost every by lane in the city has one of its own. Bring this up with Kapoor and she says that there is no dearth of actors in the industry, but there is room for technicians. “If I throw a stone, 90 per cent chances that it might land on the head of an actor. And with just anyone starting an institute, the scene becomes more crowded. That many institutes mean, that many promises, made to, that many wannabe actors. And when so many don’t get work, no one will take the genuine acting classes seriously,” she cautions.
All in good fate
According to Rohit Taneja, who has been associated with his father Roshan, at the Roshan Taneja Foundation for Performing Arts, Andheri, if an academy promises 100 per cent placement, it’s only guaranteeing a student a junior artiste’s job. “No reputed institute ever guarantees 100 per cent placement. There is a factor of luck involved. A lot also depends on who is the faculty at the institute. My father has been a reputed teacher for the last 45 years. Generations of actors have trained under him, from Jaya Bachchan to Abhishek Bachchan,” said Rohit.
After spending 20 years at his father’s institute, Taneja believes that the fate of any new acting outfit can’t be predicted, but the reasons why they could have been started in the nooks and crannies of the city, are pretty evident. “I think most of these are started by actors who are still struggling, or those who don’t have ample work to do. They all want to make money and they do that. They don’t care for what happens to a student after he or she passes out of the school.”
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai, who runs Whistling Woods International School and will now be launching two films with his school’s students, agrees with Taneja’s views. “The quality institutes survive in the long run. I’m sure there are thousands of institutes in the city but students who are serious would only opt for a renowned one. The fee is usually not very high, compared to the returns the courses promise,” says Ghai, adding that passing out of a reputed school also adds value to the actor.
“I was from National School of Drama. Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah), Shabana Azmi and the likes have all come from reputed acting schools. I was taken seriously as an actor. So, my experience led me to think that an institute like Whistling Woods can guide the earnest would-be professionals into the stream,” stated Ghai.
Actor Pankaj Dheer and Paintal also plan to start their acting school very soon. The location, the courses and their fees have almost been finalised. Actress Ayesha Jhulka also has her dance and acting school in Andheri. It’s learnt that once Reena Roy and even Padmini Kolhapure had once ventured into the business but didn’t see much success.
According to Taneja, setting up an acting school is never a loss making business. “There’s little investment and guaranteed return. I’m sure many have ventured and many will venture. One just needs to be careful to not get duped by a ‘promising’ school, which happens often to youngsters from small towns,” he said.
So what does it take for a student to succeed in any acting academy? Instructor and the owner of Barry John’s Acting Academy, Barry John says that it’s the obsession to make it big. “Not everyone becomes Shah Rukh Khan. That man was obsessed with becoming an actor. He was passion personified. I am proud of several of my students but I haven’t seen the same drive that Shah Rukh had. It’s an unparalled example for all my students. Freida Pinto was a fairytale. She was learning with me, and the next thing I know is that she landed herself Slumdog Millionaire and now she lives in New York. Sometimes, it’s hard work and luck, and sometimes, its purely luck,” he said.
Actor Ali Merchant, from Reel In Reel Out Academy said, he had gone through phases when people charged him to audition for a role. “Five years ago, I didn’t know which way to go. So, we’ve roped in veteran colleagues to teach at our Institute, there are set visits, directors delivering special lectures and even portfolio shoots everything put together for Rs 25,000 for three months. We’re doing it not for money, but for a cause,” stated the actor.