It takes courage to be a star student, says Anupama Chopra
In an industry that allows mediocrity to survive and even thrive, successful actors are setting aside time to hone their craft. I wish more actors would do this.Updated: Jun 15, 2019 17:52 IST
Katrina Kaif, Jacqueline Fernandez, acting workshops — you probably didn’t expect to see these words in the same sentence. Yet in the last month, both actors have chatted with me at length about upping their game by honing their craft.
Katrina has been working since 2003. When she was a newbie, bound scripts were a rarity. She says she didn’t have a script for Singh is Kinng or Welcome (ironically, both were hits). In her long and busy career, the conversation around Katrina has been about her staggering beauty, her exquisite dance skills, her wonderful work ethic and her tumultuous personal life. Her acting was largely and understandably ignored, until Zero. The film didn’t work but Katrina was applauded for making her character, of a self-absorbed, self-destructive film star, come alive.
She has told me that since Zero, her approach has radically altered — “regardless of how the director works or whether the director wants to hold a workshop... there’s certain work which I now make sure I do for myself,” she said. “[I ask], how do I up my game; how do I better myself? It’s just that simple.”
Jacqueline Fernandez celebrates a decade in Hindi cinema this year. She’s done 20 films but until last year, had never attended an acting class. Like Katrina, she also entered films without training or family background. She told me that when she started, she was so ignorant that she didn’t know the difference between a director and producer.
“When I first came to the industry, I was getting work and I wasn’t a trained actor and I thought I could get away with this,” she said. “I was going day by day and just kind of winging it, to be honest.” Last year, she decided she didn’t want to approach her scripts like that anymore and enrolled in acting classes in LA. “I now have a new-found respect for this thing that we do.”
I have new-found respect for these actors. Both have films, multiple brand endorsements, millions of followers on social media and enough gigs to keep them busy around the clock. The industry isn’t demanding that they upskill. In fact, Jacqueline said that when she told people in the business that she was going to do acting classes, their first response was, ‘Why?’ A few advised her to not publicise the fact. Actors can post about their gym workouts, outfits of the day, parties they attend but apparently acting classes would be bad for the image. Go figure!
In Bollywood, fame and success are not directly proportionate to talent and skill. Despite the fierce competition, the system allows mediocrity to survive and sometimes even thrive. In this environment, it takes honesty and courage to recognise your limitations and work on them, especially when you are already successful. I hope more actors do the same.