There is nothing like an actor getting too much of training, especially when it happens to be quality training. Too many people make the mistake of thinking that acting is easy, but the fact is that acting is a craft like any other art form that must be mastered. There is an increasing breed of directors who believe that practice makes one perfect, which is why they organise pre-shoot acting workshops that help not only in terms of ironing out any acting glitches, but also serve the higher purpose of the cast and crew getting familiar with each other, translating to a better chemistry on screen. In most cases, if a director suggests an acting workshop before a shoot, it would be to increase the cast’s abilities of performing as an ensemble. Most of the upcoming films, especially those with newcomers, put the actors through their paces by holding an acting workshop. Argentina Fans Kaattoorkadavu, directed by Midhun Manuel Thomas, and Pathinettam Padi, directed by Shankar Ramakrishnan, are the latest films that had acting workshops for the cast.
Pathinettam Padi is an action-oriented film comprised largely newcomers. Shankar candidly explains the reasons why he held a 10-day workshop, focusing mainly on action, for his cast. “The main reason is that we have a dearth of trained actors in Malayalam. When you audition for new faces, we are not auditioning talent from film schools; rather it is actors who have acted in amateurish shorts films or school plays. These people are not aware of the medium and the kind of acting that is required for films, or a proper exposure to the kind of film technique that is really needed. Those skill sets are missing!”
In addition to all these, there was a primary reason for the workshop. “My film has a lot of new faces acting as friends and gang members. Rather than these actors coming on the sets and acting like friends, it made more sense for them to come together for a residential workshop, where they would come to know each other well and share their experiences and perceptions on cinema.”
The workshop also provided a platform for the makers to get to know their cast, too. Shankar and his crew understood each actor as an individual case study weighing their strengths and weaknesses. Pathinettam Padi is a film that focuses on action, and training the actors for the action sequences was imperative. “The boys and girls were rigorously trained by a trainer from Bangkok who did the Baahubali action sequences. It offered a comprehensive training to the actors not only for this film, but for further films too.”
“This is a phenomenon that has gained traction in Mollywood in recent times. One of the reasons is the corresponding increase in film auditions. There is a link between the two. Earlier, largely people with links in the film industry could aspire to be an actor, but now the scenario has changed. The field has become more open and more competitive,” opines Devendranath Sankaranarayanan, actor, theatre personality and conductor of acting workshops.
He feels film aspirants have become more focused and want to have that something extra to present at such auditions to give them an edge. “It has become a competition between talents and such acting workshops provide a space for a director to get to know the actors and see if they can be moulded into the desired characters. Normally, a workshop that is on for 10 days or more helps the director to understand the actor’s attitude, his talent and attitude to teamwork, which is very important for a film,” he explains.
Workshops, Devendranath feels, is a good way to build a team, bring talent to the table, shed inhibitions as well as create a space for the actor. The other benefits of holding a workshop include zero egos, smooth communication and a platform for talent to grow wings and take off.
The prolific actor-director V.K. Prakash (or VKP as he is known) had woken up to the advantages of holding a pre-shoot acting workshop long before it became commonplace in Mollywood, and he still conducts one for every film of his. His workshops, helmed by prominent personalities, sometimes last a day, may be four days or even four weeks.
Here again, the workshop could be for the entire cast or an extensive one for a single actor, like in the case of Honey Rose for his film Trivandrum Lodge. “Actors coming on a set and then coming to know each other are more distant as opposed to them meeting before a film starts. My workshops have nothing to do with script reading or rehearsal. That becomes very mechanical. I do not talk cinema at all in these workshops, but focus on aspects other than cinema. This is to enhance the ensemble feeling, togetherness and to enrich the creative energy.” VKP states that most of the actors are more than willing to participate in these workshops.
Veteran actor Prem Prakash, who participated in one such workshop for VKP directorial Nirnayakam, feels that they help in understanding the script, cast and the crew on more intimate terms. “It is an informal gathering of the cast and crew. We had a class by actor/writer Jayaprakash Kuloor and he asked us to share our personal experiences. While narrating experiences so personal, it is natural that a wave of emotions engulfs us that reflect in our expressions, be it happiness, sadness or pain. That becomes a barometer to judge an actor.”
He opines that acting workshops are very vital for the betterment of a film and advantageous to newcomers as well as senior actors....