More than just skin deep

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Gone are the days when method acting was restricted to only Aamir Khan and a few others. Actors these days are increasingly going the distance to ensure that their performance is as true to the character as possible. They make sure they delve into the psyche of the character with their inputs and they are also ready to undergo a complete makeover. Priyanka Chopra, it is heard, is planning to visit mental asylums to study the psychological behavior of inmates for her forthcoming movie Suicide.

The young actor from Udaan, Rajat Barmecha was forced to live in Jamshedpur without a phone or TV to feel the trauma of a boy in that position. He was not even allowed to call his parents in Delhi. The isolation, he says, helped him emote because his background is very different. Rajat says that after the success of Udaan, he will have to be more careful with his roles. “I’ll have to put in more effort than I did with Udaan and for that I’ll have to do my own bit of research for the roles that I take up.”

While talking about extensive research, one name almost immediately comes to mind – Madhur Bhandarkar. Known for making hard-hitting films like Chandni Bar and Page 3, the filmmaker thrives on well-researched plots. He says, “I have always believed in doing research before every film. My films have a realistic approach hence I believe in going deep into the subject matter. When my first film Trishakti was a flop, a friend forced me to go to a dance bar with him and that is how the subject of Chandni Bar came about. Every film made after that has been research oriented, be it Fashion, Jail or Corporate. We even got the clothes stitched by the Jail inmates.”

Neil Nitin Mukesh, who played the lead in Jail, visited many jails before taking up the role. “I have never seen a prison. I felt that Jails have always been glorified in Hindi cinema. When I visited the Yerwada jail, I realized that it was a different world out there. It helped me understand my character better.”

Directors too do their bit to ensure that actors get a holistic idea of the role. Even candy floss filmmaker Karan Johar had to do a lot of research when he decided to change course and make My Name Is Khan. “When I decided to do my next film, I heard about Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism). I wanted to raise this issue. Then after a lot of research I wrote My Name Is Khan. I visited the National Autistic Center in New York. I even met a couple — Chris and Giselle, who have written books on the disease. Chris, who suffers from autism, and Giselle have been married for many years. I realized that men like him are inspirational. You will never realize that he has a disorder. It is important to research when you take up sensitive topics. You cannot hurt the sentiments of people,” says Karan.

Not everyone has been convinced about method of acting and whether it will work. But there are converts. Saif Ali Khan, who played the role of Langda Tyagi in Omkara, was not sold on the idea of chopping off his hair for his role and it took a lot of persuasion for him to adopt the local dialect as well. Saif had almost refused the role until director Vishal Bharadwaj convinced him that it was a role written with him in mind. “I was not happy with the brief that he had given me. When Vishal made me see that one has to sacrifice to get appreciation, I realized how wrong I was. I chopped my hair, which for me was a huge thing to do. Then I decided to learn the dialect and also practiced how to walk with a limp for days together. I realized that my hard work paid off when I got tremendous critical and popular acclaim,” he says.

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