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Polishing uncut diamonds in Mumbai’s acting schools
PAWANPREET KAUR  22nd Apr 2012

Student attend a session at Anupam Kher’s Actor Prepares

hrow a stone in this area, and it will hit 10 aspiring actors," the queen of Indian television Ekta Kapoor had once said. Every day, thousands of aspiring actors land on the golden shores of Mumbai, hoping to make it big in its famed studios but most of these fragile dreams simply wilt under the blinding lights of this industry. The fortunate few who survive are usually the ones who are formally trained at acting schools, which are fast emerging as trusted gateways to the world of acting.

Herman D'Souza, COO of Actor Prepares, one of India's leading acting institutes in Mumbai founded by Anupam Kher, feels that acting schools provide students with the necessary tools and techniques to enter the industry more confidently. "A doctor is not expected to cut people open without learning his craft, so why shouldn't an actor be similarly trained?" he says.

Founded in 2005, Actor Prepares runs several acting courses, to which students are admitted through competitive auditions and interviews. "We ensure that each student is given enough time, attention and resources to hone his/her skill, which is why almost 20% of our students are foreign nationals," says D'Souza.

Another veteran guru is Roshan Taneja, who trained under the legendary Sanford Meisner and Sydney Pollack before heading the acting department at the Film and Television Institute of India, founded the Roshan Taneja School of Acting way back in 1976. Having coached Jaya Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Om Puri in the past, this institute is still the preferred choice for star progenies too. "Most of the stars prefer sending their kids for at least one stint into our academy before they begin their acting careers," says Rohit Taneja, who manages the school along with his father.

A doctor is not expected to cut people open without learning his craft, so why shouldn’t an actor be similarly trained? —Herman D’Souza

Most acting schools offer fulltime courses spanning three to four months, in addition to several short term courses. The fees for each of the course depends on the branding factor, so while Taneja's school charges Rs 1.6 lakh for a four-month programme, a three-month course at Actor Prepares cost Rs 2 lakh. "If an actor wants to get paid to be in front of the camera, he has to be a thorough professional, and that is what we at Actor Prepares aim at," says D'Souza. The schools also run several short-term and part time courses (ranging from 10 days to eight weeks), which cost anywhere from Rs 5,000 to 50,000.

The syllabus for most of acting schools follows a similar pattern, which includes acting techniques, memory and expression exercises, yoga, body movements, martial arts, dance, voice culture, diction and speech, camera familiarity, scene studies, script analysis and personality development. "Our schools are equipped with state-of-the-art training studios with advanced lighting and camera equipment. Film and TV are technical in nature and students require orientation toward how these industries function," says Taneja.

Kishore Namit Kapoor, who founded his Acting School in 1983, feels that acting cannot be thought of as mass training. "Focus is the key," he says. "We limit ourselves to 25 students per batch, though the demand for the course is much bigger in terms of number."

Kapoor, who was training actors long before his school began, has trained most of the current crop of stars including Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, John Abraham and so on. "Our criteria for admitting the students is more than talent. We evaluate their level of discipline, dedication and passion," he says.

Placement support, auditions tie-ups and information networking is also offered to the students in addition to making their show reels and portfolios. "While we do not guarantee the students work, we do promote the ones we think are ready for the industry. We also organise lectures by actors, directors, so that the students develop an understanding of how the industry works in real time," says Kapoor.

But today acting schools are mushrooming everywhere; what really sets a good acting school apart? Says Kapoor, "I think some of these so-called acting schools are an easy 'business model' for some people. I personally think over time, this 'mushrooming variety' will be weeded out because a true actor understands the difference between educators and businessmen."

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