Tisca Chopra asks – Acting Smart?
This one is way overdue, but I had to to give it all the time it needed. Besides what’s the point of churning out a launch cum book review post if you ain’t gonna tell it like it is. So here goes. It all started with a blog interview with Tisca Chopra by the soft spoken Kiran Manral. It was the book giveaway that lured me in. More honestly, I was intrigued by the fact that an actor had decided to pen a book. What could she show and tell that we didn’t know already? And was it her who wrote the book at all? Hmmm, maybe she was Acting Smart, indeed. On a whim, I entered it, and then was declared one of the winners.
Well, the book came in a few days later, and I forgot all about it, until I received an invite from Tisca’s team to attend the ‘Book Launch’. As far as I knew, ‘Acting Smart’ was already in the market, presumably doing well, too. Or maybe it wasn’t, hence it needed the added push, I thought. Well, there was no harm in sending out an RSVP. I clicked ‘confirm’ on the evite.
I had never imagined walking on a red carpet with the paparazzi going all in a frenzy. Well, the stage at Le Mangii, Juhu, was set exactly for that kind of drama. A photo booth with ‘characters’ for placards, well placed speech bubbles with quotes from actors and a classy wine and dine ambiance made for an interesting evening ahead. Well, for a book on ‘Bollywood’, I’d say it was scripted to the Tee. The filmy gathering was just right, with no one jostling for space or squashing on your toes. This was going to be an evening of more than ‘just family and friends’ cheering an over enthusiastic writing debut under the garb of a launch. Then again, Tisca did not need that kinda publicity. This was clearly a success party. I spotted a few familiar faces, exchanged polite hellos and waited for Act 2.
The effervescent Maria Goretti who looked like she had been poured into her ruby-red gown was the Master of Ceremonies. Amidst giggles and old-time tales, she took us through the evening backed by a generous applause. Mini Mathur, a bohemian vision in white, was the next to come on stage and read excerpts from the book. Her question was simple. Casting couch or something which I don’t recollect. No points for guessing what the unanimous response was. Seeing Maria and Mini take centre stage, I was teleported to a time when holding the attention of the audience, eloquently, was truly an art. Ladies, take a bow.
Boman Irani, (who I totally adore) along with Adil Hussain, and Mushtaq Sheikh, to name a few, took us through a live interaction session that aimed to answer some questions that plague Bollywood. A well-known TV star asked why the disparity between TV and film actors. But poor thing, she rambled so much to come to the actual question, that the essence was by then lost. I wish I could tell her that the day TV actors stop caring about the medium divide, it will cease to exist. Filmmakers are looking for fresh talent, and every once in a while a TV star crosses over. Shahrukh Khan, Vidya Balan, Madhavan, Anurag Kashyap, Sushant Singh Rajput, Ayushmann Khurana and Yami Gautam are names that come to mind.
Tisca, finally, took the mic to talk about her foray into writing, and why and how did this book come about. Not the one to shy away from wearing her glasses in public, she went on to extend her gratitude to one and all. Gracious, poised and articulate, I’d be lying if I say I wasn’t impressed. The evening continued, however I rushed home. I had a long day coming up. Also, now I really wanted to read that book.
I read Tisca Chopra’s preface of Acting Smart, and I was hooked on.
The girl knew her action. In other words, I have to reiterate what the very talented Shabana Azmi had to say – “I wonder why nobody thought of this before?” This book is the Holy Bible for anyone wanting to set foot on Mumbai soil, into the arms of glamour. Right from whether you must become an actor to acquiring accommodation in this city, getting your portfolio done to going for auditions, and training for facing the camera to the infamous casting couch, she has covered all the topics brilliantly. At no time is the tone preachy. In fact, her personal anecdotes make the narration even more plausible.
Apart from the eye-catching cover picture what I really liked about this book ‘Acting Smart’ was the tight editing. I did not come across a single typo, or a lazy punctuation out-of-place. Simple, to the point sentences combined with a sizable font made this an easy read. Keeping the ‘filmy’ theme, Tisca even went on to name the chapters in the book accordingly. So while acting was Chala Murari Hero Bann ne, behaviour was Badtameez Dil and the casting couch you guessed it was Jism. Tisca starts every chapter with a quote from a celebrity which simply captured the essence of the said chapter. Like for the one about the audition, she had a Geroge Clooney tell you, ‘I had to stop going to auditions thinking, “Oh, I hope they like me.” I had to go in thinking I was the answer to their problem.’ Yes, the organizational skills in bringing this book together were not going unnoticed by me.
Lookout for stories about Anurag Kashyap, Boman Irani, Ratan Rajput, and especially about Tisca and her being a part of Taare Zameen Par. The one thing she can’t stop stressing on, and rightfully so, is training and reinventing yourself. Having been a part of this industry for 5 (ummm) glorious years I couldn’t agree more. When she wrote half a page about a well-known yesteryear actor standing along with junior actors today, I knew it was an insensitive side that exists. Yes, on this side of the world, the homage is paid to the rising sun only. Sad, but true.
Acting Smart is a book that gives you a bird’s-eye view of Bollywood, and a backstage pass in one go. Pick the book if you plan to venture in, it will save you a lot of trouble and heartbreak – trust me. Pick the book also if you are simply intrigued by the zillion stories you hear – many of them are true, especially the ones that involve hard work. I believe a revamped Hindi version of this book is expected soon. Acting Smarter is what book two will be called. An eye-opener, a ready-reckoner, and a hands-on guide, this is what every newcomer must be equipped with.
Play it by the book, I say.