by Rashi Mal
How have your experiences as a dancer/singer shaped the way you perform as an actor?
Acting is nothing but truthfully embodying another person with a life story that could be very different from your own. So therefore it is not only speaking the lines believably, it also means looking and sounding the part. I think that my dance training really comes in handy in creating different body languages – the posture, carriage, gestures based on what the backstory, social background, and personality of that character are. Similarly the singing training helps with voice modulation and finding the right pitch for the character based on the same criteria. It wasn’t until I went to acting school that I realized that the three disciplines are extensions of each other and training in all definitely gives me an advantage as a performer. Being a ‘triple threat’, as they call it, is definitely a USP that I am proud of.
When playing a character that is very different from who you are, is it necessary to find a connection, or do you just try to access the emotions necessary for the scenes?
I think it is impossible not to find a connection. When you read a script, there will always be something you connect with. You may not have ever experienced something exactly the way a character does, but you would have felt a similar emotion, whether it is love, hate, anger, excitement, jealousy, or ambition. Once you have figured that out, you build from it. I think it is also important not to judge the character as good or bad in this process. Because in doing so we attach our own moral code to the character. But their motivations and driving forces could be very different from ours. Those are things that you sculpt out as part of your own homework or from conversations with the director/writer so that you can justify the actions on screen, first to yourself. This is important, because for an audience to believe in a scene or character, you need to believe it first.
How deep do you go into a character?
This is an interesting and tricky question. I find that when I am shooting for a project, I start dressing and talking like that character, especially around the cast and crew. Even between shots I find myself holding on to that. There have definitely been characters that have had personality traits I wanted to imbibe. Those characteristics I have held onto but apart from that I make a conscious effort to switch off. I like there to be some boundaries between real and reel. Without that things can become confusing and messy because, at the end of the day, we are dealing with emotions.
Do you have anything specific that helps you get into character? What would your advice be to a young artist to help them with the process?
I’m more of an instinctive actor. But that may not work every time or for everyone. Therefore I think it is very important to educate yourself about the different tools and techniques of acting. No one thing works all the time. Sometimes you will be emotionally open enough to not need any tool. Sometimes you will use substitution, other times sense memory, or a more outside in approach. It is very likely that everything from one school of acting may not work for you either. So that will be my advice to actors – expose yourself to as much as you can and pick and choose what works for you.