In the midst of the current debate on the film industry and the mental health of its artists, here is “Part II” of the much appreciated insider account of the actor turned filmmaker Himanshu Malik.
In case you missed part I – Click on the hyperlink to read it – Inside Bollywood’s Outsider: Insider’s account of the life of the Hindi film industry
Himanshu Malik with director as Majid Majidi after the screening of ‘Chitrakut’
Things really start to heat up when the Actor enters Stage 3 mode, you’ve been on the screen for quite some time now and people have known you pretty much everywhere, from looks in the hometown to industry players. Your alma mater greets you like his product and old friends think that you really live it, by throwing you everywhere and by sexing all the possibilities. You try to explain to them, it is not the case and that things are not what seems to them, but they refuse to believe, they want to maintain their fantasy, that their friend arrived at ‘The Great Orgy’, like if it was giving them an elevation, you quit this conversation halfway. The “new” friends you had – thought you had changed as a person – remember, and your even newer friends are as adrift as you are in the same stratosphere. You think of obtuse things like “your image” and “projection of success” – some other players are in business, learning kung fu, building muscle or doing such innovative things for the same thing, while you are still trying to find a character in the scripts sent to you.
To be part of projects already in motion, you must access the starting grid of a project, which means that your interactions with people in power begin to take shape because they are the decision makers at this level. They too are fascinated by you as with a new toy and want to know you, you seem flattered and deceived; the breakthrough seems imminent.
But as things go along – as an undercurrent, a strange game of submission begins to play with them – even the secondary characters around the mighty demand their own polishing to influence “the court.” This could include small acts like laughing at their jokes at the table, no matter how funny or rude, but also accepting their worldview in every detail, as bizarre as it is, especially when it comes to art, filmmaking and gossip. The acting will not do it, because they are seasoned to spot counterfeits, the bondage must emanate from the eyes of the actor, only then you will be in their coterie and from there in their
Projects. One would only be empowered by them if you add to their own sense of power, otherwise it is a waste of time – a universal truth.
In an area where talent is a matter of perspective, individuality is a sin.
How these groups of people acquired or held onto such power – whether through inherited inheritance, audience choice, market manipulation or hoarding of distribution or strengthening of buddies – is a systemic question that can have many answers.
For a moment, if we examine what makes them, we could find poignant images. Most of them are from successful movies – you could say they were born from inherited stars. Like all successful parents, their parents were probably rarely at home. While the whole country appreciated and was delighted by their films, who knows how much attention they have given to the house. I remember a particular drunken party drenched with one of these legacy stars where he repeatedly convinced me that it was only his driver who really understood him emotionally, and there was this beautiful legacy star girl who , in a moment of vulnerability, said casually that she openly called her nanny “mom” and her mom, well, by name. We can only feel the tragedy of all this. They probably have kindergarten hangers and a bunch of going to friends they feel belonged to and have spent many nights eating pizza and Pepsi and watching Batman movies. Fast forward – many years later, when asked to run a production house or whatever their chances of being made, the first thing that comes to mind is that they will have to wake up in the morning now instead for lunch and more than what would give For them, the heebee-jeebies is that they have to face these characters who come every day to Mumbai with stories in their eyes and passion in their blood, stories that they cannot understand. The thought of it all makes them call their bestie # 1 and they order pizza and Pepsi and the bestie assures them that they will help them get through this and that they have a friend who has a friend who has a friend who knows this guy who wants to be an actor or a writer or a director or whatever, etc. Here begins the journey of favoritism and nepotism.
Let’s go back to our actor who is running out of time and the breakthrough of stage 3 seems more and more distant, the golden doors of fortune which
It took many years to open, start to close very quickly, the junta figure that you are not going to pierce and suddenly, you are an exhausted force.
From being someone who arrived somewhere, you become someone who “did not succeed”, frankly, it is not only the system that creates the situation, there may also be disadvantages for the candidate, after all, space is limited to the top, that’s why it’s called the top. Since an actor’s failures and successes are in the public domain (as everyone knows when you’re not on screen or on stage – that’s the criteria), your choices are limited.
Someone had asked Bob Dylan about his transition to the arts, going from singer to songwriter, he explained it as a journey through the lifting of the fog – as the landscape begins to appear, you wonder if your co-traveler has seen it and wants to share the world you see with them, so you’ll find ways to tell them about it.
Transition is liberation from the past.
You make the transition, you find a new identity or a niche in the commercial shift to television, become a comedian, sing and cut an album or be an entrepreneur or something or maybe even a filmmaker. All the options are complicated. But you move forward, happy or unhappy.
I remember an alcohol-fueled evening with a group of actors in the early days, when one of them made a grand dramatic statement: ‘Acting also has a higher effect than cocaine’ ‘(no, we were not addicted to this drug, he spoke metaphorically). We all agreed unanimously and even applauded his insight, we were probably higher on that statement than drinking alcohol overnight.
We can say that you become an actor because there is a void in you that you want to fill by borrowing from the characters that you play or you can say that you become an actor to live more lives, other lives in your own life singular.
Ask any actor, who played a crackling scene during the day (anywhere, on camera or in the theater), and that evening, seated with his or her favorite indulgence – a glass of whiskey soda or a cigarette or slice of pizza – feeling full, no matter which cabin, hole or slum they live in. Ask them what it looks like, and they’ll probably tell you to get lost, because “non-actors and mortals” won’t get it.
*This is an unedited article contributed by Himanshu Malik. Click here to follow him on Instagram.
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