"Real acting is all about reacting"

Anjan Shrivastava is your ordinary neighbourhood Joe. With a difference. The man has fought against the odds and made a mark for himself in the theatre world and Bollywood. Shrivastav speaks about his struggle, his poor public relations and the perfect role that will get him a national award in this freewheeling interview with Nupur Rekhy of Indiantelevision.com. She came away with a good buzz in her head about this actor of substance, this jolly man who has the decency to credit his achievements to the strict upbringing that his father gave him and his guru. This, when his father was the biggest initial hurdle to his becoming an actor. Excerpts:

Q. You started your career at the age of 30. What held you up?

Ans. In my house every one was terrified of my father. He wanted us to study and acting was never discussed, I only got the courage after the sudden death of my sister and gracefully my father agreed. It was not only fear but also respect for my father's views.

Q. No professional background and training yet you have been so comfortable on stage and camera. How did you learn that?

Ans. When I started theatre, I had a motto and I always looked for characterisation and totally involved myself in the role and that's what challenged me. I get so involved in my environment and the role that I forget who or where I am.

Q. How do you get to switch your emotions and forget that you are just acting?

Ans. I don't meditate. When I go on the sets I keep a mental note of all my other scenes that I have done of the same character and I just keep The continuity and I get inside that character's moods and thoughts and mentally prepare myself. I make a mental graph and always ask for my script in advance for television as there is a lot of expectation from my television viewers and I never want to take anyone for granted.

Q. As an actor do you ever feel that you haven't given the right shot or do you ever feel insecure of the feelings that you are emoting?

ANS. What I find the most difficult is when I have to go for dubbing. On the sets I am totally taken in by the surroundings and the atmosphere and find emoting facile. By the time I go for dubbing, the atmosphere is not there and so it is very difficult to bring out the required emotions. As for insecurity about any role or character, I am way beyond that.

Q. What is most important to you as an actor?

Ans. Satisfaction is the key word for me and enjoyment is the most important thing. Because if I don't enjoy what I am doing, I can't expect my audience to do the same. And the other thing is that the shot should be taken, as it is...in which the naturalness is maintained. Nowadays, though creativity has gone and it has become more mechanical.

Q. Where do you look for inspiration?

Ans. I always take real life examples like if I were to portray a journalist I would think of you and remember how you handled and spoke or sat and get all the feelings inside me. Similarly when I have to do comedy I think of something real funny that happened to me or someone else and just put all small things which I got to experience in life in practice. Like in my role in a movie called Aashiqui. I am playing a negative role. That of a boozard and a smoker so I just become a kacchi mitti (weak soil) which I must say is very difficult. But I try to listen and associate someone else who fits the required character and get all negative thoughts in my mind. All the same I never copy anyone.

Q. What happens when you get into depression spells?

Ans. Oh! That really gets bad. When I get affected by a particular role that I have played or if things have not gone the way they should have then I get into a very bad mood. My makeup boy and my family have to suffer then. But thankfully I don't go into severe depressions.

Q. How did your first serial 'Yeh jo hai zindagi' happen and did you plan to enter television?

Ans. Firstly I never wanted to do the role as I never got the required character which I wanted to play but after 25 episodes I got what I wanted and I took it up. I never planned anything in my life as I believe in fate.

Q. What if you get bored?

Ans. See, acting is in my blood and I will never get bored of acting. What I get fed up of is when I don't get the expected response from my co-star, and when they don't react to a particular scene. I feel each scene should work.

Q. Which work has been your best till now?

ANS. A movie called Chakravyuha. I would say that has been my best work till date. It was in Bengali and I want to do it in Hindi very soon. It is a negative role and is beautifully woven and it is going for a national award. My directors feel it will get an award and I hope so as I have fate in God.

Q. Who are your favorite directors and co-stars and why?

Ans. I am not attached to any one director but I like working with Mansoor Khan, Mani Ratnam, Rajkumar Santoshi, J.P. Dutta and I am very comfortable with Meera Nair. As for co-stars, Nasir (Naseeruddin Shah) is very good as he is realistic. Madhuri and Amitji are also my favourites. But all the same I admire Balraj Sahani and Sanjeev Kumar. That's why I took their approach of reality and caught their way of acting. I must add that Guru Dutt is an actor who inspired me.

Q. Is there an actor you feel in competition with and why?

Ans. Paresh Rawal is that actor. I take the sense of competition in a very healthy and positive manner. What I like about him is that he is still doing theatre and he tries to justify whatever he does. I like him. He reads a lot and always researches, which I don't, and I would like to.

Q. What would you advise the newcomers in television industry?

Ans. See, if you get an opportunity then it's good but you should understand that television has no time to train you. So theatre is very important as that's where the raw material comes from. I am saying all this because real acting is all about reacting and preparing which all the trained actors do. So some kind of training is needed. To get the depth of acting which seems to be missing. And even for serials I would like to say that there is no need for copying the West or to do the same serials by adapting them all the time. Originality is always wanted so that the balance is maintained.

Q. What do you say for teamwork?

Ans. The whole approach should be that of a family and teamwork is the only way to get the best out of people. Everyone in a team should share a common goal.

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