An Actor Prepares

Farhan Akhtar,flashing across the finish line in the trailer of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,I must confess,was startling for the similarity he bore to the Flying Sikh.

Written by Priyanka Sinha Jha | Published: July 5, 2013 4:52:42 am

Farhan Akhtar,flashing across the finish line in the trailer of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,I must confess,was startling for the similarity he bore to the Flying Sikh. However,this uncanny resemblance to India’s athletic champion is no coincidence,rather,it has been achieved with a meticulous diet and training carried out over a period of two years,and the results are there for all to see.

Even Milkha Singh,on whose life the film is based,has endorsed Akhtar’s transformation as complete. In fact,Akhtar reportedly even adapted Singh’s running technique into his own. The film will release next week but there is more in store.

Priyanka Chopra,even as we speak,is getting in character for the biopic on boxer Mary Kom,complete with training and getting a look as close to the boxer’s as possible.

South Indian/ Mumbaikar Vidya Balan just passed off as a loud,Punjabi housewife laced with several “hains”,while the urbane Deepika Padukone will shortly be seen delivering her lines in heavy duty South Indian accent in

Chennai Express.

In recent times,almost all Bollywood A-listers have staked their claim to this transformational method acting club though most turns initially were about essaying the physically challenged — Hrithik Roshan in Guzaarish was a wheelchair-bound paraplegic,and Ranbir Kapoor was a deaf-mute in Barfi! Though,of course,the most drastic of them all was Amitabh Bachchan as the progeria-ridden child,Auro,in Paa. The girls are not too far behind what with Priyanka Chopra,Rani Mukerji upping the ante with difficult roles of an autistic girl in Barfi! and a blind and mute girl in Black respectively.

Increasingly,there has been more method in the madness of Hindi films especially with regards to the look and feel of characters even in films where they are not otherwise challenged in any way. Besides acquiring the character appropriate physique,a lot of thought and effort goes into the wardrobe,hairstyle and the accent.

Hindi movies have come a long way from the time when sab kuch chalta tha. Distinguishing features were nebulous. A villager always wore dhoti-kurta and had a buddhu haircut,while the universal choice of clothes for village belles were ghagra-cholis and they all spoke the same humka-tumka Awadhi lingo. Any character that originated in the south of Vindhyas had to have an ai-ai-yo thrown in and everyone was pretty much covered within these broad strokes. No longer. Actors in prep mode these days are really pushing the envelope,some with greater success than others.

Going back slightly,the genesis of physical transformation as a tool for method acting in Hindi cinema lies within the rooted-in-reality art movies popularised by Shyam Benegal,Govind Nihalani and others. The characters in their films looked and felt the part and belonged to the world that stories were set in. Be it Shabana Azmi in Ankur or Leela Naidu in Trikal,this accuracy of emulation was perhaps a greater requirement for cinema that showcased real life as opposed to the more escapist films. Masala movies on the other hand,customised their characters according to the star essaying the role. Over time,however,an authentic look and feel to its characters have become integral to Hindi cinema both escapist and realist. The prep that goes into getting it right is as much a talking point for a biopic like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag as it is for superhero flick Krrish 3. While such efforts may not qualify for the method-acting bracket,the process has certainly gone way beyond a six-pack building routine.

As Hollywood actror Reese Witherspoon put it,“The joy one gets as actors is out of transforming ourselves into something that’s not necessarily anything true to ourselves. And it’s power,not being yourself and being in the role.”

Clearly,Bollywood is signing

up for some of that transformation-high too.

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