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Over the last decade, at least four of Bollywood’s top five heroines and former models — Anushka Sharma, Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif and Priyanka Chopra — as well as Arjun Rampal and John Abraham – have made their way into the A – list. Here’s looking at how the modelling brigade gets it right
“Models can’t really act! They look great, but the moment they open their mouth, you want to run away.” At an event held recently, actress Deepika Padukone mentioned that a popular director had made this statement way back in 2008, around the same time when a number of models entered the industry to explore acting as a career option.
The switch, though not a new phenomenon, what with the model roster including names of the likes of Zeenat Aman, Juhi Chawla, Jackie Shroff, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and even Salman Khan as those who made a stylish entry into tinsel town with their respective launch vehicles, after being a part of beauty pageants and ad campaigns. A host of television commercials, print advertisement and runway models in the past have left behind a career in the modelling industry, as they picked Bollywood as their final destination. But although the success rate of models turning actors is decent, a considerable number tried their luck and sank without a trace, clearly indicating that things are not all hunky dory when it comes to surviving as an actor. Gone are the days when winning a beauty pageant was the only pre -requisite for models to enter films. Today, models are not leaving any stone unturned to prove their mettle.
The ramp-to-riches journey of actors in the last decade like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif and male actors like John Abraham, who started their modelling career as teenagers and went on to become power performers by mid-20s, has inspired many models who are keen on taking the plunge. “In my mind, I always knew where my priorities were. I wanted to get into modelling, but I knew that cinema was my final destination,” stated Padukone. While not all of them started off by acing their acting skills, they worked hard on getting things right and turned limitations into their biggest assets. Be it Kaif’s dancing skills or Padukone’s dialogue delivery (her voice was dubbed in Om Shanti Om), most model turned actresses knew that one cannot sustain in the long run, only by depending on their looks, and focussed on other aspects to achieve their goals. Casting director Mukesh Chhabra mentioned that he is in awe of the way Padukone and Chopra’s careers have shaped up. “I think Deepika and Priyanka have turned out to be the biggest surprises, the ramp could offer to the screen. They do not fail to do justice to the characters that they play.”
A popular female model (on condition of anonymity) who has been around for more than a decade, mentioned that those who made it big had the X-factor, that worked in their favour. “I have seen their journey— be it Deepika, Anushka, John or Dino — it is nothing less than a fairytale. What really helped was the fact that these girls and guys worked hard to prove that they are much more than just a streak of glamour in some film. Their respective peak of success has paved the way for new models, who want to try their luck as an actor in the future,” she said.
In prep mode
If you ask those who work behind the scenes, a well maintained body and striking features are just an added feature. A lot depends on the individual’s acting skills, dialogue delivery, personality and of course, audience acceptance. Only three out of ten models who audition have the potential to work on their skills. “The rest just walk in thinking good looks mean everything,” quipped Chhabra. What works in the end is how you portray the character assigned, irrespective of whether he or she was a model or is a fresher. “People these days are only looking for a reflection of a character in an individual. If the model can do justice to a particular character, only then things can work. There are no special advantages of being a model these days. The effort and hard work involved is just as much as any other actor,” stated Chhabra. That is the primary reason why models are taking their preparations seriously and enrolling for a variety of workshops, instead of falling back on their good looks. While Padukone enrolled in Anupam Kher’s Actor Prepares institute for a diploma course, Kaif trained rigorously to get her moves right in the popular dance number, Sheila ki jawaani, thus becoming the most wanted dancing queen in Bollywood.
Kangana Ranaut, in an earlier interview with Screen, had mentioned that she took diction classes and underwent a scripting course in New York, only to enrich her knowledge as an actress. “Learning always helps an individual to grow,” she mentioned. Actress Nargis Fakhri, who was a part of America’s Next Top Model and did several campaigns before making her debut in Rockstar, believes that basic training in acting is extremely important. “You may just get typecast as a pretty girl. Some training, especially in verbal communication is extremely important. If you are a model and aspire to become an actress, please take some drama classes as well,” adds Fakhri. Chhabra agrees, while stating that the biggest drawback for a model is minimal preparations before taking the big leap. “One must do some homework and give your best shot at the audition. Nobody in today’s day and age has the time to look at auditions of unprepared actors,” he said.
Director Vikas Bahl, whose recently released Queen saw Lisa Haydon’s work earning appreciation, adds, “There is a lot of competition out there, and requirements for becoming a successful actor does not only include good looks. Lisa is already a big name in the modelling industry. But, she worked hard on her character.”
He believes that well prepared models who fit into a character have great potential since they are comfortable in front of the camera and have a good body language. Fakhri, shares the same view stating, “Understanding camera angles can be difficult and models know how it functions. We are in our comfort zone.”
Chhabra believes that their background really doesn’t matter. An artist is cast only when a certain style or personality of their own self fits the character perfectly along with good acting skills. Everything else is secondary. One cannot counter the fact that the changing trends and unstable nature of the profession, has compelled quite a few model turned actors to explore new opportunities and balance things out. After the Ash – Sush wave, not many pageant winners have made it big in the last couple of years. The writing on the wall is clear— to survive in Bollywood, you need more than just good looks.
With inputs from Geety Sahgal