For a long time now, we have spoken about how the line between commercial and off-beat cinema has narrowed. The truth, however, is that there’s still a long way to go. The number of screens that a commercial film backed by a big studio with big stars gets is way ahead of what a small budget film with character actors gets. And thus, according to me, being a part of commercial cinema for an actor who is recognised for doing art-house or parallel cinema is as important as doing an off-beat film.
The acceptance level of the audience for off-beat or independent cinema has increased in recent times but the number of big players and people with moneybags who show confidence in smaller films also needs to increase. A commercial film gets a wider release with 1000 to 4000 prints, while smaller budget films remain limited to 100-300 prints. Even on the promotional and marketing front, a lot of money is put in when a film is backed by a big studio and has bigger stars; while an off-beat movie’s budget is restricted. Thus, it becomes easier for an actor of a commercial movie to reach out to the masses as compared to actors like us.
Whether one accepts it or not, the truth is that every actor wants a wider acceptance. Getting recognised at a shopping mall or a feedback from a passerby about one’s role in a film or a ‘selfie’ clicked by a fan is very gratifying to an actor. But, for actors like us, getting mobbed would be like asking for too much!
You don’t necessarily need to be the “hero” in a commercial film to connect with the masses; even a small but significant role becomes worth remembering. Johny Lever has never played the hero but his acceptance among the audience is much more than some of the actors who play the main lead. He has a huge fan following because the masses at large recognise him, thanks to the number of commercial films he has done. Having said that, I would also like to add that he always adds his own touch to the roles that he portrays, thus adding a lot to the film.
As an actor, it is important to do all kinds of cinema, but at the same time the kind of role you are doing in the film also matters. One shouldn’t do a big-budget commercial cinema just for the sake of doing it. For instance, as an actor, I wouldn’t differentiate between scripts of a commercial and an off-beat film. The nature of the film comes later. At the initial stage, the prerogative is to understand the role that I have to do. My concern will be how intrinsic and challenging is my character to the plot, or how would the role add to the overall story of the film and thus to my profile.
Also the box-office run of a movie plays a huge role in changing the fortunes of a film, be it a big-budget extravaganza or a small one. Although, Nawazuddin was outstanding in Black Friday, Peepli [Live] and New York, he gained recognition only after the commercial success of Kahaani. Now with Kick, he’s reaching out to a much wider audience irrespective of the length of his role. The idea should be to stand out and connect with the audience through your performance, be it in a commercial film or an offbeat one.
As told to Priyanka Bhadani