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by Monojit Lahiri June 2 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 49 secs

Monojit Lahiri explores the complexities, highlighting the nuanced distinctions and unique challenges actors face when moving between different mediums.

The art of acting is a dynamic discipline that blends talent, technique, and emotional intelligence. Actors bring characters to life, creating a bridge between the script and the audience’s imagination.

Method acting involves actors inhabiting their characters by drawing on their own emotions and memories. This technique was popularized by the Group Theatre in the 1930s and further developed by Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Sanford Meisner. It focuses on emotional recall, where actors use personal past experiences to evoke the emotions their characters need. Often, actors will stay in character offstage or off-camera to maintain authenticity and deeply connect with their roles.

In contrast, non-method acting encompasses various techniques that do not involve such deep immersion. Classical acting, rooted in theatre traditions, emphasizes external performance aspects like voice, movement, and stage presence. Training for classical acting includes studying classical texts, voice modulation, and diction. Technical acting focuses on gestures, facial expressions, and vocal delivery, often mimicking external behaviours without necessarily feeling the associated emotions. Another approach within non-method acting is physical acting, which uses body language and movement to convey emotions and intentions. Techniques from practitioners like Jacques Lecoq or Anne Bogart emphasize spatial awareness, rhythm, and physical interactions.

Sir Laurence Olivier is often regarded as one of the greatest actors of the 20th century. Starting his career in theatre, Olivier's remarkable performances in Shakespearean roles like Hamlet and Othello earned him acclaim. He transitioned to cinema with ease, starring in and directing film adaptations of Shakespearean plays, and won three Academy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Meryl Streep began her career in theatre with productions such as "Trelawny of the Wells" and "The Cherry Orchard." Her breakthrough in film came with "The Deer Hunter" (1978) and "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979). Streep has since become one of Hollywood's most celebrated actresses, She has won three Academy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, 9 Golden Globe Awards, three Emmy Awards, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards as well as nominations for 7 Grammy Awards and a Tony Award.

The universe of acting is vast, with numerous actors making their mark across different mediums—commercial cinema, art house films, television, and stage. The transition from theatre to cinema can be challenging, and while some actors have navigated this path with ease, others have faced difficulties. Bharat Dabolkar, an adman, theatre, and screen actor, said: “Boss, they are two different planets and the twain can never meet!” Drawing from his extensive experience, Dabholkar explains, “Films offer grand escapism and fantasy, with larger-than-life themes and glamorous heroines captivating audiences. Although OTT platforms have introduced intelligent content and fresh talent, stars remain irreplaceable due to their aura, glamour, and charisma. TV actors, familiar and beloved as they are, become part of our daily lives during a show’s run but quickly fade from memory once it ends. Film stars, on the other hand, retain a lasting allure.”

A titan of Indian theatre, Naseeruddin Shah made a significant impact on Bollywood cinema. His early theatre work with the National School of Drama laid a strong foundation for his film career. Shah's roles in "Masoom" (1983), "Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro" (1983), and "A Wednesday!" (2008) showcased his depth, earning him numerous awards, including the Padma Bhushan. Irrfan Khan's roots in theatre with the National School of Drama translated into a successful film career in Bollywood and Hollywood. Known for his unique acting style, Khan's films include "Maqbool" (2003), "Paan Singh Tomar" (2012), and "The Lunchbox" (2013). His Hollywood ventures like "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) and "Life of Pi" (2012) further cemented his global reputation.

Starting her acting career in theatre, Konkona Sen Sharma made a successful transition to films. Her breakout role in "Mr. and Mrs. Iyer" (2002) won her a National Film Award. Sharma's work in "Page 3" (2005), "Omkara" (2006), and "Lipstick Under My Burkha" (2016) has been critically acclaimed, establishing her as a significant force in Indian cinema.

From TV stardom to the big screen is a different story. In Hollywood David Caruso became a household name with his role as Detective John Kelly on "NYPD Blue." Despite his TV success, his attempt to transition to film with movies like "Kiss of Death" (1995) and "Jade" (1995) did not resonate with audiences, leading him back to television where he found success again with "CSI: Miami." Similarly, when Katherine Heigl's role as Dr. Izzie Stevens on "Grey's Anatomy" made her a popular TV star made her foray into cinema with romantic comedies such as "27 Dresses" (2008) and "The Ugly Truth" (2009), it did not yield lasting success, and she struggled to maintain her big-screen presence.

In Bollywood, Amar Upadhyay rose to fame with his role as Mihir Virani on the TV show "Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi." Despite his TV popularity, his transition to Bollywood films like "Dhoondte Reh Jaoge" (1998) and "Dahshat" (2000) was unsuccessful. Rajeev Khandelwal gained immense popularity with his role in the TV show "Kahiin To Hoga." Though his film debut in "Aamir" (2008) was critically praised, his subsequent movies failed to make a mark at the box office, limiting his success in Bollywood.

Joyoshree Arora, renowned for her roles in radio, TV, and film, and a pivotal character in the pioneering Indian serial “Humlog”, shared her perspective. Arora emphasizes the need for adaptability: “They are two different mediums and to adapt and adjust is the key. Filmmakers often cast TV stars based on their immense popularity, which can lead to disappointing results. Exceptions are rare, with few TV stars making a significant impact on the big screen. Despite the rise of OTT platforms offering diverse content, this trend persists. Even admired actors like Pankaj Tripathi face challenges in ensuring a film’s commercial success.”

While some actors effortlessly straddle multiple platforms, many find themselves confined to one, influenced by audience perceptions and industry biases. Shivangi Joshi, known for her role in “Balika Vadhu”, shares her thoughts: “Filmmakers often judge TV actors. They have preconceived notions but, I feel, given a chance, they can do very well in any medium.”

Acclaimed director Vinod Pande, known for his groundbreaking serials Reporter and Air Hostess, and films like “Ek Baar Phir” and “Yeh Nazdikian”, discussed missed opportunities. “A golden chance to elevate talented TV actors, thereby boosting their confidence and encouraging mainstream filmmakers to cast them in substantial roles, was overlooked by the media. The focus remains on current sensations and unconventional themes, neglecting nuanced acting and complex subjects. This results in gifted TV and parallel film actors being sidelined and ignored”.

Acting requires adaptability. While some actors manage to cross the boundaries of different mediums, the industry and audience perceptions often create barriers that are difficult to overcome. The debate continues, but one thing remains clear: the craft of acting is as complex and varied as the stories it seeks to tell.

What are your thoughts, esteemed readers?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.

Monojit Lahiri Complexities Highlights Challenges Actors Performance Talent Technique Emotional Intelligence Art Script Imagination Memories Characters Group Theatre Lee Strasberg Stella Adler Sanford Meisner Emotional Recall Stage Theatre Film Television Streaming Platforms Method Acting Immersion Theatre Traditions Voice Movement Voice Modulation Diction Gestures Facial expressions Mimicking Behaviours Jacques Lecoq Anne Bogart Rhythm Sir Laurence Olivier Shakespearean Hamlet Othello Cinema Adaptations Plays Academy Awards Meryl Streep Trelawny of the Wells The Cherry Orchard The Deer Hunter (1978) Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) Hollywood Actress BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards Emmy Awards Screen Actors Guild Awards Grammy Awards Tony Awards Art House Films Bharat Dabholkar Adman Escapism Fantasy Glamour OTT platforms Hero Heroine Film Stars Indian theatre Naseeruddin Shah Bollywood National School of Drama Masoom (1983) Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983) A Wednesday! (2008) Padma Bhushan Irrfan Khan Maqbool (2003) Paan Singh Tomar (2012) The Lunchbox (2013) Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Life of Pi (2012) Konkona Sen Sharma Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002) National Film Award Page 3 (2005) Omkara (2006) Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016) Indian cinema David Caruso NYPD Blue Kiss of Death (1995) Jade (1995) CSI: Miami Katherine Heigl Grey's Anatomy Romantic Comedy 27 Dresses (2008) The Ugly Truth (2009) Amar Upadhyay Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi Popularity Dhoondte Reh Jaoge (1998) Dahshat (2000) Rajeev Khandelwal Kahiin To Hoga Debut Aamir (2008) Joyoshree Arora Radio TV Humlog Filmmakers Pankaj Tripathi Shivangi Joshi Balika Vadhu Vinod Pande Reporter Air Hostess Ek Baar Phir Yeh Nazdikian Media Craft