For many actors and actresses, along with learning their lines and finding their marks, they also have to master new skills and abilities to make their character true to life. Sometimes it is a new language, sometimes it is something they always wished they had learned and sometimes it is something they never would have imagined. We thought we would share a few of the skills some of Bollywood’s biggest stars have gained through the roles they have played as told to Subhash K Jha.
Bipasha Basu: “For Dhoom 2, I finally learnt to swim. Earlier, I couldn’t even get into the water. Swimming was required for a surfing shot. Finally, though I didn’t have to apply my new skill because the sea was too rough. But at least I learnt how to swim.”
Aftab Shivdasani: “For Vikram Bhatt’s Red, I had to work on my body. I went through rigorous training and had to be on a strict diet for several months. Though it required immense discipline I enjoyed it tremendously.”
Shabana Azmi: “For Morning Raga, I had to master the Carnatic Swara. It was a terrifying and frustrating learning process. But it felt very very exhilarating when I got it right. Thank God for my guru Ranjini and her patience and dedication.”
Urmila Matondkar: “For Naina, I had to learn and understand the complete body language of the blind. I also got to understand the psychological changes and physical disturbances in a person after she gains her vision. It was then that I realized how much we take our senses for granted.”
Victor Banerjee: “The one skill that I had the hardest time learning for a role was a bit of a joke. You see, I had to learn to speak Urdu for my first film ever in Hindi Shatranj Ke Khiladi, and that too for the mighty Satyajit Ray. I had three Urdu teachers, Shama Zaidi, Javed Siddiqui and Saeed Jaffrey, all spewing venom and tearing me apart because Urdu with a Bengali accent is certainly peculiar. And another unique skill was for a Bengali film Pratidaan where I had to learn wild the lathi to play the baddie while Naseer and Sharmila played the romantic lead.”
Hema Malini: “For Kamal Amrohi’s Razia Sultan, I had to learn to speak Urdu, and I really enjoyed myself. Ironically I hardy spoke in the film, ha ha.”
Shilpa Shetty: “For Indra Kumar’s Rishtey, I had to learn to speak Hindi with a Marathi accent. That was more difficult than anything I had to face in Big Brother.”
Lara Dutta: “I had to learn to speak French for Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. I absolutely loved it!! I got to learn the cheesiest pick-up lines.”
Rajit Kapur: “To play the character of Sadanand Borde in my only Marathi film, Limited Manuski, I had to ride a scooter. I didn’t know how to. I reached Pune a day earlier to start practicing. I didn’t know on the first day of shooting that I had to drive through the crowded streets of old Pune. I was very nervous at the outset. I thought I’d knock someone down. But eventually I had a ball.
Riteish Deshmukh: “For Anubhav Sinha’s Cash, I had to learn street luge. It’s actually sleeping on a skateboard and chasing cars. Risky but exciting.”
Madhavan:“I have had to learn just one skill as an actor. And that was for the Tamil version of Mani Ratnam’s Yuva. For the role of the street lout, I had to walk, talk and abuse like a goonda. I spent days with guys in the chawls, told them to brief me on the art of appearing uncouth on screen without overdoing it. My entire body language changed.”
Raima Sen: “For Aparna Sen’s The Japanese Wife, I had to learn how to do domestic chores. It wasn’t enough to just fake it. My character actually had to LOOK like she does house work. My director needed that to show in my body language. So I did the actual cleaning, sweeping etc every day till these chores were ingrained in me. And I had to look graceful while doing it.”
Vidya Balan: “The toughest thing that I had to learn for a role would have to be plying the wheelchair effortlessly for Guru, and that too with one foot twisted. That’s when I realized how many of our physical abilities we take for granted.”
Amitabh Bachchan: “For the first time in my career I had to learn a skill for Sanjay Bhansali’s Black. I learnt the sign language. I think this silent but utterly eloquent way of communicating helped me become a better human being and actor.”