Friday, May 1, 2015

As a Matter of Act...

I can act. If my parents has passed on genes that had given me any fighting chance, I bet that those of you who know me now would have bragged about the connection. "Yes, that famous actress of the 80's and 90's. Yes, she is my friend. Yes, she is fat now. Look, she gave my kid a Rolex," you could have said. But alas, the industry never got its star, and your child, the Rolex. The genes simply were not there. My ancestors were a prudish sort, it seems. More than a hundred years of multiple foreign rule, and apparently no one in my family humped anyone outside the flock. Not one Aryan managed to score with us. They probably got beaten with ladles for even daring to steal a glance. For some, it may be a matter of pride, but let's face it- what did it really achieve? No fair skin, no delicately molded features, no green eyes, no call sheet.

I can act. That's for sure. I do it all the time in the classroom. A withering look, then whoop, it becomes a coaxing smile, but look out, whoosh, here's a steel tipped glare, and presto, out comes a loving word. And after all that, I can still be polite to my boss. All in a day's work. But it's not just teaching. I've always been a bit interested in acting. I don't know why, really. When I was growing up, Tamil heroines were a sadly used lot. They did have talent, but they had more horrid roles than not to help them forget it. Perhaps that's why I wanted to try being one. They made it look so easy. By easy, I also mean a bit senseless. I can do senseless! (Stop nodding, please.) Let me explain.

There are many things yesteryear heroines had in common. One of them is a complete lack of peripheral vision. They'd be singing and dancing their hearts out, flinging head, hands and legs everywhere, but they'd completely miss the hero wearing a bright (and, in some cases, shiny) shirt three feet away, doing a really bad job of peeping. The fellows really missed the point of the exercise, with most of their bodies in plain sight and the tip of one ear hidden behind a tree. It reminds me of my cat. Her idea of being hidden was burying her head under the pillow, with her rear up in the air, tail wagging in glee at the thought of her super stealthiness. I found it hilarious when the hero finally revealed himself by stepping out at the end of the song sequence. Man, you didn't have to take an actual step. You could have just shifted an inch to the left or right. But I get it. She needed help spotting you. True love, right there. So, yeah, I can do that. Peripheral vision- goodbye!

                                           No clue. What did I tell you?!

Next, the art of being shy. I can drag all five toes of a foot on the ground, I can even make intricate patterns. I don't have to. One toe. That's all it took back then. Semi-circular movement. Bite the lower lip. Half-smile. Look down, up, then to the side. This last bit is tricky. If you muck it up and roll your eyes in a deranged fashion, you'll look like you're having a seizure. Or, you can pass it off as a symptom of your multiple personality disorder, where this other personality, who in spite of being inspired by a charming dancer, manifests as a complete psycho lunatic with poor body control. I'm sorry about the length of that sentence, but I've been dying to get it off my chest ever since I saw Chandramukhi. So yes, you can roll your eyes if you know that Rajnikanth is coming to save you. Otherwise, don't. Anyway, to completely nail this emotion, do make sure a part of your dress is readily accessible to be twisted and wrung. Done.

            If this was my other, my real personality would have shriveled and died.

Moving on to, well, moving. You had to be all kinds of flexible when it came to dancing back then. When I say flexible, I mean mentally. From swimming on dry ground to synchronized jerky robot movements, heroines shamelessly did it all. I'm not saying they should have been ashamed; I'm saying that one had to be absolutely devoid of the inclination to feel shame. That's admirable. And guess what- I don't have it either! Tick.

                                                               Bodies in motion

Getting kissed on the eyelids, nose, cheeks, chin and neck. Yes, it was a thing. Since the lip lock was not a part of Indian culture *cough kamasutra cough*, we made sure that it was always implied on screen. Kinda like how clothes on the floor tell steamy stories...wait, actually clothes on the floor in our movies meant rape, with shots of a crumpled flower in between or something. No, we used shots of toes intertwining on the bed for the real action. I always imagined that the hero and heroine were laid out on the bed in a V shape, with their feet fighting with each other while the rest of them chastely rested. So anyway, our kisses started with the hero grabbing the actress, giving her head a vigorous tilt, while simultaneously positioning himself with his back to the camera. His bushy hairstyle immensely helped in hiding the nothing that was happening. When he let her go, she would look dazed. I suspect it was easy to look that way because of the almost violent head tilting. No noses getting in the way there! So, you see, I don't mind a bit of action. (I use the word 'action' very loosely here.) Bring it on!

                           Only on the cheek. But she still thinks it's amazing!
                  (Please note that getting it with that subtitle was pure luck.)

Close-ups. This is the one area that gives me cause for self-doubt. Can I do it? In both emotional scenes and songs, the actor and actress had to perform for numerous close-up shots so that the director could successfully frighten his audience. Even in songs. La-la-la-la, BOOM, la-la-la-la-la, BOOM, la-la-la-la, BOOM... If you didn't get it, each 'Boom' is a shot of a face doing some ridiculously exaggerated expression. I'm shying away from this because of the horror that not only future generations, but my own family and friends would express. But in all great endeavors, sacrifices are necessary. If it happens to be your eyeballs, well, *shrug.


Hmm, I notice that I started out with a hypothetical acting career and ended up with a very real disregard for incinerating the eyesight of loved ones with my acting prowess. Forgive my getting carried away. For a few moments there, I felt younger and whiter. As I said, everything I've written refers to the the previous few decades. I'm not sure about today's movies. In half of them, you really have to be super talented because the roles have improved greatly. I don't think I'm super. (Well, actually, I do, but you know what I mean.) In the other half, you have to ooze enough sex appeal to completely disintegrate your self-respect. I'd like to keep the latter, thanks. With my damned ancestors refusing to put out, it's pretty much all I've got...

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