Holding an acting workshop before the actual shoot of a film has become a norm with Tamil filmmakers.

Tamil cinema is undergoing a sea change. An increasing number of filmmakers is now looking at holding workshops for their actors before beginning work on their projects. And the move seems to be paying off.

The idea, which has been advocated by veterans in the film industry such as Kamal Haasan, did not find favour with many until recently. However, it has many takers today, one of whom is Venkey, director of Konjam Koffee Konjam Kadhal, which is to hit the screens soon.

Says Venkey: “I held a month-long workshop for the artistes working on KKKK. First, a workshop bolsters the confidence of artistes, especially newcomers who are sometimes camera shy. Second, as a result of knowing the complete script, they are aware of their cues. All these helped us when we finally got down to shoot the film. The artistes knew what I wanted from them and could deliver it in the first take itself. As a result, I finished the talkie portion in a matter of just 35 days. There wasn’t a single shot that was unnecessary and therefore we were able to cut down on wastage. I have saved at least 20 -25 per cent on the overall production cost thanks to the workshop.”

Setting the stage

Raja, who is now directing Uyir Mozhi, a romantic tale spun using scientific facts pertaining to human DNA, agrees with Venkey.

“I have six newcomers in my film and the 90-day workshop I conducted with the help of theatre artiste Mime Gopi stood me in good stead. We have to understand the fact that an increasing number of new entrants to the industry don’t have a theatre background. Gone are the days when people began their acting career in theatre and graduated to tinsel town. In such a scenario, a workshop really helps. It enables the artistes to know what the director wants and the latter in turn gets an opportunity to test each artiste. I finished my film in 45 days. Had I not conducted the workshop, I might have had to shoot for 200 days,” says Raja.

However, not everybody thinks that workshops are mandatory. Balaji, director of the immensely popular Kadhalil Sodhappuvadu Eppadi (KSY), says, “No doubt, workshops are useful. But it is not always possible to hold one before every project. It helps when the cast largely consists of newcomers, but established artistes such as Siddharth don’t have to be put through their paces. It primarily depends on the artistes and the kind of characters they are required to portray. In KSY, Siddharth had to play a character akin to him in real life. So, I did not feel a workshop was necessary. Moreover, the time we had on our hands was limited.” Besides, Balaji points out that when one opts for a workshop, the chances of losing out on spontaneity are more. “When we were working on KSY, I gave the two boys accompanying Siddharth’s character in the film an idea of what I expected from them. I made them rehearse a couple of scenes to make them feel comfortable. The spontaneity and the improvisation they came up with had to be seen to be believed. Hence, I feel, it is sometimes best to allow the actors essay their roles instinctively,” he says.

Different view

Actor Shanthanoo though holds a different view. The actor who is extremely confident about the success of his forthcoming film, Ammavin Kaipesi, is all for the workshop.

“The confidence arises from the kind of training we got at the workshop conducted by director Thankar Bachan. An actor’s mind is fed with the dialogues of the film at the workshop. It helps him prepare for what he has to do. I feel a workshop is bound to help even the most fantastic of actors. Every actor needs at least a week to prepare for a character he is to play. Why not make use of a workshop,” asks Shanthanoo, and adds, “After understanding the benefits of a workshop, I have, in fact, decided to request for one before every film of mine.”

That statement clearly reflects the mood of not just Shanthanoo but a vast section of the Tamil film industry.