Can a training programme help aspiring actors achieve their ambition? Several private institutes think the answer is ‘yes’, and offer courses in acting.

Acting holds a fascination for almost everyone. How many times have you cuddled under your sheets and furtively repeated your favourite hero’s dialogue or peeked into the mirror to try out that gesture that the female lead did in her recent smash-hit movie?

Transcending age and background, the flair for acting has trickled down to various sections. For those who want to take their performances out of the privacy of their own homes and make acting a career, a number of institutes have sprung up to offer some formal training.

Institutes such as Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata, and Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, remain highly competitive for scores of aspirants across the country.

For the students of Tamil Nadu, however, there are not as many options. M.G.R. Film and Television Institute, the only government-run institute in the State, scrapped acting courses seven years ago. While the government is planning to revive the course, many students who now pursue other courses in the institute are actually nurturing the dream of becoming actors.

But a handful of private institutes have come to the aspirants’ rescue and offer courses that train students in acting. Those who dream of gaining a foothold in the film industry can try Balu Mahendra’s recently launched Balu Mahendra Institute of Film Technology, which grooms students in various areas under the headship of the ace director.

SRM University’s SRM Sivaji Ganesan Film and Television Institute will offer a Diploma in Film Acting (DFT), which will deal with the finer nuances of acting, starting October.

“The opportunities for actors are immense. Films are now being financed by multinationals, and according to a survey, there will be need for four lakh actors shortly,” said D. Balaji, who will be heading the Film Institute. The one-year programme will be segmented into two semesters — each will have theory papers that include speech and diction, body language, dance, stunts and voice modulation.

But laughing and crying on cue are not as easy as it looks on screen, according to LV Prasad Film and TV Academy director K. Hariharan. “There are at least a dozen film institutes that offer acting courses in the city. But very few are equipped with the necessary faculty support to train the students. Most institutes only give training on fighting stunts and dance movements,” he said.

The sheer increase in the number of private channels has also opened a lot of avenues for aspiring actors in television serials, he said. His institute, which now offers courses on the technical aspects of filmmaking, will come up with an acting course soon, he said.

If fame lures people into acting, the financial aspect is also encouraging. On an average, a television serial actor would draw anywhere between Rs.1,500 to 10,000 a day.

Theatres, which are seen as the launchpad for many aspirants, are witnessing as much patronage in the city as the films. Koothu-P-Pattarai, considered to be one of the best training platforms for aspirants, offers a three-month course in acting.

“The training is all about the way Koothu-P-Pattarai works. There are no theory programmes. We basically help them use their body, heart and mind together on stage,” said Babu, one of the anchors of the programme at Koothu-P-Pattarai.

From passionate actor aspirants to lovers of theatre, he has seen a variety of people taking up the programme. “Some even take this up as a personality development course. There is enough space for other institutes to come up with acting as the scope, as interest is only on the rise,” he said.

At the university level, Pondicherry University offers M.P.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D degrees in Drama and Theatre Arts.

Most private institutes do not have any age limit for admissions and admit students who passed class XII.

“Placements are a major issue in small institutes. Most institutes offer three to six month courses, but getting a chance in television channels and films is near-impossible for many students,” said Anita Bharadwaj, who completed a crash-course in acting. “There are plenty of aspirants who are fighting their way into the film and television industry. While a degree in acting is not yet an added advantage, the situation is clearly changing. Trained actors, on any day, will have an edge over others.”