Tisca Chopra speaks about her first book, Acting Smart, a guide on what it takes to make it in the film industry

Tisca Chopra knows what it is like to have navigated the treacherous world of Bollywood and emerge from it stronger and wiser to carve out a niche for herself. Even though she made her debut with Platform, it was her sensitive portrayal of a mother of a dyslexic child in Taare Zameen Par, a few years later, that won her instant recognition. Tisca Taare Zameen Parwent onto act in other films such as Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji and Nandita Das’s Firaaq.

Tisca’s first book, Acting Smart, shows future actors on how to go about making a career in Bollywood. Written in an engaging and anecdotal style, the book took four years to complete. “I spoke with a lot of people, Shabana Azmi, Raju Hirani, Boman Irani, and even television actors.”

“I had some reservations in writing the book because I am not a superstar so how am I qualified to write about making a career in Bollywood? I, however, have the benefit of failure. I re-invented myself and my journey, I met so many wonderful people and worked with some of the best people in the industry.”

She says the book is not about how to be a star, or about emulating famous actors. “The book will make a person a working actor. Also, if a director wanted another Shah Rukh Khan, they would get Shah Rukh Khan! Being an actor means to hone your skills and develop your strengths.”

Tisca says it was important to write this book for a number of reasons. “There’s a great deal of information people get about other fields. Entertainment is largely an unchartered territory. There’s a disregard towards acting, a non-seriousness attached to it. But it is a big money spinner.”

The casting couch is a reality in Bollywood, Tisca says adding: “It is there in Bollywood, but it is also there in every other profession. It’s because everyone is interested in what happens in the lives of actors that it gets highlighted more. While many people get involved in casting couch, it may or may not result in anything concrete. For success, you need a vision, the ability to re-invent yourself.”

While choosing roles, the story is paramount for Tisca. “Films are a director’s medium. You need to have the same vision as the director’s, and you also have to get along with the people you work with.”

When it comes to preparing for roles, Tisca says the role largely dictates how it should be performed. “In Ankur Arora Murder Case I play the role of a woman who loses her child to medical negligence. I didn’t prepare for it, how do I prepare a role in which a mother loses her child? I went with the flow on the sets itself and I preferred this role to Taare Zameen Par. But the reach of Ankur Arora Murder Case wasn't as good as Taare Zameen Par.”

And when asked about her first tryst with acting, as baby Krishna for a school play. “I felt very much at home,” she reminisces, “and I stared at the audience with absolute joy.” Tisca’s upcoming films include Qissa, a remake of the Marathi film Kaksparsh, in which she works with Arvind Swamy and Rahasya.

Acting Smart is a HarperCollins Publication.