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Screen vs. studies

Does success on the silver screen mean compromise on college education? PRINCE FREDERICK talks to some happening stars

I used to study on location — Laila

WHAT WE have today is a crop of young film stars — all early bloomers. True to their age, these barely-out-of-teen stars play college students. There is an irony here - these stars are too busy acting as college students to be real college students.

No doubt, their gain from tinsel town, considering that they are only a few years into the profession, is astonishing. Do the money and adulation compensate for the lack of college education?

"No. They do not. I can be a student only during the short time between `take' and `cut'. By no means can this substitute for the experience of being a `real' student in a college," says Dhanush, who has enrolled for a BCA correspondence course with the Madurai Kamaraj University.

My books gather dust — Dhanush

Dhanush continues, "Most college students are greatly impressed by film stars. They put them on a pedestal, oblivious of the fact that screen heroism is stage-managed. A college-topper is any day better than a reel-life hero in that he is not helped to the extent that the latter is. Take my case. I have not achieved what I have on my own steam. There is a team behind me. Most importantly, I was fortunate enough to work under good directors. In short, there is nothing great about my achievement."

Rathi is on the same page as Dhanush. Before stepping into tinsel town, she was studying at the Mathrushri Rambai Ambedkar Dental College and Hospital in Bangalore. "I have taken a break from dentistry to act. I have not altogether shut the door on college education. I will definitely go back and complete my course," says a confident Rathi.

Attending regular college is a luxury these stars can ill-afford. Therefore, they look for other ways to acquire knowledge. Most of them resort to distance education, and some turn to private tutors.

I have a private tutor — Sridevi

Sridevi Vijayakumar is preparing for her Std. XII (commerce group) Board exam with the assistance of a private tutor. And Trisha Krishnan is pursuing a degree by correspondence.

"Trisha was into a regular BBA course at the Ethiraj College. But sadly, her shooting schedules put paid to her desire to continue with her education. For example, during the making of `Lesa, Lesa', she was put through a straight schedule of 45 days in Ooty," says Trisha's mother Uma Krishnan.

There are some stars who are not sure if it is possible to live in a halfway house between the sets and the examination hall.

No time for college! — Trisha

"It is not so easy to do a balancing act. You cannot do one without detriment to the other. Acting is a demanding profession; it leaves little time for anything else," says Sneha.

Dhanush can only agree with her. For, in his study, tomes such as "The Comprehensive Guide to VBScript" by Richard Mansfield and "Dynamic HTML" by Rick Darnell are only gathering dust. "I have learnt that success in the tinsel world and good grades are goals that are in opposition to each other," quips Dhanush.

Be that as it may, there are some stars who have managed to juggle education and acting successfully.

Of what use are degrees? — Sneha

"I completed my BA Psychology degree, though I was acting in films then. I used to study on location," says Laila.

There are some others who question the very need for degrees that have little relevance to the industry they are working in.

"When actors and actresses are past their screen life, they can always get into any of the other areas of film-making, such as cinematography or costume designing. There are several options if you are only willing to look for them. I believe it is better to concern yourself with things you know. By keeping yourself abreast of the latest developments in film-making, you can prepare yourself for a second career within the industry itself. I have seen many film stars who are sufficiently motivated to do so," says Sneha.

But obviously, there is a lot more to college education than getting through exams and acquiring fancy degrees. It is also about lounging around in the student common rooms and playing pranks on one another. It is also about acquiring that valuable savoir faire through inter-collegiate competitions and extracurricular activities. Do stars miss these "by-products" of college education?

Trisha attaches a lot of value to interaction with one's peer group. "I do not miss my school and college friends because I keep in touch with them. We also get together regularly," she says.

I will be a dentist one day — Rathi

Sridevi does not miss her school friends, because she did not make many at school. "The sets were a home away from home. Coming from a family of film stars, I could say I grew up on the sets. Many of my friends and wellwishers are from the film industry. Probably for this reason, I do not miss my school friends," says the "Priyamana Thozhi" star.

As for social etiquette, the stars are of the opinion that it could be achieved by regular doses of reading.

In the future, Rathi may have to wade through the convoluted prose of medical journals, but for now she laps up the "lucid prose" of the "informative-and-inspiring" Reader's Digest, Sidney Sheldon and Ayn Rand.

Sneha likes to read psychology-related books. "Anything that will help understand people. I particularly enjoy reading books on body language."

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