A year ago, Niranj was working as a software engineer while Subin Subramaniam was running a small business. Now, both of them are part of a completely different industry. They will be seen in the upcoming Dulquer Salman-starrer ABCD . During the transition, something happened to them. They call it the Actlab, short form for Actor’s Training Laboratory.
These two are part of a set of youngsters who are slowly bursting into the Malayalam film industry under the guidance of Actlab, a novel venture in training actors. The brainchild of N.K. Sajeev, a visiting faculty of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Pune, it conducts regular acting workshops all over Kerala.
Mr. Sajeev says it is a misconception that acting cannot be taught. “Every person has an innate talent to act. But societal conditioning creates certain blocks. In our workshops, the first attempt is to remove these blocks through various techniques. On the other hand, someone with a theatre background needs to be taught about the thin line that separates performance on screen and the stage. The process of overcoming the body’s memory is physical. Acting is not just dialogue delivery, it is also about understanding silence,” says Mr. Sajeev. The camps started in 2009 at Peechi in Thrissur. Each camp is typically 10 days long, with everyone staying together for the whole stretch. His students vouch for they way they were transformed after attending the camps, many of them being repeated attendees.
“I have attended four of his acting camps. More than the passion for acting, I had wanted to get into the industry mainly for the fame that goes with it. But the training here focusses on the qualities of the person, of being true to one’s emotions. That changed the way I looked at acting as a career,” says Hakkim Shahjahan from Thodupuzha, a commerce graduate.
The workshops helped C. Biju, another student, overcome his apprehensions about approaching directors for auditions. He is one of the nine actors handpicked from Actlab by director Blessy for his upcoming Kalimannu . Directors such as M. Padmakumar visit the camps regularly on the lookout for new talent. The exercises here are unconventional. On Sunday for example, all trainees were handed over a photograph of a person and were asked to develop his history, a situation around him, and act it out.
Sajeev derives satisfaction from seeing his students on screen. Some of those who he has trained over the years include Raj Kumar Yadav (who played Govind in Kai Po Che ), Vinay Forrt who played one of the main characters in Shutter and the two main child artistes in T.D. Dasan VI B .
Actlab hones acting skills, smoothens the path to tinsel town.