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The Magic Circle
Sudipto Chattopadhyay
Posted by - Sudipto Chattopadhyay
Posted in - Pankh
Post Date - March 27th, 2010

The magic circle is a term that I learnt whilst doing theatre in my formative years. When I started doing the acting workshop for my film Pankh, with the two newcomers Maradona Rebello and Amit Purohit, I created that circle first before even starting with the rudimentary element of the teaching methodology. To form this circle, the members have to sit on the floor and draw an imaginary circle outside the group. Once you are in the circle, you have to trust each other completely and believe that this is the most exclusive group in the whole wide world. You shed your inhibitions, fears and feel a complete sense of bonding. The teacher has to feel that the students are like his own children and the students have to overcome their sense of ego and surrender with absolute faith. We three formed that circle.

I was a virtual tyrant with these two kids. They took all my admonitions without ever raising a murmur of protest. This despite the fact that it was a completely new experience for them. They had come to work in a film and not to a military academy. I believe that actors should be trained rigorously so that they can completely dispossess themselves of any ego and effortlessly become any character they are asked to portray. Ideally an actor should be like water, acquiring the shape of the vessel it is poured into. But popular Hindi cinema does not encourage that. I was lucky to have not one but two kids with scant knowledge of films understanding the larger picture and believing in me. I suspect it was largely due to my dramatic persona and the way I spoke. There were no profound deliberations or realizations.

We did the regular theatre training routine. Before working on the roles they were meant to play, they worked on body language and articulation. After a while work became play and both of them started enjoying it. Initially Maradona had a problem. Though, he was the younger of the two, he had dabbled in some amateur theatre and thought that that he did not need to ‘learn’ acting. He thought I was teaching him how to imitate me. When I explained to him that at the end of the day people would see him on screen and not me, he eventually understood. Amit never ever even complained.

After the workshops would get over, almost every day, I would make them stay back and watch an international film. That opened their eyes further. They saw for themselves different methods of acting adopted by actors from across continents. The workshops turned into a playground. The magic circle became a comfortable refuge inside which reality was being altered constantly.


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