A trip down Bollywood boulevard…

I always say an actor has two personalities, when he has work and when has no work.  Right now i have work and my second film is slated for release anytime soon, so hence i might sound more optimistic than when i do not have work. Well, but that won’t prevent me from being what i am, a guy who calls spade a spade. My career here in Mumbai is almost a decade old and i have spent decent time analysing it more than the time i spent working here in our Industry called BOLLYWOOD.

I don’t know how many of my fellow actors have been asked by fans or strangers who happen to identify us at a public place (a mall, while traveling etc) “excuse me… are you in BOLLYWOOD?”  i have gotten it many times and till date i have no definitive answer to it ,  so i often joke and say no i am just somewhere around it, actually just outside it. And when i think about it i wonder how many of us can say that oh yeah “i am in Bollywood”.  When we sign a promising film /a project we start thinking ‘oh yeah this is it’, this one will be it and as we all know a film/project is like sperm only a few make it till the culmination point. And the ones who do not make it think in a blink we are stranded all by ourselves, reassuring oh “what happens happens for good, maybe god has something better for me in store.”

Bollywood is a big fascinating world where people can become overnight success, and with that success comes loads of money and fan following and adulation.

For the people outside Bollywood (taking a dig at those fans) Bollywood is a big fascinating world where people can become overnight success, and with that success comes loads of money and fan following and adulation. For lot of actors and artists which are not in the main stream or are not the A-lister actors, people have a vernacular term “voh chala nahi”. Now for the people inside Bollywood (pun) things are a little different, we believe no success will come overnight, we have to struggle, meet people who can get us work, be in the news, maintain a constant PR, be in shape, learn acting, learn dancing, learn action, be choosy, meet the right people, pick up the right project, and the list goes on… can all this be done overnight? No, not even for the star kids, even they have to work a lot in today’s competitive world. Also we know for fact that even if we are not the main stream actors or A-Listers like the Khans, we are still making a living , intact few are making a very good living even if lot of ‘Outside Bollywood People’ call them “chala nahi”.

Also one more question which I get from Outside Bollywood People (ha ha ha..) is that “it’s tough na to be an actor ? lot of compromise ?”   and i know what exactly what they mean but i always ask “sorry be specific please” and then they open up “lot of compromise na ? sleeping around and all that yaar , esp for girls.”  Much of the times, in-fact 80% of times, it comes from people who actually wanted to be an actor or a model but somehow couldn’t make it or gave-up pretty soon or some who had non supportive parents and were forced to get back to a conventional profession. And trust me, i know that feeling very well, i have been a part of 4 top Male Beauty Pageants in India and consistently i was in top 4-5 of all contests and consistently i was not the winner of any. The morale and demeanour of all the contestants before and after the announcement of title is very different, only one out of 15 or 20 contestants stays the same , rest go through a myriad of emotions, dejection, feeling of low self esteem and one common emotion and a negative one is “ it was rigged bro” , i mean even i had the same feeling during my first contest but by the third one i had become a ‘contest psychology guru’ and i realised it had nothing to do with favouritism or in-kind favours , though it had to do with marketing, sponsorship, a specific trait in a contestant which makes him suitable for an International Pageant ahead.

But Bollywood seems to be a mystery which not everyone can crack, for people both outside and inside it. There is no formulae for super success, i know a lot of artists who dedicatedly go to gym, dance class, voice and accent class, zumba class, acting workshops, never had unhealthy food, always seem to do the right thing, never had alcohol /drugs, in free time they read about Meisner techniques, Lee Strasberg technique and watch lot of Hollywood and French cinema, have endless discussions about films and actors who have made it big with their likeminded friends sitting in Prithvi’s Canteen eating the jam toast. And we have those, who came from a totally non filmy back ground, never went for an acting class in life, never had discussion about theatre and techniques of acting, did all the wrong things, never went for a single workout till the time their show was a big hit and the Influence of Instagram’s legion of pictures of women with hot booty and men with ripped bodies  made them realise that they are out of shape, had no concept of healthy food but ….but they have made it big, some of them real big, because hard work is important but one cannot over look the most important factor “LUCK”, i personally call it ‘probability’ owing to my scientific background, i will talk about it in my next paragraph, but i would like to clarify luck often favours those who work hard, but also  Luck can favour those who do not work hard.

Bollywood seems to be a mystery which not everyone can crack, for people both outside and inside it.

Probability, one who understands this will have a peaceful career, one who won’t might have many interpretations of our industry. I remember in 2011 I was onboard a very promising show for the biggest channel and my female lead had just quit her job and somehow after series of look tests and auditions bagged the role opposite me, she was from a totally non filmy background, was doing a corporate job and being creative by nature she was trying get into acting (at least as part time engagement), I remember she opening about her apprehensions as a total newcomer. She said “I have quit my job against wishes of my Boss and Family also much of my friends were of the opinion that signing up a new TV show is fraught with uncertainty, especially for me and that it can prove to be a bad decision. After days of analysing and sleepless nights of contemplating i somehow decided that i will go ahead and take the plunge”. I remember telling her “look this is a very promising show with one of the biggest names in industry and solid reputed Production house, and it’s already a month of shooting, we are doing good, we will rock the small screen.” Few days later we were informed that the show is being shelved, damn i was the face of the show took me a minute to absorb it in and suddenly i was reminded of my co-actor’s  apprehensions, flying right in front of my tunneled  vision (i get it momentarily when i hear bad news)  with vivid placards of the words she had said. Damn!!! I thought i will get a lot of work, just like i signed this show out of others which were being offered but what about her. She was crestfallen and we all gave her our typical clichés ‘don’t worry , look at positive side of life’ and all that corny lines, but somewhere in the logical compartment of my brain i knew “remember probability” if out of millions of working corporate girls she bagged a show of this caliber she will somehow get another one . It happened, she got a show which became a super hit and she is a household name. Success hit her when she was already planning to bail out . Our industry is like playing a game of Russian roulette.

For those who don’t know about it, it’s a game played between two people for money where they take turns pointing a revolver which has only one bullet in a chamber out of six chambers at their own head and pull the trigger, now one person dies and other takes away the money. The chances are that out of six times the players pull the trigger only once the bullet will be fired resulting in decisive outcome, one person lives and takes the money. Now let’s assume 10 people play the game among themselves, let’s say A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J are the names of people, A plays with B  and  C With D and so on, in the end 5 will survive now let’s say B,D,H, F, J survived, now let them play the game again and let’s say in the end it’s just between D vs J now J wins, so J is the undefeated champion and the lone survivor. Now let’s play the game all over again chances that J will win are 1/10 so are A’s and rest of them. What does it mean?  That chance plays a big role in who will win. What are the prerequisites of the game, you need a revolver, you need a place where you can play the game, you need money which will be your stake and foremost you need to have BALLS and understanding that anything can happen.

Our industry is like playing a game of Russian roulette.

So the revolver, place, money and balls translate into physique/figure, acting skills, popularity and ability to take risk in our industry. That’s a prerequisite and success of your Short Film, TV show, Film is Luck or what i call Probability at times , otherwise everybody will be making a Hit Show, A Hit Film or a Hit Series , yes ..yes …yes having solid prerequisites and hard work increase chances of delivering a hit project but one cannot ignore the Randomness and Luck involved. That is what works for one person does not work for another, Shahrukh Khan delivered hit films after doing a TV show. Lot of film actors have taken to TV these days. Big directors have given superhits and super flops, nobody absolutely nobody has ever consistently delivered all hit shows /films or Plays and that is the beauty of our industry and that it what makes Bollywood…Bollywood. And that luck gives hope to many people, we have so many flocking in from India and abroad to work in Mumbai for only one reason: Hope and who are these people?  They are called Risk-Takers ones who have BALLS, ones who left their business, family, jobs to work in an industry which is Like a Roulette room. So next time you judge us for anything at least respect the fact that we had BALLS.

The idea is to have your skill set ready and be prepared (this  i preach better than i practice lol ) because when the success hits you and takes you by surprise you might not have time to go and join a voice and accent class in Aaram Nagar. But whatever be it, never underestimate the power of Luck and keep working hard consistently. Good Luck and as i finish this article, i am reminded that i have to rush for my audition, a new project. This may be the one !

(Abhinav Shukla is an actor and his upcoming release is Aksar 2)

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