Understanding Acting

Tilda Swinton, one of the most versatile and gifted actors of our time

In Cinema, there are no good actors. They are either great or average. Or bad. For a director, it’s important to know the difference between an average actor and a great actor.

An average actor is someone who does great impersonations. She always gets the gestures right, her mannerism is perfect, the way she walks, talks and dusts her cigarette, it’s all very charismatic. But she fails to illuminate the interior of the character she is playing. As a result the audience watches ‘her’ performing on screen instead of watching her ‘character’. It leads to what we know as overacting.

A great actor on the other hand is someone who assists the audience’s understanding of the character. She is able to achieve this by presenting the character’s inner world to the audience, in the most natural, humanistic way, and in the process making herself and her character indistinguishable from each other. A great actor never relies upon superficial impersonation and animated caricaturing. She transforms herself into her character. Anything that she does on screen, she does as the character and not as the actor. A great actor DOES NOT ACT. She BECOMES.

I think overacting roots from insecurity, when the actor is not confident in her abilities. Let me clarify, overacting does not necessarily mean loud acting or vice versa. Great acting performances have been delivered by intense, over-the-top, loud acting in Cinema, e.g. Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface(1983), or Isabella Adjani as Anna in Possession(1981). Overacting is when the performance becomes gimmicky and predictable, when the truth is lost in the whole act of cliches, the kind of incredulity that separates the actor from the character. Film is a cruel medium. It magnifies overacting.

Case Study: During one of the ‘Directing Actors’ workshops in my film school, before she went into Stanislavksi and method acting, our lecturer, who also happened to be a Czech actress, informed us that she has hidden the white-board marker pen somewhere in the classroom. She asked us students to volunteer as actors who will ‘act’ to find and steal the marker. Two of my classmates volunteered and both of them tried to act out the skit with their best abilities, which were terrible to be honest, bless my friends, and both failed to actually find the marker.

In the end the lecturer took the marker out which was hidden behind a switch board. And she told us something very important. She reasoned that Lewis and Jure could not find the markers because they took it as an acting assignment, and they ‘acted’ as if they were searching. In reality they were not searching, they were just playing a game, pretending to search. A true actor would not pretend to search but actually search the entire classroom and not leave a stone unturned. A true actor will become the searcher instead of acting to be the searcher. That lesson taught me more about film acting than anything else.

PS: I have met Tilda. Biggest fanboy moment of my life.


Sonya Lano’s New Book Releasing On August 16th

“Rich girls don’t kiss on dares,” I manage. “Too scared?” “Too much to lose.” Which is too close to the truth. He huffs a mirthless laugh. “Sounds like asshole father propaganda to me. Does the Coalition know what he made you?” “They do now. I’m being reclassified as we speak. Rich girl dissident. Plays with […]

via The Pretty Mask in My Closet —



I like trams
There is something strangely romantic about them
As if those moving boxes on metal wheels
Take you to nostalgia by default

I lived many lives in trams
From the days when they were pulled by horses
To the joyrides in Vienna before sunrise
From the rainflooded streets of Kolkata
To Prague castle in the night
I have witnessed moments of freedom
When walls came down and people hugged
I have been many faces

They are magical places
Where love blooms
And ailing hearts find solace in entangled kisses

Featured artwork: New Orleans by Pompo Bresciani

Why Assisting Isn’t The Right Path To Film Direction

Yasujiro Ozu, the Japanese film poet, directing actors during a film production

If you have serious aspirations to direct a feature film someday, consider this one thing: do not become an Assistant Director or AD. An AD is nothing like an Assistant Cinematographer or an Assistant Editor or even an Assistant Art Director etc. Those roles provide a certain structured learning on the job, a learning and convention that is imperative for their future careers as cinematographers, editors and other film professionals. But a director is fundamentally different from all of these technical professionals. A director is never a technician. He is primarily an artist who has to think independently and in abstract terms. Schooling removes independent thinking and reduces people into conventions and practices.

As an AD in feature film productions, you assist and assist, until you have no time for research or contemplation to develop your own project. No time for writing, no time for reading, no time for participation in outside affairs, no time to watch films — basically no time for any personal intellectual progress. You work like a machine, almost never make a decision, never question a decision, you just follow instructions and carry out assignments, do the same things over and over again until your mind grows dull and your creativity goes kaput. You become an automaton doing the same dull, menial things over and over to the endless whims of the director or the producers. You start to talk dumb, you act rude with your subordinates and you try to pretend that you are somebody important by spewing expletives when deep inside, you know you don’t mean a shit. You don’t matter, that you are just a hired hand to build somebody else’s dream. You are as invisible and dispensable as a labour or a clerk.

People from the film industry who believed in you from the beginning, those who believed that you had the potential, will notice this moral and intellectual decline in you, won’t be able to understand why you have become so vile, so uninspired, lose respect and spread this disrespect out in the film fraternity. And suddenly you will be dismissed from every corners, you will be taken for granted that you are only as good as an AD, that you are not really a director material. That’s when you realise that being an Assistant Director is not the right path to become a director. But by then it’s already too late.

There are people who honestly want to become Assistant Directors. They do not have any aspirations to become a director or make a film. This piece is not addressed to them. Assistant Direction is a viable, lucrative, fulfilling profession for those who want to become an AD by choice. There are many successful ADs through out the world, I have met a few, some are fantastic people and they have happy, successful careers and lives. Their expectations are clear and they are happy to work within that framework. The problem is that too many youngsters are told to become an AD because they want to be a future director. Those naive young minds are most likely to fall into this trap and become bitter when the reality hits them.

If you want to be a director, you are on your own. No film school, no workshop, no film director/professional however great they are, nothing can really teach you how to be one. There is no prescribed path, no easy way to it. Many say that you are either a director or you are not. You cannot become one. I personally do not agree with it completely; I think everyone can direct a film, and most of them will make a terrible mess of it. And most of them do it consistently, often with humongous amounts of money. What I believe is that not everyone can become a ‘valuable’ director. Valuable, important directors are rare because they are most often that not, exceptional minds, and an exceptional mind by definition is rare. You see what matters is what’s inside you, what you learn from your personal experiences, not what you mechanically acquire from schools and teachings and other people’s experiences. The only productive way, I feel, is to become more aware, more attentive; try to develop individual ideologies, opinions and discourses by constantly upgrading yourself intellectually, by exposing yourself to various fields of learning, by having an eventful life, by interacting with individuals and by interacting with nature, by introspection and by actually making something tangible. Write. Make terrible short films. Be brash. Be fearless. Make something abstract, be brave enough to be called pretentious. It does not matter. In the end if you find out a truly personal expression you will bring in something new to the medium and that is what will put you on the map of world cinema.

I have a magic number. Two. Two films as an AD. No more no less. That’s what I have done and that’s what I have advised most people till this day. If you are really keen, go work in two feature-film productions, as an AD or even as a production assistant or an observer. That will give you sufficient insider’s knowledge about things that happen behind the scenes. You will discover that there is a method to this madness called film production and to some extent it will teach you discipline and prepare you for backbreaking hard work that is filmmaking. Beyond two films as an AD, you wont learn anything significantly new, instead you’d run the risk of becoming a rat in a cage.


Everything that I am and everything that I wish to be is only and only because of him. I discovered his films back in 2004, watched his entire filmography on big screen, back to back, in a span of three days, and I realised Cinema was my calling. Nowadays Andrei Tarkovsky has become a canonised figure, a recognised maestro, but back in those days he wasn’t very widely known here in India, and I found him through a retrospective festival screening. Everything that I did from that moment is a result of that proverbial life changing experience.

Recently I found this hauntingly beautiful music video with Arvo Pärt’s music featuring excerpts from Tarkovsky’s Mirror (Zerkalo, 1975). My tears betrayed me but they stayed true to my soul. I cried.

There is no greater love than you, Andrei and I can die for your films. I love you.



My eyes follow the downward trajectory
Of the two stray droplets of rain
Chasing each other
On the side window of the speeding car
I am curious to find out
If they would kiss or shy away from each other

The railroad crossing is closed
In this opportune moment
Mist gathers around my window like a temptress
I get down to follow her bare feet

There is an empty graveyard shielded from the now
By a broken wall and a rusty gate
I spot an old Morris Minor
Or the fossils of it
Shrubs have made it their food
This is clearly a story untold
Waiting to be exhumed from the shadows of time

In their last bid for progenies
The cicadas hum acappella in this untimely rain
Deep in their tiny hearts they know
Tonight they will all die
A truth that is lonelier than loneliness

And suddenly
In a tiny ball of sadness
They all come back to me
All that I loved, those I loved
I loved alone
But they say love is a verb without a past tense
There is no such thing as ‘loved’
For loving once is to love forever

The train never arrives
The rain does
I let it pour over my shoulders, my arms
With a frail hope to be cleansed

Image sourced from www.mnn.com



Last night
After I turned the lights off
It rained
And fishes drowned under the weight of water

Rouzbeh came to visit
His words bled colours
As his moustache danced and spoke
My room smelled of unicorns and hollow rainbow

And I said
God is an infant
He soils diapers
It’s Nature that’s wild and just —
Every man has a right to be happy
Every woman has a right to make him sad

Note: This poem was conceived entirely in an actual lucid dream at the early morning of 07.30.2017 and presented here without changing a single word.

Photography by Huseyin Sahin