MAM and the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique: The Michael Chekov Acting Technique By Oorvazi Irani

Oorvazi Irani in association with MAM conducted a half day acting workshop based on the Michael Chekhov Technique recently and given below is the feedback from all the participants of the same.

Sethumadhavan (Chief Editor-MAM and currently making charting his own path into the big,bad World of Films)

You might be curious to know what is MAM doing by conducting and participating in an acting workshop. In fact when Oorvazi discussed with me her desire to reach out to the MAM community it was so in tune with  our initiative to nurture the love for cinema and introduce our film community at MAM with special events and workshops catered towards a deeper and enriched understanding of the art and industry of cinema that I was more than ready to collaborate.

Oorvazi is an artist at heart and self exploration and discovery is at the heart of all her activities which includes being an acting coach, a filmmaker, and a film educationalist(she heads the subject of film at the SVKM IB school). She has introduced the Michael Chekhov acting technique to India with her dvd in 2011 and is passionate to empower actors in India with this technique to explore their creative individuality and perform from a truly artistic space. She feels the indie filmmakers and actors are very important to introduce to this technique as she feels they will truly value its magical qualities for an actor.

She conducts various workshops ranging from acting to filmmaking on special invitation at prestigious institutions and we are very happy to have her part of the MAM community herself as she is also an author on our website and now with this workshop specially conducted for MAM authors has opened the door for a meaningful relationship where through MAM we can conduct professional workshops on the Michael Chekhov acting technique for our interested community. 

Going  straight to the workshop now, Initially I had no plans of being a ‘participant’ and thought of being an observer as I felt someone had to take on that role as well. But thanks to Oorvazi’s insistence I went on to be sport and became a part of the whole exercise. And no I do not regret my decision at all. My tryst with acting has been interesting in its own way. I have always enjoyed being on stage & never lost an opportunity to perform during my school, college or B.School days. But then it was always in a very casual manner and not serious.

In fact during college I remember how one of my professors used to call me an actor whenever I would pretend to be afraid of him 🙂 (He loved to himself act as a tyrant of sorts 🙂 ) in fact. In recent years with some exposure to films and actors and of course writing about films I have always wondered as to what makes an actor tick in a particular role/character. Before I actually joined the industry myself I would be quite easily critical of an actor’s performance while reviewing a film, but nowadays I tend to always think of what was the situation, what was the director’s vision etc instead of thrashing the performance right away.

So it was a pleasant experience being part of the Michael Chekhov acting workshop taken by Oorvazi. As a teacher she not only knows her subject but she is also good at connecting to her ‘students’ i.e participants. It’s not at all easy to train a complete bunch of non-actors and she knew this situation very well and yet made good use of it. It’s been a while after the event but I still remember with fondness the exercises we did during the same. While doing the Dabangg premiere situation act while I played ‘Salman Khan’, my natural instinct would have been to play the character in my own free spirited way, keeping an image of Salman in mind. But here is where technique came in & Oorvazi’s instructions which were crystal clear, i.e to assume certain characteristics and play the role/character accordingly.

Yes 4-5 hours is hardly enough to ‘learn acting’ but then it did serve its own purpose and I’m sure if this is the output coming out of such a short period, then something done more in depth in this direction will only be all the more insightful. I sincerely hope and wish that more and more budding actors go through a more detailed version of the same.

We at MAM would be glad to facilitate something like that and I’m sure Oorvazi would only be too glad to continue her association with MAM for something like this. 

Ram Patnaik (A former Chartered Accountant turned film industry tracker who’s now about to turn producer

The introductory session related to Michael Chekov Acting technique (MCAT) unveiled a completely different view about acting, which I was not aware of before. I always had a notion that though acting looks so very easy/natural from the exterior, it must be very tough internally for the actor to perform. Somehow this little exposure to the technique gave me a faint idea that if I am internally able to establish a relationship with the exterior through its physical dimension, then I can become the exterior by feeling it within. I would not say that I could completely do it during the session; however I got a hint that this acting process is meditative in nature and thus transforming. I’ve sort of realized that the the Michael Chekhov Acting technique is actually so close to nature and how we are, but in course of time we have lost that authentic self.Thank you so much Oorvazi for introducing me to this technique.

Souvik Gupta (Trains MBA aspirants for their entrance exams for a living and an aspiring filmmaker & writer)

Being born and brought up in a city where people pride themselves for clinging on to their culture has its perks. Kolkata gave me a lot of opportunity to explore theatre and acting – mostly as a member of the audience and at times, as an actor, on the stage. Plays used to be a common feature in school functions and community gatherings alike. And somehow I found myself drawn to the same very easily. However, during the entire phase, I had never come across any fixed technique (not to confuse with method) based acting. As I grew up and the urge to become a filmmaker gradually sprouted its head through my dreams, I started reading about the styles of various directors. Thus, when Oorvazi’s invitation to learn the technique the Michael Chekov acting technique, I literally jumped at the opportunity.

Okay, I am no actor and don’t harbour any burning desire to be one either. So, my purpose to visit the workshop was to figure out how I (as a filmmaker) can collaborate with my actors to extract better performances. At the same time, I knew this was only a 4 hour workshop and it wouldn’t be possible for us to learn an entire technique. And, very wisely, Oorvazi didn’t either get overambitious about the entire thing or try to make actors out of us. She knew the limitations of training non-actors and she chose the different layers of a simple tool to drive home one of the basic aspects of the technique – “Feel the Character as a Physical Entity within You”.

So, while we wondered how the soon-to-be Doctorate itinerant Soni (to be known as Ronak M) would have looked as Lady Macbeth ( ok this may not make sense to those who didn’t attend the workshop ) and Mr Soni himself was busy finding magnetic properties in pins, Oorvazi taught the principle through 4 stages and 4 different entities:

1)      A candle wick

2)      A plant of our choice

3)      A partner from the room

4)      An imaginary character

Of course, one of the highlights in all of this was the Dabangg premiere skit where I played an overzealous and cocky AbhinavKashyap (seriously I have no clue how the man behaves) and tried to feel and emulate the sparking green and yellow shrub in Oorvazi’s garden. However, more than performing, I enjoyed watching the performances of others – a very mellowed distributor (Rasik), an eager for praise Sajid-Wajid (Aditya), a laughing Buddha film-critic (Ronak), a very sage-like meditative Arbaaz Khan (Ram) and of course, “Bhai” himself – Sethumadhavan as Salman Khan.

Well, if that was not all, the next exercise demanded Rasik and me (and the other couples) to look at each other and observe the partner’s face with utmost attention, and then reproduce the same on paper. If staring at a guy and observing his face was funny, posing for him to sketch me was hilarious. But, I also feel, that this was one of the most impactful exercises as it taught us the value of observation. I remember that in the first attempt (when we drew the others face without looking at each other) I drew a face that resembled to a woman much more than it could ever to Rasik. However, in the second attempt, when we observed the face and then drew it, I fared much better. Though it still didn’t look like Rasik (blame my sketching prowess for that), at least it didn’t look feminine.

At the very end of everything, I must congratulate Oorvazi for a very mature presentation of simple tools. As I had mentioned at the conclusion of the workshop, the technique has been very empowering and reassuring for me. I have always believed that an actor should have a physicality that justifies the character. However, there was always a sense of scepticism whether the thought was a by-product of fanboyism to stars or a genuine approach towards the art. And the workshop kind of reinforced the thought as to how crucial it is for the actor to physically behave like the character as well. And thanks to Oorvazi for make believe( is there a grammar mistake here ?) more strongly in that.

PS: The Poha was amazing!! I wish I were as hungry as AdityaSavnal and devoured some more of it! 🙂 …. 

Rasik Tirodkar (On the way to becoming a Chartered Accountant & Company Secretary, but loves Cinema, especially Marathi Cinema)

Acting is a highly integral part of cinema. So an interest in knowing the process or the technique of acting is natural for a movie buff like me. From whatever little I knew about it, the Chekov technique seemed intriguing. So when OorvaziIrani was ready to do kind of an introductory session on the technique for us authors on MAM, I jumped at the opportunity.

The 3-4 hours session she took was a very interesting experience. One of the most important aspects about the Chekov technique, I learnt, is that it allows the actor a personal emotional detachment from the roles he is playing. He does not perform from his personal self but his artistic self.  The great Dilip Kumar, a famous proponent of the Method acting, was advised against playing the role of the unsuccessful poet Vijay in the legendary Pyaasa by his psychiatrist, as after playing Devdas and a number of other tragic roles his emotional state had become very delicate. If Dilip Kumar had adopted the Chekov technique, this wouldn’t have been the case and we might have had him playing Vijay. 🙂

I also realized that the technique nurtures your creativity; doesn’t limit its scope to the four walls of a room; encourages you to expand your horizons. Other remarkable thing, I personally felt, about this technique developed by Michael Chekhov was that it was meditative. As we went about practicing the tools of the technique, I felt like I was discovering myself .

Though I don’t have any ambitions of becoming an actor, I would certainly recommend aspiring as well as seasoned actors to try their hand at this fascinatingly new way of learning how to act. The Chekov Technique is like an ocean still unexplored.

Ronak M.Soni (Currently doing his Ph.D in Physics and loves dissecting films alongside)

Acting can contribute as much to the success of a movie as image or plot, but it’s almost infinitely more ineffable; it works in mysterious ways to do with empathy and other little understood things. As one might expect from this, acting is not understood very well at all, a fact very much in evidence in the ideas of Michael Chekov: it liberally appeals to the subjective, positing that given enough observation we can access a part of our mind where emotion exists before interpretation and allow another person’s interpretation to act as interface between that place and the outside world. As a result, the thing I found most interesting about the Chekov tools was the exercises which tried to facilitate such a thing, allowing me to examine the working of my mind from a framework of a mysticism that comes solely from its ability to produce results. 

AdityaSavnal (an MBA who sells consumer durables but an aspiring marketeer in the making)

An actor is one of the most important part of any film. Efficient actors make a great film all the more memorable with their performances .Similaryly , they also  make several mediocre films watchable due to their performance. Similarly , many a times an actor can also ruin a potentially good film, if his/her act doesn’t come across as convincing.

When OorvaziIrani came up with an idea of doing an acting workshop based on the Michael Chekhov acting technique with the  Madaboutmoviez gang, it certainly seemed an interesting idea for sure.

What are the  thoughts that go on in an actor’s mind while preparing for a role? What are the physical and mental challenges  that an actor faces before donning any role?  How far is an actor willing to push the boundaries and challenge his skills? What exactly motivates an actor to give his best? These are some of the questions that often cross my mind whenever the topic of acting crops up.

The Michael Chekhov acting workshop definitely helped me to find an answer to quite a lot of such questions. It helped to get a glimpse into the mind of an actor.

The Chekhov technique is completely opposed to the school of method acting. While method acting stresses more on of a personal emotional attachment with the role, the Chekhov technique is more spontaneous. It also makes an actor acquire a more creative, imaginative and perceptive approach towards the craft of acting.

It also involves a meditative and a thoughtful approach and transformation to the craft of acting which makes the process all the more calm and fruitful.

I certainly don’t harbour an interest in acting as a full time vocation, unless maybe out of favour for a friend. 😛 .  Or maybe if someone is desperately wanting to bet their money on me and want to see it go down the drain.  But this workshop certainly helped me understand the process through which an actor goes through while preparing for a role.The exercises which we did during the course of the workshop, certainly helped  me to a good extent in the above process.

The inpromptuDabangg  premiere skit which we did in the workshop challenged my spontaneity and made the overall act more enjoyable and fun.

Given the fact that she was was mainly dealing with non actors, I must  thank Oorvazi for keeping the exercises quite simple and fun , yet challenging.

If ever Oorvazi plans to hold a similar workshop in future, I would definitely love to take part in it and an offering of some good food would only make the process all the more memorable.|

Note-To know more about the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique and the work done by Oorvazi Irani in this area check out her website dedicated to the same. 

 

4 thoughts on “MAM and the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique: The Michael Chekov Acting Technique By Oorvazi Irani

  1. Now this is one thing I should have attended, if I could. Being someone who has directed 3 short films, and 2 skits, I find it hard to explain it to my friends who act, how to act. Or how to approach their characters, because I don’t specifically feel everyone can redraw their emotions according to the character, and going method is beyond us at our level!

    Very good, and interesting article. One that prompted me to google, read and understand, not only Michael Chekhov, but what all acting techniques are out there! Thank you Oorvazi for taking the authors of our blog to this workshop and making them act.

    PS: I’d have loved to do something in that “Dabang Premier” skit. 🙂

    Like

    • Salil,
      Thanks for your feedback and feels nice to know that my humble efforts have helped you in some way. I am sure there will be opportunities in the near future with MAM to connect back on this subject and technique. Look forward to seeing you.

      Like

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