step into my shoes

You know how we say “you wouldn’t know what I am going through, coz you aren’t in my shoes.”, in an apologetic tone mostly, or occasionally snapping at folks who try to comfort us, to empathize and even to reason, make us see better, feel something apart from what we feel?

I’d imagine it is hard? Unless, of course we have been in their shoes or similar pairs of shoes, it is a challenge to take that step and understand what they are going through. Not for the lack of trying, but then again, we hope to throw different perspectives n the same situation because for starters, we cannot convincingly look at it like how the person does.

Forget real life for a second and for a moment think of all those movie actors and artists that we watch on screen. They play a wide variety of characters, ones that we love to hate, ones we adore, and all in between. There are many who are known for their exemplary performances including facial expressions, the tears on demand – the ones that heave the shoulders and the ones that stop short teetering along the eyelids, the guffaws that need to look natural during the 36th retake of the scene, the rage the camera needs to capture to rile the audience , and the love and romance that needs to look real between two strangers to convince the real couples watching them.

It’s easy for us to play critics I suppose. Much easier than wanting to take that time and reflect on the challenge that the artists face.

These artists, they stand in the middle of a crowd, lights on them, pressure to deliver with a few dozens pairs of eyes watching their every move looking for that perfect capture. They are asked to sing romance, jive, cuss, sneer, tease, play a joker and they do. ..and we watch them, and some stay in our minds longer than others, and some fade quickly away. Chalking it to the fact that they are professionals, we move on. Forming opinions, loving them, sneering at them and scoffing, quick to rate.

This is the time when as a member of the audience one should ask the question, “How would I do in his shoes?”

For the most part, I’d imagine to laugh, smile, kid, horse around is a lot less challenging. It should come naturally, and it doesn’t require much prep work. Except of coures if one’s a sad sack. Then well, that’s work. But for the most part, I’d think the darker, deeper, thoughtful, tragic roles, require some spadework. It requires understanding the character, the mode of thinking, the situation and the reaction that’s expected of the character and then to be able to hold it all together and portray it convincingly enough.

That’s a heck of a lot of brain cells firing if you ask me.

Many chalenging roles come to mind, and among the stalwarts who portrayed them, my favorites include Savitri, Smita Patil, Suhasini. These actresses can show angst at a depth that can reach right into you and rip your heart out. There are others of course, but I am partial to these wonderful ladies.

A true artist’s resume covers a variety of roles that harnesses their capabilities to be versatile and malleable enough to pick up a charecter and own it. Many real life roles are based on well, today’s living breathing persons. Situations are easier to imagine, we see shades of people and minds around us all teh time. The urchin, the job-seeker, the loner, the loser, the snobbish rich kid and so on.

What if you were playing a role that is very hard to understand and relate to. Like mythological roles:

For instance, Bhaktha Sabari. To play a staunch devotee of Lord Rama, immersed in the love and affection of the divine Lord. To show it all, while acting like one was thousands of years old, the happiness, the satisfaction and the happy tears, when one cannot understand what it is to be her. How does one think and imagine the range of that role. When the audience is mesmerized into believing that they are indeed transported into

Similarly, think of Draupadi. How about Surpanaka? How about a woman abused and raped. The mother whose son has died. The female artist who plays a man’s role. The man who plays a female (and not look like he stopped mid-way)

Some roles are just difficult to imagine yourself into. Some roles you wouldn’t want to imagine yourself into. Under both these instances, an artist would probably imagine the next best situation that could bring the same kind of emotion onto the foreground.

Like for instance, there’s a lady called Kisa Gowthami who loses her son, and bemoans the loss in an intensity that a mother only could. She runs to Buddha to ask for a miracle, she needs her son back. It’s an attachment that she is bound to. There is deep angst, there is an unfathomable situation, one that a mother in real life will not and cannot bring herself to imagine. Yet, the show must go on. The artist reflects and brings to the surface a pain that’s close to her heart, one that will mimic the agony of the character onto her face and body.

I know what I will be thinking of. The misery will be real. It cannot be anything but real. The lips will quiver, the eyes will brim, the voice will choke and the agony will show. It isn’t hard if the pain’s real. ..and that is precisely the secret of how those actresses manage it all.

One must be true to the art they are passionate about. If not, it’s time to pack their bags.

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17 replies on “step into my shoes”
  1. says: some body

    “The artist reflects and brings to the surface a pain that’s close to her heart, one that will mimic the agony of the character onto her face and body.”

    unless she is a true drama queen or drama (noble) king! πŸ˜‰

    – .s.b. [cannot remember the last time i was the first to comment here]

  2. says: buddy

    the best example is savitri in maya bazaar acting like ghatotgaja. a man acting like a woman acting like a man, played by a woman.
    pure genius!

  3. says: Mahendra

    The best way to really experience the difficulties involved in acting is to participate in an Acting Workshop.

    For those who are shy, there’s a simple substitute. With just you and your spouse (or your best friend), ask each other to enact a role in an imaginary scene. Do it seriously, but you will find it’s very enjoyable. Finally, you end up appreciating all the actors you’ve been seeing on screen for ages!

    1. says: rads

      You are right. The catch is the older one gets the more inhibited they get. Unless of course there’s a desire πŸ™‚

      You kidding about asking to do role-playing with spouse right? :-p

  4. says: My3

    Whether we say it or not, when the audience is mesmerized then the artist should realize that you have crossed the boundary from being an artist to becoming the character. That is why people who have no skills can comment about good or bad actors :-). It is a gut feeling.

    This is great. You know for a loooong time I wanted to try out for a part in our local Boal Barn play. Maybe next year I will re-read this and gather up the courage, put aside shyness to go and read for it. Thanks for the nice writeup πŸ™‚

    I especially admire young Indian girls doing classical dance forms as most of them would have rudimentary knowledge about the various nav-rasas. Most of them are barely 15-18. Kudos to you teachers and older students.

    1. says: rads

      It is a challenge for a generation to portray an emotion out of their experience or even culture. Knowledge and researching or learning backgrounds help to an extent. At the end it is up to the youngster to understand and want to portray πŸ™‚

      You should! Improv sessions are awesome as well. You never know what you hide within πŸ™‚

  5. says: dipali

    One can only imagine how draining it must be for actors to dredge up intense emotions on a daily basis. It’s certainly not an easy profession:(

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