17 March 2014 | By: Writing Buddha

Acting Smart by Tisca Chopra (Book Review: 3*/5)!!!

1052nd BLOG POST -->>

It's me with Tisca Chopra handing her book to me.
        Reading a Non-fiction book always gives you some or the other knowledge even if its related to you or not. Except Biography, I can never imagine an actor/actress writing any kind of Non-fictional piece for almost 200 pages. Tisca Chopra does this rarity with her recent novel,"Acting Smart" which also has the tagline of "Your Ticket to Showbiz". This 202-pages novel is published by HarperCollins, one of the leading publications in India. The cover page of the book has Tisca Chopra laden with beautiful green dress smiling back. :-) The back cover page has comments of people like Shabana Azmi, Anil Kapoor, Raju Hirani, Imtiaz Ali, Farah Khan and Manish Malhotra on her book. You can not ignore this book even if you have nothing to do with acting and Bollywood. It has some kind of a feel that you'll surely pick it up. Though Rs. 350, the cost of the book, is too high for anyone to pick. It should have been around Rs. 150 or so. 


Thousands of young people arrive every day at the Mecca of entertainment, Mumbai, to become an actor. Most of them come with hope in the heart and starry dreams in their eyes. In the absence of proper guidance, it does not take long for most of these dreams to turn to dust, in what is essentially a dog-eat-dog world of cut-throat competition. Tisca Chopra provides great advice on how to build a career as an actor. How do you go about preparing an impressive portfolio and showreel, what does it take to audition well,what are the avenues for training, and how does one avoid the casting couch? Written in an informal, conversational tone, and brimming with insightful insights gleaned from the author’s vantage point of being a true-blue insider, this is an essential handbook for every aspirant in the crazy world of showbiz.


One of Hindi cinema’s most beautiful and stylish actresses, Tisca Chopra has trained with theatre greats like Naseeruddin Shah and Ferozi Abbas Khan. She got her big break with Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par for which she won several national and international awards. Apart from being a regular on stage, she is also a favourite with advertisers, endorsing brands like Tanishq,Titan Eyewear, Olay, Horlicks and Kellogg’s. She is currently starring in the Indian franchise of the hit American series 24,being produced by Anil Kapoor. She is also developing a number of film scripts with her pilot-author husband, Sanjay Chopra.

          After reading the whole book, I came to the conclusion that if you are an aspiring actor, you could not believe that there's a book full of mantras for you. It's not about what you'll do after becoming an actor, it's all about what you have to be while you are on your way to search for that small role to make into the thing called Bollywood. For those who do not have anything to do with this field can read it and know the amount of hard work every face that you see daily on television and theaters does to get there. A wonderful eye-opener written chapter-by-chapter by Tisca Chopra making one realize that it's only easy if you have decided to be of stone with no emotions and only work. 

           Before reading the book, I presumed that Tisca would have talked about her own journey in Bollywood and hence I was skeptic that who would like to read her story because she's not one of those starring in Big budget movies as a single lead actress. But after reading it, I am in awe the way she has carried the whole book talking less about others and more about them who matters and she herself idolizes. She gives example initially on how to be in Mumbai on your own rather than being with someone's support. The example she gave of a girl having no accomodation hence she made a railway pass of Mumbai-Nashik train, used to sleep in it and get ready for next auditions in train itself is quite motivational and moving.

           I liked all the guidance she gave in the end of each chapter as a summary and something to write it in your diary, repeat it daily to remember your right way. Again she says that as an actor you just couldn't stop training. Because even if you have toned yourself as an actor and dancer, you never know when you might have to become an Olympic athlete like Farhan Akhtar. Another amazing piece. In her book launch, she specifically talked about The Casting Couch and hence I was waiting for this chapter to come. Finally it came. It is the best chapter of the book. Clearly and respectfully, she states how Casting couch works and how one can save him/herself from it. She also gave some examples on how she saved herself from a director once. Its my recommendation to everyone to at least read this chapter if not the whole book. 

          I also liked her take on money. How money is important in this industry is what she speaks about. Later on, she also tells that its our back ground that shall always be lucky and supportive when everyone else shall leave. She tells how people start changing themselves after coming to Mumbai but the ones who keep their originality gets work for the character they are themselves in real life. She tells how Ratan Rajput didn't lose her originality and bagged the leading role in a serial on Zee TV. She tells why Nawazuddin Siddique keeps getting work and such roles because he's the same that he always was. I liked how she also gave importance to TV actors in one of her chapters. An incident when she tells how she got to see a yesteryear's great actor in a queue of junior artist to get work shocked her. There are many such shocking elements in the book that I loved reading.

         Coming to the drawbacks now: I felt as if Tisca Chopra didn't cover many other aspects required for coming in Bollywood. She should also have suggested few names that one should try to contact once in Mumbai who are genuine and love to work with debutante. Tisca keeps giving examples and statements by few selective people as Imtiaz Ali, Boman Irani, Shabana Azmi, Anurag Kashyap etc. It would have been better if she would have brought comments by many more actors in her book. Most of the times, Tisca have given example by not writing names of the directors, actors and casting teams. I know its purposely done to avoid controversies but it would have been wonderful if she would have named few of them. I needed some masala actually. Haha! In all, I would say a fine attempt for all the struggling and aspiring actors. I give the book 3 out of 5. 


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