Acting Career Guidance by Abhinav Kant Chaturvedi
Regular careers are hard enough to carve out but unconventional ones are even more so. NNE, in its tradition of trying to provide the best possible counselling services, brings you someone who took an unconventional path – the actor Abhinav Kant Chaturvedi.
Abhinav Kant Chaturvedi, famous for roles in TV (‘Hum Log’ and ‘Buniyaad’), and movies such as ‘Saudagar’ and Suryavanshi. On Radio Mirchi he is ‘Lallan Bhaiyya’ and he currently runs his own production company.
Ques 1.To begin with, please tell us something about yourself and your educational background.
AKC : I had my schooling from the Modern School Barkhamba Road, and this is where I learnt my acting through various house functions and cultural activities. I was the “cultural prefect’’ in school, and won the Rudra Prize for all round best student.
Before taking up acting as a career, I captained the Delhi Under 19 Cricket team and was also called for the “Indian School Boys” cricket team to go to the West Indies. After that, I completed my graduation in History and then my Masters degree from the pristine St.Stephen’s College, Delhi University.
I attended 3 Ranji Trophy camps under the able coaching of former Indian captain, Mr. Bishan Singh Bedi. My contemporaries were Maninder Singh, Navjyot Singh Sidhu, L Sivaramakrishnan, Sanjay Manjrekar and Manoj Prabhakar, to name a few.
Ques 2. Did you always aspire to be an actor? Also, how did you land up with the role of “Nanhe” (Hum Log)?
AKC : On the contrary, I wanted to become a Test Cricketer, My father a renowned cricket commentator of Doordarshan, Late Shri Abhay Chaturvedi, injected the sports culture in me, and I learnt a lot from him. I grew up watching him play hockey & cricket while he taught at Modern School.
As an actor, a lot of people worked on my various skills, including my school teacher, Late Sri Uma Sahay jee, Late Sri Dina Nath jee, Late Sri Om Shivpuri jee, Shri Ram Gopal Bajaj, Late Sri B M Shah jee, Mr. B V Karanth – they all were my Gurus at various stages of my life. Hum log was an accident. I was rejected by Doordarshan a year before HUM LOG had happened. It was all thanks to Mr. Manohar Shyam Joshi’s son, Anupam, who suggested my name to his father. I was called for an audition and I passed. Rest is History.
Ques 3. Who or what has been your source of inspiration?
AKC : It is difficult to say who actually inspired me , but one person who instantly comes to my mind is Mr. Om Shivpuri. He gave me a break when I was 5 years old. My first professional stage play was Graupadi. I was his blue eyed boy.
Ques 4. According to you, what are the qualities that an aspiring actor must have?
AKC : An aspiring actor must know the script well, respect your entire cast and to submit yourself to your director who finally calls the shots. It is finally teamwork– a group activity, where you have to play for your team - just like in cricket.
Dedication, devotion, voice modulation, understanding of the plot, the sub plot, and above all Discipline is very necessary for an actor. Without Discipline you cannot be a great actor. Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is probably the best example – He stands tall, and is first in my list of role models
Ques 5. Unlike degrees in engineering and management, there are no aptitude tests for checking a person’s skills in acting. How does an aspiring actor judge his skills?
AKC : Legends like RAJ KAPOOR Sahib never went to acting schools. There is no hard and fast rule for acquiring acting skills, it is God Gifted. However, I do believe that a “structured training” does help, that is why we have the National School of Drama, which has produced great actors like Naseerudin Shah, Anupam Kher and Manoj Bajpai.
You have to get the right breaks at the right time, and, above all, you must have the Lord’s blessings & a bag full of luck. There is no scale to judge an actor’s aptitude.
Ques 6. Can students think of a career in acting after, say, their HSC (Class 12)? Adding, how important is conventional education for an aspiring actor?
AKC : Of course, one must definitely try his heart out once. Though, the business of acting is a very high risk business, but you have to take chances in life. One has to be very patient to succeed. Even if you succeed instantly, you have to stay there, on the wicket for a long time.
It is all about sustainability. Conventional education all adds up to your sum total of life. It always helps you to understand your acting subject better. E.g. When I was doing the historical TV series, Buniyaad, my educational background helped me understand the pain and pathos of the people affected by partition, in 1947. I had just finished my graduation.Education actually never leaves you. It is an on going process. You never stop learning. The day you stop learning, you are “dead meat”.
Ques 7. Is joining an acting school a necessity these days? If not, what are the alternatives?
AKC : As I said earlier, joining a right acting school always helps. A trained actor is always a help for any director. Doing theatre at any level is the first school of acting. Once you have a “face-off” with the audience, you drop your inhibitions. Performing in front of a live audience is the most thrilling of all experiences for an actor.
If you cannot join an acting school, then you have to simply check out a list of known producers and directors, and you will have to constantly knock their doors. Have a right portfolio clicked by a professional photographer before doing the rounds. You have to put your best “image forward”. Never say no to an audition.
Ques 8. Do acting schools guarantee success? What are the other options available to someone who can not break into mainstream cinema?
AKC : No school guarantees you anything . Tell me, does your high school guarantee you a job security? There business ends at teaching.
But, with professional colleges, one expects “placements” in the industry. Even here, there are no guarantees. The only thing that is worth a guarantee is being at the right place at the right time. Mumbai is the hub for Hindi Movies and TV. Then one must try and struggle in Mumbai, till you taste success, finally.
The simpler option is to start your own training school for acting and pass on your experiences to the others. Never feel “Oh! I failed”. You tried hard and you could not make it, but you did try sincerely. That is what I think. There are more successful stars than me, like my friend Aamir & Salman Khan, but I do not regret of not becoming like one of them. I did my best. They are still my friends.
Ques 9. Is acting all about entertaining people or does it have an element of education to it? What is your involvement in this regard?
AKC : No play or TV writing or cinema writing is without a “message” unless it is pure “fiction”. But, even pure fiction has something to teach you. A love story would, for example, teach you to love and not dance around trees.
I have never seen a person in love dancing around the trees. It is just a form of expression that, while in this situation, one feels like dancing. Even cartoons educate you and at the same time entertain you. Man was born to be entertained and educated
Ques 10. Did you face any opposition when you decided to choose acting as a career? What would you like to say to the parents who still do not approve of a career in acting?
AKC : I had no opposition from my parents. In fact, they encouraged me. My mother never opposed my talent. Today, she celebrates my success as good human being.
I would advise parents to let children pursue their dreams, but ask them to have a “definite timeline” for success. If you do not succeed in 5 hard years, then it is better to look for something else. Most people “hang around” longer than desired and make life a waste.
If performing arts is such a taboo to the society, why not scrap the film industry. Why does this great country still produce Sushmita Sens or Preity Zintas. They are such lovely people.
Ques 11. How has the acting scene changed? What were the opportunities available back in the 1980s, and how are they different in today’s time.
AKC : The TV Industry has grown by about 450% from what it was in the 1980s. Yes, 450%. As against one channel (DD), today, we have 433 channels. So, you can see the pace at which the opportunities have grown.
Ques 12. Please share with our readers, ‘a day in the life of Abhinav Chaturvedi’. How does he balance his professional and personal life?
AKC : The day begins with a “thanks” to God, for letting me see yet another day, which is followed by reading the newspaper , which I always open from the last page i.e. Sports page backwards, with a cup of tea. Then the laptop opens to access all important e- mails those are received to be answered. Post breakfast, the business opens and closes by 6 pm. The day closes again, with a prayer to the almighty.
I have an update session from each of the family member to assess where we are today. I take one day at a time.
There may be a few readings and writings or meeting friends, if necessary. I usually retire early to face another day, as the body needs a desirable rest and the face to look afresh to embrace yet another morning.
Ques 13. If not an actor, what would Abhinav Chaturvedi be today?
AKC : Now that I am into my own film production and emceeing at events, I do not have a definite answer for this particular question.
I would like to author a few books and get into training of actors, may be, or go back to the theatre world. God has his script for me. I do not have the script to my life, never had one.
Ques 14. Your closing words to aspiring actors.
AKC : There is nothing beyond your reach! Go and chase your dreams.
(As told to NNE's Utsav Sharma)