Nassar: “A chain of emotions makes up a film”


Veteran film actor, director and producer, who has worked in the Indian film industry for over 30 years, visited AISFM recently for a master class with our students. The actor had previously come in for a quick chat with our students, a few months ago.

Nassar made his acting debut in K. Balachander’s Kalyana Agathigal (1985) portraying a secondary supporting role, before moving on to play villainous roles in S. P. Muthuraman’s Velaikaran (1987) and Vanna Kanavugal Avatharam (1995), a film based on the backdrop of a folk art troupe, marked his directorial debut. The actor visited the school for a Q & A session with our students wherein he spoke about his experiences working in the industry and gave tips to our students for their future.

The session commenced with a question by a student wherein he asked Nassar to explain how a director approaches every actor to act in his movie. Nassar jokingly said that this can be answered either truthfully, which will end up being funny yet scary, or he can answer this by stating how an actor is supposed to handle accepting or rejecting an offer. He then went on to say, that every director must first put his script down on paper. Only then will he be taken seriously. His writer must have the patience to sit down and travel with every character through a special journey. Only then will the film be gripping. The director merely has to shoot this travelled journey, scene by scene. Now, what an actor must do is completely different. He must read the entire script not just his parts, stick to the script, but not follow it blindly. Knowing this difference is what makes an actor’s work shine through.

Choosing which actor is suited for a particular role must be given to a casting director. He understands the script, analyses it and comes up with options on who can play the character in question. He needs to study the character and choose his options ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’ and present this to the director. The only thing a director must do is finalize from the options along with the casting director.

Nassar spoke about how our Indian industry is different from the one in the West. “I have worked in around 400 films throughout my career. Out of these, for at least 300 of them, I was given around a week’s notice before the shooting was supposed to begin. As future directors, this is something you must try to change in the industry.” To all the future actors in the audience, he said “The numbers of films you do; do not make you a better actor. The type of acting you do, does” He then went on to speak about art films. The market for art films is less, their budget is less and hence they need good acting in the film. They hunt for good actors. That is why the quality of art films is so much better than that of mainstream cinema. We try understanding art, but art is not something that can be understood. There needs to be a discussion with oneself for that revelation to happen, he said.

He then called a direction student from the audience, for an impromptu session. He gave the student a film’s situation and asked him to say what he would do if he was the director of that film. Soon after this, he went on to speak about the importance of a scene. “A scene is like a bead in a beautiful string of beads. It is not complete in itself. Like that, a chain of emotions make up a film. As far as acting is concerned, an actor is hired as a professional. He needs to act like one too. The director knows the process of the film, and as a director, it will be your job to explain to the actor what he is supposed to be doing.”

Nassar went on to explain the importance of sticking to aesthetics while being modern, to commence the end of his session. He spoke about dialogues, how using too many of them are not suitable when one wants to make good cinema and how the idea behind the dialogues matter more.

“We are changing fast, but we are not progressing. Previously, we were scared, because the production cost was high. We had to make sure we were able to maintain the flow of emotions from one scene to another in as few takes as possible. Now, you are in a digital age. You must be able to exploit this to its fullest extent. Let us grow digitally. Let us grow technologically,” he concluded with a smile and then obliged the students who wanted to capture this interaction by taking photos with him.

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