Krishna Shastri Devulapalli | Carpenter-backed roles and plumber’s actors

If I were at school now and had to explain my current absence, my leave of absence letter would read: Dear Sir/Madam, Please allow me to be absent for the next three days as I am bedridden due to several promotional interviews by film people in quick succession which left me with numbness on the left side of my face, severe pain on the right side of my lower body and some disturbing changes in my bowel movements…

Honestly, film people, you need to come up with new things in your upcoming interviews. For far too long you’ve gotten away with saying things – with great authority, mind you – things that make no sense at all.

Author-Supported Role: In almost every film interview, an actor looks up at the ceiling, scratches his chin thoughtfully, and announces that he has an author-supported role. Being a struggling writer myself, I’ve always wondered what that means. Why should the author support only a specific role? Isn’t it the author’s duty to represent all “roles” equally? Could it then mean that the writer was stepmothering with the other roles in the film? So I’m wondering if this particular fictional character created by the author resorted to some unfair trading practices to gain the author’s endorsement. Give him an interest-free loan, fix his broken plumbing, treat his insecure rottweiler with tick medication, or worse, badmouth his co-characters in the script to ingratiate himself with the writer? Or does this character have some incriminating stuff about the author?

I’m playing a cop: If only I had a dollar for every time an actor says that. Or “I play a software engineer, a bubbly girl, or a professional earwax remover.” I never understood what “playing a cop” meant. Being a police officer is a job. How can an actor play a job? I can understand if an actor would say, “I play a platypus in this film”. For me, that is an accurate description of a role. You don’t need any further explanation. But when they say they’re playing a cop/lawyer/journalist, that doesn’t mean anything to me unless they say, “I play a cop… who’s morbidly obese, has mother problems, enjoys yoga, only wears his halter and insists on speaking Bhojpuri in romantic situations”. Then I have something to deal with.

Actress: This statement also leaves me at a loss. And I’ve heard it so many times. I mean, as an actor/actress, who else could you be? The director is the guy or girl who, uh, directs, right? So isn’t every actor, actress, art director, makeup artist, or key holder of a director? Or is there a bunch of plumber actors, art director light boys, focus puller producers and financier audiences in the film industry that I don’t know about? To me, director-actress means you haven’t read the script, you don’t know if the movie you’re making is a horror movie or a historical movie, and you come to the set with no thought in your head, expecting the shlub that’s yourself name the director who will do everything for you.

Achievement Role: This is the fraternal twin of the author-based role. If an actor was signed for a movie, I would think their only job is to perform, right? I’ve never heard a pilot explain that her job is flight-centric. Or the hearse driver who says his job is funeral-oriented. Then why do actors say that? Does this mean they took on other roles where their orientation was something other than performance? To be honest, Satish Shah played one of the best non-performance roles of all time in the movie Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. He played a corpse.

I also ask the film people not to say these things after the end of a shoot. “It was like a picnic.” That really doesn’t bode well for us, the paying audience. If you all went on a picnic instead of doing your work, then it was at our expense. Likewise, “we were all like one big family.” Well then, the movie you’re about to show us will be just as much fun as a sangeet ceremony for a non-family member forced to watch the video.

And when the movie bombs and the critics fool you, for heaven’s sake stop saying, “You don’t know how hard we worked on this project for three years.” So did my carpenter. For a year and a half he worked with the finest materials on a bookshelf that I had wanted. When it was finished, it didn’t have a single right angle. Let me assure you I didn’t give it five stars.

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a humorist, columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter

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