Rajat Kapoor and Boman Irani are two of my favourite contemporary actors in Hindi cinema. I will elaborate.
You see, these are probably the actors who borrow from real life most while playing their characters — Baman Irani more so than Rajat Kapoor. In cinema, scripts are written to convey a story and to move the narration. And characters are an important part of this script. Without properly fletched out characters, the script becomes incoherent and without direction. The protagonists, the bit parts, each one of those characters (human or otherwise) need to be written with consistency. For example, if the scriptwriter sketches a character who is pessimistic, you cannot have this character buying lottery tickets at some point in the story — it takes away credibility from the character, and consequently from the story itself.
What about caricatures ? Unfortunately, Indian cinema is laced with caricatures: the superhero, the dumb comedian, the homely wife, the villainous mother-in-law … call them caricatures, call them cliches. They are withdrawn from real life. As such, the viewers find it difficult to identify with them. As a result, most of the burden for success is borne by the story and the so called “masala elements” in the movie. Very rarely do we find a film standing proudly on the shoulders of a well-etched character. For me, this is also one of the reasons why Indian cinema churns out movies with almost the same basic plot and practically the same narration.
This is where my favourite actors come out tops. I particularly like Baman Irani for his versatility. The estate agent he plays in “Khosla Ka Ghosla”, the middle-aged christian gentleman in “Honeymoon Travels”..these are characters that borrow heavily from real life. We have all, at some point in our lives, come across these gents in real life. That’s what makes us love them, hate them, feel disgust for them, pity them. Its the small things that give the character a life of its own. Of course some characters are written as caricatures and there is nothing wrong in that. But even with caricatures, great actors are able to bring in an iota of reality.
Scriptwriters write characters with their foundation in real life. They, then, exaggerate it to suit the narration. For example, you have a normal middle class, middle-aged man with two kids. To suit the story, you give the man a little more anger, a little more pessimism than usual. The challenge for the actors is to find that foundation and build on it. He or she has to ask why the character is angry or pessimistic.
I believe our “stars” do not spend enough time on such trivialities. And more often than not, they are playing super heroes (or villains) which makes them believe that they do not need to give the character a life in the real world. I hope for the day when our “stars” take that kind of time and do the homework. It is just not enough to spend time on building mannerisms (a la Hrithik Roshan in Koi Mil Gaya). I hope for the day when these otherwise gifted actors start using their brains and find that bridge that links their characters to ordinary human beings. That is when we will start seeing good entertaining cinema. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.