The second day of India’s BIG Travelling Film Festival, the Jagran Film Festival, currently in Mumbai on a seven-day schedule, saw the audience enjoying Barry John, the British-born Indian theatre director, who has trained many Bollywood biggies like Shah Rukh Khan and Manoj Bajpayee. People were thrilled to have “the Man himself” from Barry John Acting Studio. Barry Sir was an instant hit with the crowd as he shared his treasure trove of knowledge of the theatre world and his outlook towards present-day Bollywood.
In a separate interview, conducted the same day with Sonup from “Bollywoodwallah”, Barry Sir offered his opinions on theatre, actors, the current state of Bollywood nepotism, and other topics.
Q: What are the prerequisites to “become an actor”?
Barry: It is a long list but to sum up you’ve got to look at yourself. You have to find out about the world of acting and what actually is involved. Many of us are still living in a dream world. We dream about becoming film stars and becoming rich and famous. You got to move way beyond that. If you want to make it your career, you got to move beyond that dream world and live in reality. You have know how films are made, what it takes, how much money is involved and how much time it takes…what is acting. There is so much to learn. You have no excuse not to go to the internet and find out the answers for all these questions and gain knowledge. And if you want to spend your life acting, you very well find out what is acting all about.
Q: Not many actors who started out with theatre return to it after making it big in films. Why do you think that happens?
Barry: That’s their choice. May be they get used to being paid so much more. But there many who do return…at least in the West. Here we have Shabana Azmi, Kulbhushan Kharbandaand a few others doing theatre. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t value and appreciate what they have learnt in theatre. It is a different ball than standing in front of the camera. It is live audience and it is more thrilling to get instant feedback.
Do you rue the fact that there are not many trained actors doing films today?
Barry: It is surprising isn’t it. I mean you think now with so much more money at stake and demands of producing more skills and artistic projects, it should have happened. Technology though has managed to keep pace. I can’t explain why we still don’t have so many trained people enough in a major film production or in a professional film.They are not trained at all. They have never even seen a training school or acting school. They have never even acted in a play just because they are somebody’s niece or nephew.
Q: So it is nepotism all the way?
Barry: Yes, of course. Very much so. It is very much a monopoly. Everyone knows that Bollywood film industry is monopolistic, meaning it all happens here in this city and nowhere else. Our films travel to Europe, America, China. They travel everywhere but they are made here. There is a complete family monopoly over film production which I am not sure is a healthy thing.
Q: So what could actors do to break this monopoly. Long time ago, Shah Rukh Khan did that in the 90s. Do you foresee anyone doing the same in today’s time and age?
Barry: Who has done it since SRK? No one. [Barry misses Kangana Ranaut, among others.] Roles are very few and the space is very limited for these stellar types. But there are other films being made which is nice to know. The more independent and experimental kind of pictures which stars will not be interested in doing and will not take the gamble of doing since they know it is not a sure fire success. But younger, more adventurous actors would. And they do.
Q: Talking about younger actors, you have trained star sons like Varun Dhawan and Dulquer Salmaan. How do you see them?
Q: You have trained Dulquer Salmaan right?
Barry: No. [In fact, Dulquer joined a three-month weekend course in Mumbai].
Q: Okay. Varun Dhawan then?
Barry: Varun Dhawan yes, But he was a special case. Q: Why special case?
Barry: Normally I don’t take children of stars or directors. They are a pain in the a**. Very difficult to deal with. Very temperamental. But having said that Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor have been the only two star sons I have trained. They have been buddies for ever. So they joined together. They were fantastic. They were low key, played down who they were, fitted in very nicely. I had great fun with them.
Q: SRK always credits you for the actor he is today. Why do you modestly decline from taking credit? Barry: Because it is a fact. Yes, we came together and worked in theatre. It was most enjoyable and beneficial to both of us. But then he moved out. He is on another planet today. I don’t have any communication with him.
Q: Could share your memories of Theatre Action Group (TAG)?
Barry: Memories of TAG are always really fond and precious. What TAG achieved back then was remarkable and that too without any sponsorship We had little support from ITC but now cigarettes can’t sponsor anything. But yes, TAG was phenomenal. Every year we could churn out 6-8 productions.
Q: Any one film actor whose performance bowled you over in recent times?
Barry: I was moved to tears after watching Manoj Bajpai in Aligarh. He invited me to a special screening and after the film I couldn’t speak. I hugged him. He had suddenly become so mature. It was an incredible character study he had performed without being violent, overt and in a very quiet yet so powerful manner.
The Festival began on 1st July 2017 in Delhi, touring the length and breadth of the country to bond with people from all walks of life, in the world of cinema. In its last leg of the journey, the Jagran Film Festival concluded in Cinepolis, Andheri West. Over 130 screenings took place showcasing a stellar a line-up of films from across the world. Some of the prominent sections of the Festival are World Panorama, Indian Showcase, Jagran Shorts, Jagran Discovery, Country Focus and the Retrospective of films.
The 2017 edition of Jagran Film Festival has traversed from Delhi to the Indian hinterlands of Kanpur, Lucknow, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Dehradun, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Bhopal, Indore, Hisar, Ludhiana, Meerut, Raipur, and will now culminate in Mumbai. Barry John Acting Studio conducted workshops on Film Acting in most of these cities, which were well attended and greatly appreciated.