After a year of online interviews and web meets owing to the pandemic, the FC Actors Adda reassembled – this time, with six of the best Hindi-language performers of the year, under one roof. Joining us were Adarsh Gourav (The White Tiger), Vicky Kaushal (Sardar Udham), Samantha Ruth Prabhu (The Family Man 2), Taapsee Pannu (Rashmi Rocket), Sanya Malhotra (Pagglait) and Sidharth Malhotra (Shershaah).
Delving into the current environment, the actors looked back at 2021, reminiscing about the films and scenes that pushed their boundaries, and decoding what it meant to be a successful star in today's day and age.
We take look at some of the highlights of the roundtable:
Talking about the scene from The White Tiger where a hysteric Balram has a meltdown in the middle of a busy street after an old woman begs him for money, Adarsh said, "We were shooting in the busy Chandni Chowk area, so the cameras were hidden. The people didn't come to know that a shooting was ongoing. When I got pissed at her, I started involving the people who were walking along. The pedestrians actually thought that I was a mad guy. I could see the sympathy in their eyes. Policemen were also walking, so I involved them too in the scene and said, 'Aap khade hain, aap kuch nahi bol rahe hain inko.' Nobody knew that a shoot was going on. They just thought that I was a guy who was having a meltdown on the road."
"The tag of stardom gets attached to you very easily. I feel there is a difference between stars then and stars now. When we were not in a digital age, only if you were genuinely great in something would you receive the title. Now, you get the title on the basis of how much people are talking about you. If you're trending for 10 days, you'll be a star on the 11th day. It's an illusion.
I considered people stars if I wanted to watch a film solely because of them. I don't think I [as an actor] have achieved that till now. I have to give 10-15-20 more hits to reach there. Today, you get that title really quickly. They assert: Aap star ho. We then need to realize [and look back at] how we used to see stars before the digital era. Stardom is transient now. You give a flop and you're back to square one. In the 70s, 80s and 90s, on the other hand, once you were a star, you were a star."
"I think it's a generation thing. All of us come from a generation of actors where we know that it's eventually what we do in front of the camera, if we evoke any emotion from the audience. Today, the audience will give seetis and taalis for writing punchlines or a scene, for the first act of the film, or the script [as a whole]. It is no longer driven just by an actor doing a particular move."
"Sometimes, I get totally consumed by social media and the comments section. I think it is very important to have a set boundary when you are using social media, because it can get [nerve-racking]. Sometimes, I read all the comments on social media. Not always, but whenever a film is coming out, I go through the comments section. It's a pain and often anxiety-inducing."
"I don't really look at social media as an obligation. I use it when I want to, otherwise I don't. I don't let it take over me. I understand that I have a tool in my hand and I am not a tool in its hand. You need to have that dynamic very clear, which thankfully, I have managed to keep.
My voice on social media is 100% mine too. None of my team members have my ID and password. Even if it has to be a brand posting, it has to go through me. I even like all my typos. I keep them, I don't correct them."
Talking about how she coped with facing unkind comments on social media after the announcement of her separation, Samantha said, "Stars thrive on the love of their fans and I am extremely grateful for the love and support I receive on social media. It keeps the engagement alive between an actor and a fan. Personally, I like to share, and when I do, I'm also inviting these people into my life. They are now connected to my life. But if my opinions and actions don't align with their world view, it's going to disappoint them. Yes, they are going to troll and abuse you, but then, that kind of disagreement happens with friends and family as well. The problem lies in the anonymity. I didn't demand for unconditional acceptance but there's a manner in which disapproval can be communicated – that's all I asked for. We can have different opinions but also have kindness and compassion for one another. That's what I was trying to put across too."
"I wonder, when people get famous, how would they really prepare [for a role] if they had to? They'll have to wear prosthetics if they have to work somewhere. They literally have to put fake eyebrows, fake nose, then watch YouTube videos. I get really sad about that."
"We are supposed to be very real in our performances. People expect us to be very real in our interviews too, otherwise they'll say that she's being fake. But when it comes to reacting to things that affect or probably bother us, we are expected to be Godly, unaffected by anything. We should be righteous all the time, achieving a nirvana stage where we don't get affected by anything that is thrown at us. If I get affected by something, I have the right to react – it may be right or wrong.
You like me when I play grey shades and characters with layers in my films, and you want me to be real and authentic. You like the fact that I own up to my mistakes or say that I'm not good in my interviews. But when I actually respond in a grey manner, you're not willing to accept that. It's very hypocritical of everyone to expect us to be like that. We are human beings too. So, I let that vulnerability stay with me. I react to something that genuinely affects me or hurts me. It is human. You've liked me for that in films, so you must accept me the way I am in real as well."
When asked whether there is a possible project that Taapsee and Samantha may collaborate on, Taapsee revealed, "I have offered her something, that I am going to produce." To this, Samantha responded, "And I would love to be a part of it." #YouFirstHeardItHere
While talking about the various roles offered today, Sanya had an epiphany: "I want to ask this question: people come to us ki ye chhota sa role hai – "Girlfriend, bubbly." Even the backstory says: 'She is bubbly. Period.' But do people come to male actors with such roles, like that of the heroine's bubbly boyfriend?" The question led to unfiltered laughs but also made everyone think.
"When I was 25-26, my engineering college friends were buying their first cars and houses, and they were getting settled in life, I was waiting for Bus no. 33 to go to some audition at Aaramnagar. That's when I would question that, "Sahi to aa gaya na?" I had torn the job letter in heroism but would I reach somewhere? Those were the days when I used to question myself because the college group used to be filled with photos of new cars. But now, this was the time I was waiting for." How the tables turn, we say.
Sidharth spoke about how male actors receive their own share of stereotypes, and how its time to move past typecasting in all forms, making nothing but the script "the hero." "Once you see something that we have done on-screen which you like, people have that perception of you. They go back, get influenced and write something. Then they come to you and say, 'Sir, ye usse inspire hoke likha hai.' But I've already done that before. It's like the same dish getting served differently. It's not wrong, sometimes it works too."
I think we are living in such a society where we are consumed by millions of things. And today, the lines are blurred between OTT and cinema. So, it'll become even more challenging now. The way forward is to not look at it from a gender point of view, but looking at the script as a hero instead. We need to come up with ideas that engage and get that culture back (of people coming and sitting, enjoying their popcorn and engaging with the film)."