So, the lovely Tisca Chopra surprises us yet again, and this time it is a completely unexpected role we see her in, that of an author. Her book, Acting Smart, is the newbie’s guide to entering Bollywood, replete with anecdotes and advice, tried and tested tips from insiders in Bollywood, written in a fabulous conversational, witty style that makes it a breeze to read.
So here, without much ado, is a short q&a with Tisca on her book.
Starting off with the obvious one, what motivated you to write this book? Did you see a need for a book like this?
I don’t think anybody’s made more mistakes than me in the business. I fell and fell hard on my nose many times and had to find ways of righting the wrongs. Or start from scratch again. Often I wished for some basic pointers and then I figured there were none. So that was how it began.
How did the writing bug bite you? And why non-fiction to begin with? How long was this book in the writing?
Everyone in my family was fairly surprised when I decided to ‘act’ professionally. There was a common understanding that I would be a writer of sorts or a journalist like Christiane Amanpour. I have always had a great interest in reading fiction and playing fictional characters but no talent for writing fiction. My husband has that gift, but I can write the factual in an interesting manner. Also the film business is full of so many quirky people and such screwball scenarios.
I was at it, writing this book for about four years. Every time I thought it was done, I had fresh insights from new co-actors, each shoot just threw up so many anecdotes. At some point I had to say.. Ok, that’s it.
You have peppered the book with amusing anecdotes and practical advice, all based on your experience in the film industry as well as that of other established folks. How did you sift through which anecdotes you would use and discard from the lot you must surely have gathered?
Oh well.. where I felt it would offend anyone I’ve kept names out, but I was amazed how candid my fellow actors and directors were about the experiences they have had. Anil Kapoor for example shared his experiences with such genuineness that I have kept that recording just to listen to it later and motivate myself. Anurag Kashyap and Imtiaz Ali were a hoot to interview. They spoke about the common mistakes actors make. The wealth of experience that Shabana Azmi brought to the book is unbelievable.
Actually, I had a blast writing ‘Acting Smart’ because I got to spend so many fun evenings making new friends. And learnt so much in the process about the inner workings of the lives of so many splendid creative minds.
What is the main take away you want anyone who reads this book to have?
First, they need to have fun, I did not write anything that would constitute a work of great literature. I am not looking to win the Booker or any other writing award. Secondly, the aam aadmi has so may questions about films; FAQs such as what happens to the clothes after shooting, don’t you get bored doing take after take, why does it take so long to make a film and finally of course, does the casting couch exist? And finally, for aspiring actors it’s a sort of tell-all from the mouths of many excellent professionals- Shabana Azmi, Anil Kapoor, Boman Irani and many others. So it should hopefully serve as a basic guide.
Are we going to see more books from you? How is the author cap fitting for size?
Early days yet, so I don’t really know how the cap fits. However, I have always been promiscuous with my ambitions, I want to do many things and I am glad that the book is out of my system. So are my friends actually, because ever time I’d had enough of them, I’d have the perfect exit – I’d lock myself away and surf the net, while pretending to be a serious author.
Now I want to make a film.
And finally, who are the authors you love, the books on your bedside, the books you return to over and over again?
I am a self help book addict & ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ is on my bedside. As also a stack of Asterix & TinTin. I also loved ‘The God Delusion’, ‘Blink’ & ‘The Outliers’.
I loved reading your book Kiran, can’t actually wait for your next!
And wait, we have more, *drum rolls*. A giveaway. The most interesting question posed to Tisca in the comments section of this blogpost will receive a personalised autographed copy of the book. Quick, ask her your questions. The giveaway closes on Feb 28 and Tisca will choose a winner in the first week of March.