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What does it take to be a good actor? Mastering exactly five stock expressions

Shweta Kawaatra

We television actors are caught in a funny state of affairs today. It's a situation where you just need to be adept at turning on five stock expressions in order to be called a good actor. Navarasas be damned!

Since the scripts do not allow any experimentation, over a period of time, actors learn to match stock expressions to stock dialogue, almost as a reflex action. Jokingly, we even give stock numbers to these expressions. For instance, in our jargon, formula 44B is the typical vamp's expression -- with arched eyebrows, wicked smile, et al. While 44E is all about turning on the sugary act. During the shooting of Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, we always used to joke that while I had to eternally turn on the 44B act, the rest of the cast had to be on 44E…

According to my experience, here are the five expressions that we actors need to know:


The typical instruction to actors for expressing shock goes, "Aankhen phaad, aankhen aur badi kar" (Widen your eyes, more, roll them more).   We know that in real life we never roll our eyes to that extent, but that's the way it is on television. What's more, after rolling those eyes, we have to hold it for 45 seconds while the camera zooms in on our faces and then zooms out. So, it's like, aankhen phaad... freeze!


Anger means flared nostrils. This formula has been tried and tested… and set in stone.  Actors are egged on to express anger from the sidelines by directors.   For instance, while I'm giving my shot, the director will be egging me on by yelling, "Come on, Shweta, go for it.  You want to slap her, you want to kill her, you hate her…"   And I have to flare my nostrils a little more.


It's well-known that only vamps feel happy in our serials - needless to say, for all the wrong reasons. So for happiness, read 'hatred'. And that's 44B. Flared nostrils, arched eyebrows, lop-sided smile, a wicked, nasal laugh. Go all out and the take will be okayed in one shot.


That's formula 40. As a vamp, I have played it much too often. Crashing background music with eyes narrowed, lips pursed. That's the dirty look of envy I had to turn on at least in every episode.


Love was a hilarious emotion which I got to portray in Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki. My love interest was played by Ali Asgar, who is much shorter than me. So when we had to get mushy, the first instruction yelled out was, "Stool lao" and Ali had to climb on to it to look taller. After that we had to get up, close and personal. Closer, closer closer… about to kiss… look down coyly just before the lips meet. That's love, TV style.

If you can do this much, you're a successful television actor. Which means you'll be shooting at least 25 days a month.

• Reader-reporter Shweta Kawaatra, is a leading television actress. She is best known for the vamp's role she essayed in Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki. She likes playing the vamp because she feels that there is a little more scope to act in these roles, than others

Why I wanted to do this story

I wanted to write this story because I feel we actors have very little to do by way of acting today. Stereotyped scripts and the same dialogue and expressions have created a scenario where we don't even get to learn on the job any more

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Shweta Kawaatra

princess1 IF-Rockerz

Joined: 08 July 2005
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Posted: 04 June 2006 at 10:39am | IP Logged
hey ya thanks for sharing this Embarrassed
aish2 IF-Sizzlerz

Joined: 17 October 2005
Posts: 20001

Posted: 11 June 2006 at 10:37am | IP Logged
thanx for sharing

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