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Saturday, 30 January, 1999, 12:29 GMT
Bollywood: A class act to follow
Pooja Bhatt
Few Bollywood hopefuls make it to the star status of actress Pooja Bhatt
By BBC Bombay Correspondent Sanjeev Srivastava

Struck with the glamour and riches of India's film city, thousands of aspiring actors come to Bombay every year. Only a handful will be successful but that does not keep the majority of would-be stars away.

Taking full advantage of this migration, numerous acting academies and acting schools have sprung up alongside the film industry.

Their aim, they say, is to help star-struck newcomers realise their dreams. The reality however is far from instant and easy success.

Fight to the top

Bombay's acting schools teach many invaluable lessons in the art of acting. Perhaps the most important is the ability to fight with gusto and conviction.

juhi
Juhi Chawla and Akshay Kumar: Current stars in the Bollywood firmament
Fights and action scenes are an essential ingredient in any Indian blockbuster film. Newcomers who want to get into the industry are prepared to pay up to $800 to learn such techniques.

Enrolling on three-month acting courses, they hope that the training will be their passport to roles in Bollywood - the world's biggest film industry.

For most however the dream never materialises, but that doesn't stop hopefuls coming from all over India. Maanu Bhandari from Delhi has enrolled with an acting school, lured by thoughts of fame and fortune.

"Working ten to 12 hours a day I was getting peanuts in return. So I thought I had better switch on to acting because if you really want to be rich and famous in India you either become a politician or an actor. Politics was not my cup of tea so I thought I would switch on to acting. It's probably in my genes as my mother was a stage artiste," she says.

Tough at the top

The lucky ones will make it onto the set of big budget movies with lavish sets, large crews and megastars in the leading roles. But the struggle does not end there.

Sanjay Dutt is one of Bollywood's superstars. He says that reaching the top is hard enough, but staying there is even tougher.

sanjay dutt
Sanjay Dutt: Bollywood heart throb
"It is not easy. It is very, very hard to get into these guys' hearts. You have got to work hard, you have got to perform well. You just cannot take your work as a joke. You have got to be really involved in it so that these people enjoy what they go into the theatres to see," he says.

The importance and pull of the Bombay film industry cannot be overestimated. Long before a film is released it attracts huge interest with large crowds turning up to watch the film being shot.

The stars are hero-worshipped. Often they are elevated to cult status and it is their popularity which ensures big takings at the box-office.

Cutting costs

Dil to Pagal hai (The Heart is Mad) is one of the biggest Bollywood hits of recent times. But the production costs of films like this are spiralling upwards.

Bhawna Somaya editor of the monthly film magazine G says that film producers, looking to cut costs, have welcomed the idea of acting schools where trainees pay for their own courses.

Sridevi
Star Sridevi has made 227 films since the age of three
"In the old days, Mehboob Khan or whoever, were the pioneers. They used to spend a lot of time - a few months, sometimes a year - to train the guy before he came onto the studio.Today that effort is being saved by the acting schools doing it," he says.

The Bombay acting schools do not promise to make people stars. However they do have an important role to play in the future of India's film industry.

With their help, young aspirants shed their inhibitions in front of the camera. And young actors learn the discipline needed for what can be a demanding career.

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Sanjay Dutt: It's not easy being a megastar
See also:

25 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Bollywood goes back to its roots
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