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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Becoming a loafer from a copy writer wasn't easy. Modelling is a tough thing.

If a man grows his muscles, precisely biceps, and a woman reduces her waistline and begins to show her 2-4" cleavage, here and there, it's a general notion, what I have been seeing post 2002, that ‎#Modelling is the profession one can opt for and make lots of money, attain fame, attend Page 3 parties, do some bed-warming at Hotel Kenilworth, Kolkata and think Bollywood is the next destination. 

No harm in dreaming big, in fact it is good, even if reveries, but one simple thing needs to be understood that Modelling in ads (not adds, okay?) is 180-degree opposite to doing the Catwalk on the ramp.

I have nothing to say about the ramp because Fashion has never been my domain. But since, ‎#advertising is very much my domain and where I have the authority to say, whatever I wish to, my humble suggestion is: "It's always wiser to learn 'how to manipulate expressions' before facing the camera, especially to make a portfolio, which, over 90% cases, creative directors in various ad agencies across India, just throw away."

At least I simply send those portfolios to the bin where I see a girl's eyes-lips coordination is all over the place, or she is showing her flesh but giving the expression of a nun, as if praying to Jesus for an assignment. Or a guy in dhoti-punjabi is sporting a look, as if he has gobbled a sardine alive without water.

In commercials, be it TVC or Corporate Films, still there are scopes to portray the right expression but in still ads there is hardly any scope to give the right expression unless one understands what the character in the communication demands.

In ads, modelling is even tougher than acting in a film, to some extent. And there... looks, make-ups, boobs, biceps, etc. come much later but what comes first is understanding the communication need and then the character in it.

For example: One fine evening, I got a call from Subhendhu, who's now with Response, but earlier was with Inner Circle, throwing a modelling challenge to me  for next day early morning. And Subhendhu - the then art director of Inner Circle - hardly gives any opportunity to negotiate or say, "No" to him.

The character was of a loafer - the elements who are seen in every nook and corner of India, especially in Kolkata, and who actually become glorified with an opportunity to raise their collars at the drop of a hat and think they are the Alexanders when asked to organize and look after any event... from a Shradh to a Puja.

Plus, the character needed to deliver a dialogue that would be used as verbatim.

And my experience in front of camera was limited to passport-size photographs then, while behind the camera experience doesn't really help one act in front. Moreover, in such a short notice without seeing any layout even.

So not only the butterfly but also the insect kingdom, I was feeling inside my stomach. And that too, under the spell of Subhendhu's grilling.

Then I just closed myself from me. I got into the character. I forgot who the fuck I'm, actually.

Once I'm done with the characterization in my mind, I started to think of my shortcomings. I realized my hands are a real problem, because they are disproportionate and longer than necessary. My eyes are overtly expressive and big to fit in the character. And the T-shirt I wore didn't have the collar which could remain raised automatically. And after a goodnight sleep my face got a bit heavy, if not swollen that way.

So, what I did was, I used one of my hands to raise the collar of my T and the other to emphasize on the airy 'atti-cum-confi' part... harping on the words 'Behspati Tunge' (luck is shining on us / me). And I angled the elbow in a manner that it got rid of the excessive length of my hand. I also kept the thumb up, so as to complement the overconfidence 'Ebar aamrai pabo' (this time we'll get it for sure) of winning the competition. In the process, I delivered the dialogue rather manipulatively and held on to the expression for longer for the shutter to drop, so my big eyes got shrunk and the face lost its heaviness.

The take was okay and everyone got satisfied within 15 minutes.

The ad came out in the newspaper, as well as on the hoarding across Kolkata and made my life quite miserable, consequently, for two to three months when I became an object of laughter to anyone, everyone on road.

I felt like sharing this once again to give a real-life case-study on how to manipulate expression character-wise. But of course not to pat on my back. I actually had more than enough of those pats in my life, so require no more.

But in case it helps, I will be glad!

Last, but not the least, Modelling is NOT projecting your assets. Instead, it's all about presenting a character believably meeting a communication need, by hiding your liabilities.

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