What goes on in the mind of an actor when they leave their own self behind, and get under the skin of a strange character? This question has always fascinated me, and to be honest, I can only observe with wonder when one person projects different personalities, far removed from their own, through theater or on screen. I love the nuances actors bring to a character. The way their voice changes. Their eyes acquire an emotion. Their face contorts, distorts, becomes serene, a canvas for a thousand emotions. It’s an art not many can perfect. Sure there are celluloid stars, and celebrities. But few have been able to come close to “becoming” a completely different person. And when they do, we watch in awe, humbled by the privilege of being witnesses to their superior craft.
Studying faces became my hobby soon after I managed to sneak into my bedroom one of Mom’s book on Human Psychology. It had a chapter on emotions, of course, and how they can be decoded through the study of body language. But nothing reveals our inner world like the eyes do. And of course, the face. We are mostly transparent, despite our belief that we cannot be read. But actors can make their faces work on the script of a stranger’s life. They can give a form to those. They can create the tangible out of the intangible.
I wanted to capture this fascinating journey of Faces. And I had a muse within my home. My Brother-In-Law, Jameel Khan, happens to be an immensely talented Theater and Bollywood actor. To watch him transcend the inner worlds of several characters within a matter of minutes is sheer magic. His animated recreations of feelings can leave you speechless. He was kind enough to take out some time from his crazy schedule. (Though he didn’t really have much of a choice. I am married to his wife’s brother, you see!) We did a quick and fun shoot, and it had a simple brief – Become Another.
Within a couple of hours, Jameel played out an entire range of fleeting and intense emotions, only a few of which our camera could capture. My friend Tinkesh and I often stood like kids possessed by raw magic, when this genius actor held conversations with himself that seemed all too real. He’d be smiling enigmatically one moment, and hold the world’s agony in his eyes in the next moment. I honestly feel that despite our putting in all our best efforts, we could only capture a fraction of what Jameel so skillfully and freely let us experience. Well, here are a few shots from Become Another. Watch one man become many. That’s the magical power of actors.
All photographs by Tikesh A.