A deconstruction of the art and craft of the actor, That Thing Called the Actor is based on the Natyashastra, a 2500-year-old classical Indian treatise on the art of performance.
The film explores the craft of acting with reference to a particular film of the late Mani Kaul, the iconic Indian film maker. A series of powerfully dramatic and poetic cinematic improvisations deconstruct the key aspects of the actors craft vis a vis the Natyashastra: it's reference to context with the greatest art of the twentieth century-- the art of cinema, making the actor's craft both contemporary and timeless.
"That thing called the actor" is a deliberately provocative title because it is believed that anyone can be the actor as long as there is a good cinematographer and a good director and the person (i.e. the actor) in front of the camera qualifies in terms of looks and basic acting talent. That the actor can be, and is in fact, a highly evolved and refined body, mind, and spirit is at the core of the treatise of the Natyashastra. It is at the core of Mani Kaul's understanding of the actor's craft in contemporary Indian cinema.
The actor's craft is inclusive of every branch of knowledge ever existing in the world---it is the path of an inner knowing as well as an outer journey of assimilation of knowledge and wisdom. The actor is the body of intuition, insight, compassion, and the body of the mystic.
Note from the Filmmaker
I believe I am the best person to make this film because for me acting is a calling. I have trained in both the Indian and the Western treatises of acting and have been a professional actress in cinema, theater, and television in India.
Mani Kaul is one of the directors in whose films I have played the leading parts. I have rarely come across a director whose cinema is so contemporary and arises from the deep traditions of yoga, vedantic philosophy, and the Natyashastra.
After thirty years of being in the field of acting, I am deeply fascinated by the actor's craft. I truly believe that an exploration of the depths of this fascinating discipline of acting is a path, a journey of the deep Self. My film allows you to enter into this journey, both as practicing actors and as an audience.
Meeta Vasisht - Director
A post graduate in English Literature from the Punjab University (1983) and also holding a diploma from the National School of Drama Delhi (1987), Meeta has acted in nearly 45 feature films, several TV shows, and in the theater. She has been producer and script writer on tv shows and for films. She worked for five continuous years in a remand home for trafficked minors, in Mumbai, creating a series of workshops: Theatre and Arts Modules (TAM), that effectively dealt with issues addressing trauma, healing, and empowerment of trafficked minors.