The top job in cinema
Kamal Haasan, Nandita Das  & Mel Gibson  

How do you define a top job? The highest authority, the highest pay, the highest recognition or all rolled into one. If you are asking for all these put together, then you are probably asking for too much, unless you are thinking about a CEO’s position. But, these days, being the CEO of a big multinational too is not such an inviting prospect as many might agree. Getting to the point. Which is the top job in cinema? Easy one, most definitely the director! Yes, cinema is essentially called a directors’ medium. They are the people who conceive a film, they are the ones who envision a movie in its totality much before anyone gets the idea. It is their vision that translates on to screen. So, it is pretty obvious that a director’s job must be the top in the hierarchy in cinema and many of us believe that it is too. While I am not totally contradicting this point of view, there is definitely room to argue that the top job tag actually belongs to the actor.

If you agreed with the criteria presented at the beginning for the top job, then it suits an actor better than a director.

The highest authority perhaps belongs to the director depending on degree of success achieved by his last film. But the other two criterion, i.e. the highest pay and widest recognition definitely belong to the actor. No one knows the official sizes of the paycheques given to directors, but knowing the sums charged by our actors, it is hard to imagine that a director would be getting more. Paycheques and allied matters are of secondary or even lesser importance for genuine cinema lovers who mind about nothing except the quality of what is presented on screen.

So, getting down to recognition that is achieved for the respective jobs. There is no doubt that the actors win hands down on this count. The overwhelming dominance that they enjoy in this aspect can perhaps outweigh anything else that is not in their favor. Who gives them this recognition? The audience of course, that includes you and me.

Directors seldom become popular figures unless they resort to acting and actors can never let go of their on screen images how much ever they try to change course into direction. In fact, being an actor is a point of no return within the film industry. It is in fact the apex of cinema from where there is no path but downhill. Anyone who gets there has to stay there or decide to renounce their career in cinema. Anyone who once becomes an actor will always be viewed only as an actor, not only by the audience but also by the industry insiders themselves. There are examples to cite.

Keen followers of cinema might know that Manivannan was a director to begin with. But, at present, his claim to fame is definitely the lighter moments that he has presented on screen. No matter what he does to change that image, it has stuck on to him irreversibly. Similarly, there is an entire generation that knows Manobala only as a silly caper specialist comedian, not as a thinking director. Now, no amount of light thrown on his earlier career or his return to direction through ‘Kadhalikka Neramillai’ is likely to change the perception. A director’s life as a director ends the moment they step in front of the camera. This is not a universal truth. Also the vice versa is not true; i.e., an actor’s career does not change course, how many ever times he/she tries direction.

Nasser has a few films in his kitty as director (albeit low profile), yet we know him exclusively as an accomplished actor. Sarath Kumar directed himself once, not many remember that. A yesteryear favorite Revathy has done a few films that Kollywood can be proud of, something that most people are ignorant about. And, there is no doubt that Nandita Das will always remain an actress in the minds of people even after delivering a highly acclaimed product titled Firaaq. There are many such examples that one can cite to show that acting is indeed the hottest and the most coveted job in filmdom. An interesting analogy is offered by sports where even the most powerful of coaches or managers are only shadows when compared to the actual performers, the players.

Having mentioned coaches and managers, many of you might be thinking of a strong counterpoint to my views. One manager, perhaps has defied all norms to become as huge a figure as the players he created; Sir Alex Ferguson. But, one has to remember that it took him 23 years at Manu, more than 10 Premiership titles, a couple of Champions Leagues and many other small and big trophies to be the colossus that he is today. All that when one fre(ak)e kick took Beckham to the top of the world.

Similarly, cinema to has instances where people have managed to hold on to the director’s image in spite of turning actors themselves. Cheran is a very good contemporary example while kings of the 80s Bhagyaraj and T.R. too are worthy of mention. It’s too early to say whether Sasikumar is in the same mould. As for an actor who has successfully created a director’s image, no better example than Kamal Haasan is required. It took a very special talent to achieve this.

Having read the exceptions, if you are inclined to think that direction is indeed cinema’s top job then wait a minute. Aamir Khan is still an actor first and then maybe, if time and memory permit, is mentioned as the director who made Taare Zameen Par. Mel Gibson, in spite of The Passion of Christ and Apocalypto, is still in many parts of the world, known as the man who starred in Braveheart, not as the man who directed it. Like it or not, acting is indeed the top job in cinema.

Respond to

Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.

The top job in cinema
7 Things I liked about    Kanthaswamy
‘Divide and entertain’: The way of    cinema
Downloading movies, nothing    legal about it!
Smart and savvy - the daddy’s    girls of Kollywood
The celebrity social network!
Fourth Dimension
The actress endorsed by Kamal
Neither Venus nor Mars: It’s Earth
Can our heroes be good leaders?
Jo's Space
The Divorce - Why?
The New Kollywood
If Aamir had played fair, would    Asin have cried foul?
Slumdog Millionaire –    Unentertaining, Laughable and    Annoying!