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