‘You are so pretty, you can become an actress’

Recently on Instagram, whilst I was browsing through my explore page, I came across a beautiful picture of a girl. Honestly, she was breath-taking and in my opinion drop dead gorgeous. What, however, concerned me massively and drove me to write this blog was one of the comments which were left on this photo – ‘you can become an actress’. For you information, the girl in the picture is not an actress and has no background in the field of drama.

I do not have much experience in the field of drama however I did complete a GCSE in Drama, and of the 13 GCSEs I sat, Drama was the one which challenged me the most. My two assessed pieces tested me in different ways. One was a play in which I had to play a 30 year old who was playing an 8 year old; basically it was a play within a play, so I had two folds of characterisations that I had to master. The second was where I had to play a teenage girl with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and how this condition escalated to psychosis which ultimately tipped her off the edge.

In addition to my own drama experience, one of my friends is a final year drama student at university and her aim is to eventually become a professional actress. I thought it would be useful for you to see how much it takes to build an acting career, whether it be part-time or full-time. She described to me how competitive the industry is and her plans for the next few years is to go to a drama school or do a Masters in Acting or get an internship somewhere, but go to acting classes on the side to hone her acting skills. She is not even sure whether she will definitely get into drama school, and on top of that she needs to get signed by an agency. It is then through her agent that she can get actual auditions and castings. This is just a summary of what she needs to achieve in the next few years in order to get one step closer to becoming an actress.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well because acting is extremely hard. Calling oneself an actor/actress is not something which happens overnight, it happens with years of training and hard work, just as with any performance art like dance or music.

Now if I talk more specifically about the South Asian film Industry, acting has become so much about girls in particular being eye-candy. This explains why the general public are also of the opinion that the Indian film industry requires good looks more than good acting skills. I personally feel it is absolutely disgusting that women are objectified to such an extent.

There are so many people at fault for the state of the Indian Film Industry, and I am not here to discuss these wider issues. All I want to say is that it is such a shame that so many individuals in westernised cultures are also falling victim to this objectification of actors and actresses (more so actresses of course).

I wanted to leave every girl and guy who aspires to be an actress or actor with one challenge. The day you strip of all your make up and style, and convince an audience that you can play characters ranging from 8 year olds all the way to 80 year olds, is when you really start showcasing your potential to act. 80% of your ability to pull off a character comes from your ability to act. The remaining 20% comes from additional factors such as: make-up, lighting, set design, camera angles, etc.

Next time you call yourself an actress or actor, really think about whether you are an actress/actor or whether you just have a passion for acting. They are two very different things!

Oh and for the general public, because I think we are all responsible for the state of the Indian film industry objectifying people, we need to stop falling victim to such daft mind-sets which are infecting the generations to come and their perception of an acting career, which I highly respect if done correctly.

Grindstone and Toe Rings – Tamil Hindu Weddings

The more I read about Tamil Hindu weddings, the more I want to read.

Such a drive is furthered by ardent readers of my blog who open up very interesting discussions after having read my posts.

One which really inspired me to write this piece was based on a discussion I had with one of my readers after they had read my ‘Time to Tie the Knot’ blog post, for which I collaborated with London’s Western Jewellers.

The question which they had posed to me was what my knowledge and understanding was of the Ammi Mithithal tradition in Tamil Hindu Weddings. My mum educated me briefly about this over the past few years but this was a mere starting point. I decided to do more reading around the area. The reason for being so keen is because I want to know the significance of it. This is part of my culture and religion, and so I should be willing to learn about it rather than just follow the instructions the priest gives me on the day of wedding (which still remains a myth in my life right now for those inquisitive ones amongst you all!).

What does Ammi Mithithal mean?

This quite literally means placing one’s foot on a grindstone. In a Tamil Hindu wedding ceremony, this takes place during the Saptapathi ritual, where the bride and groom take seven steps around the Agni (central fire) where each step denotes a promise made by both the bride and groom – Sapthapathi will be explored in further depth in my future blogs!

What does Ammi Mithithal involve?

After taking their steps around Agni, the couple reach the grindstone. The groom holds the bride’s right big toe and helps her tread and place her right foot on the grindstone. As the bride mounts the stone, it symbolises how she and the marriage should be rock firm, and undisturbed by difficulties of life.

Interestingly, this particular ritual symbolises numerous other things including the fact that by touching the bride’s feet, the groom acts with more humility and respect for his bride. This I found particularly interesting because many are always made to believe that Tamil Hindu weddings are centred around and dominated by the groom when it comes to the symbolisms. This ritual connotes the complete opposite. It actually shows how women are just as righteous as men in marriage, as is always depicted in the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi.

Straight after the bride mounts the Ammi, a Metti (toe ring), is presented on both her second toes; this is the only visible jewellery worn by the bride after marriage which denotes she is married. (If you followed my previous blog about the Thali, you would remember that the Thali should actually be hidden underneath the woman’s clothing!).

These Mettis are made of silver and not gold, because of the significance gold holds in the Tamil culture and Hindu religion. Therefore there is a common practice that gold should not be worn as a form of accessory for anything below the waist. However, traditions are changing with more gold and diamond based Mettis coming to the fore.

My mum and I have numerous conversations about wedding rituals and the significance behind each stage of the Tamil Hindu Wedding ceremony. Interestingly she told me that historically men were the ones to wore the Metti post-marriage. This was because in ancient society, people walked bare feet and women were supposed to look down and walk, hence when she saw a man’s feet adorned with a Metti per foot, she would know straightaway that he was married. Do you not think it is interesting how things have changed so much now!?

Traditions are continuously changing and who knows what the Tamil Hindu Wedding rituals will look like 100 years down the line? All I know for now is that understanding what we practice and doing so properly is where the real joy and culture lies.

I started off this blog educating myself and hopefully all of you. I will continue doing so because there is no end point to educating oneself about one’s own culture, religion and traditions…so keep supporting folks!