Can creativity be taught?

— Sumit Paul

I often go to teach Urdu diction and voice modulation at FTI, Poona. Whenever I go and see so many 'would-be actors' out there, I seriously wonder whether acting or for that matter, any fine art, can be taught? It's worthwhile to note that many Gold Medalists in acting from FTI (1969/70/72/73 batches) failed to cut the ice with audience and faded without a trace. The late Navin Nishchal, Anil Dhawan and Vijay Arora emerged on the acting horizon with much promise but failed to live up to the expectations of the viewers. They are hardly remembered by cine-goers despite their academic excellence at the renowned acting institute of India. Balraj Sahni, arguably the greatest Indian actor to have appeared on the marquee, never went to any acting school, whereas his son, Parikshit Sahni went to London School of Audio-Visual Arts, passed with flying colours and eventually dented the image of his alma mater by acting awfully. There're numerous examples of such failed actors who 'learnt' acting at an acting school. Did Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Prithviraj Kapoor, Amitabh and even Shah Rukh Khan (though quite a mediocre actor) ever go to any acting school to learn or hone their acting skills? Did Paul Newman, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, David Niven, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Meryl Streep ever learn how to act at any institute? English acting legend and Shakespearean actor Sir Lawrence Oliver would often say that, " Acting schools curb the spontaneous acting skills of a person." Very true. It's the same with the poetry classes or schools of journalism. How can you teach a person how to write a poem? It's so intrinsic and it comes from within.

There's an English adage: ' Poets are born, not made.' I remember, while in England, I joined a poetry workshop for a lark, that claimed to bring out the hidden poet in every individual! The very first day they gave a big, fat dictionary of rhyming words like pain, gain, rain; fat, mat, rat and so on. Flabbergasted, I asked the 'poetry-teacher', how the book would help one write poems? " Poetry is rhyming," she nonchalantly answered. I fled, taking a solemn vow never to go there in life. This is the problem of all these schools and institutes.

They give you a pattern, a method or a structure, which is far away from real life. Life's not 2+2=4. There's no fixed equation to regulate one's life by. One learns acting from the school of life and by observing people. Likewise, one learns poetry from the experiences one gathers from the vicissitudes of life. Creativity is enriched by a panspermia of experiences, offered by life's innumerable episodes and totally unexpected events. Nothing in life is structured and straight-jacketed. It's all spontaneous. P B Shelly, John Keats, Lord Byron, Shakespeare, Tagore, Tennyson and many others never went to any poetry learning institute.

They never required to learn the art of poetry or versification as it was embedded in their psyche. Poetry was innate to them. Without much formal education or 'training' what they produced so naturally is still relevant and shall remain worthwhile even after a millennium. The classroom format of acting method is always very stilted and stifled. It cannot capture life in its totality. The entire mosaic of acting, and the whole gamut of emotions can never be imparted in a classroom. At the most, it can give you a direction, but even that direction may prove to be a handicap. Natural skills and talents can never be taught in a school or institute.

British English daily The Observer never appoints a reporter, correspondent, sub-editor and editor from any institute of journalism. It believes that school blunts the sharpness of your pen and also teaches you a language that is not yours. A school of journalism churns out people with same ideas and thoughts. There's no originality. You're indoctrinated and imprisoned in your own sphere of borrowed words and ideas. Be natural and spontaneous. All these schools are for mediocres and scallywags. Moreover, I wonder, what would one learn from the 'acting schools' of Subhash Ghai, Anupam Kher, Udita Goswami, Reena Roy (!) among others? Did they ever act? Please enlighten me. In a nutshell, creativity cannot be taught or inculcated in an individual.

About the Author
Sumit Paul is an advanced research student of Semitic languages, literature and civilizations and I contribute to world's premier publications in French, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Dutch, English, Bengali, Hindi, Turkish, Spanish among others.

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