His star-pupil Shabana Azmi speaks to Subhash K Jha on the legendary man-artiste-guru mentor.
“He was the only person in the world whose feet I used to touch because he is my guru in the true sense of the term. A guru is a person who not only teaches you your craft, a guru is someone who teaches you how to negotiate your way through life; which values to hold dear and which bad habits to leave behind. Those who believe acting can never be taught, have never met Professor Roshan Taneja.He taught me that An actor is her own instrument. For a sitar player to be good it would depend both on the dexterity of her fingers plus how finely tuned the sitar is. An actor has only herself. Her face, her body, her voice, her gait but most of all the ability to absorb life around you like a sponge and mine it for the benefit of the character you play. A student of acting must watch theatre and films, read books, go to art galleries, attend music concerts. It doesn’t matter if you cant understand, what is important is to let yourself be opened to all aesthetic stimulae because the more you give of yourself to the character the more the character will give you back because acting is a two way process.Those two beautiful years I spent at FTII were barely enough to teach me the alphabet of acting. I wish I could have been there for atleast two more years! When I shared that with Sir he smiled wistfully and said “The world has changed. Nobody has the time to do riyaz, the young are impatient they need capsules of training that last one year, six months, one month and even one week!” His smile hid the sadness he felt
“Acting? It’s a life long process of learning. You want to learn it in one week? Buzz off!
But If you wish to learn from a master then in all humility, with time on your side, head to Professor Roshan Taneja” used to be my standard advice to all struggling newcomers.
I feel very sad that I couldn’t be there to pay my last respects to him as I’m shooting in Punjab.
I bow my head in gratitude to him and offer my deepest condolences to Didi(Mrs Taneja) and (sons) Rahul and Rohit.”