420 hours - That's the exact amount of time that Upen Patel had to spend at Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, Los Angeles, where he had enrolled himself for a two month acting skills course. Attending classes non-stop for 60 days at stretch and 7 hours a day, Upen understood an altogether different meaning of 420 once he completed the course.
''It was really tiring. There was no break whatsoever and the concept of weekend being off was really unheard of. I was virtually slogging it out though to be honest, I enjoyed every hour that I spent there. It was a refreshing shift from the hustle bustle of Mumbai as I could concentrate on brushing up my acting skills and return as a better actor'', says Upen who has just returned back to the city.
The daily schedule read 4 hours of acting classes and 3 hours of dance. ''I enjoyed both these segments tremendously'', Upen remembers, ''There were specific workshops on improvising, reading of scripts and collective memory etc. Moreover, dance classes that used to take place in the evenings included ballet and hip-hop amongst others dance forms.''
So has he returned as a better actor?
''Of course yes'', he is quick to respond, ''There are so many finer nuances that you get to witness once you are sitting amongst a bunch of professionals. The key word is 'observing'. You have to be completely engrossed into what is being taught to you and should have a keen sense of observation. There is a lot to learn out there and I would recommend that every actor takes some time out for this. After all 2 months of your life are nothing when compared to the benefits that you could earn from the course in the long run.''