Eyes are said to be the key to the soul. The entire face however is the key to acting or emoting. Priyanka Chopra’s performance in Barfi was lauded worldwide for her brilliance in ‘becoming’ an autistic person. She expresses a whole gamut of emotions, in many shots, with just her face. Be it fear, confusion, happiness or sadness – she captured everyone’s attention and hearts as the utterly innocent Jhilmil Chatterjee. There are many ways to express an emotion with just one’s face. Given that, nowadays, everyone uses emote-icons in most of their digital communications, it is even more easy, to realise the impact that facial expressions add to any communiqué. ☺ ☺
Practising facial expressions, begins by standing in front of a mirror so we can judge the complete effect of an emotion on every feature of our face. It is very important that when practising facial expressions the artist is aware of the emotions coming from a real place. In other words, they need to feel it on the inside in order for it show on the outside. The process will likely begin for most in believing in the emotion that they are about to practise. Let happiness or sadness blossom from within and then react as one naturally would to such a feeling. This will help a person determine their own natural reaction to various feelings.
Now it takes skill to rein in the emotion and only allow a strict measure to surface. For example while working on happiness a person might smile broadly, jump up and clap their hands as a natural reaction. When tutoring oneself on facial expression, instead of smiling broadly it will help to keep a check on the broadness of the smile and instead to translate it to the eyes so they sparkle to reflect the inner happiness. A small smile and bright eyes will also effectively express the joy bubbling within a person.
Shyness, for many will mean covering their face completely. But in trying to express it with just the face means a hesitant but sure lowering of the lashes so only the eyes are covered, subtly unveiling coyness. Turning the whole face slightly to one side adds to the allure. Looking into a mirror while trying this out will help a person realise how much of the face needs to the hidden and how slowly do the lashes need to be lowered. Every minute nuance counts and it is crucial that it is honed well.
Anger for many will mean fists crashing into walls, but with facial expression, it will mean a slight tightening of the jaw as if they are grinding their teeth within and a sharp raising of the eyelashes to look directly at the opposite person. Sometimes it can also be a minor flaring of the nostrils, but this has to be done carefully so the actor doesn’t appear utterly comical.
Fear can be conveyed by bringing the brows together and shifty eyes. As is abundantly clear most of these are contextual and very, very fine expressions. Even the slightest exaggeration can mean expose the person to ridicule and therefore they need to be practised time and again. For their next step, the person can invite a friend or family to judge their rendition of various facial expressions to get a clearer idea of what to improve.
It isn’t rocket science but it isn’t just everyone’s cup of tea either, and like most art forms it demands discipline, devotion and relentless practice.