Casting Directors: Calling the shots

Before catching the eye of Raju Hirani, Majid Majidi, Karan Johar, Rajamouli etc, who are the ones that you need to impress?!, of course after convincing yourself?!...

It’s the casting directors of today, a field that now seriously yields the future stars of tomorrow, the address of new comers and those looking for roles have changed from producers/directors office to casting directors. At the 9th Jagran Film Festival, leading casting directors of today – Honey Trehan, Mukesh Chhabra, Jogi Malang & Janet Ellis Prajapati in a conversation with the aspiring artistes and media gave insights about the role of a casting director in today’s world, its growth and importance.
The insightful conversation moderated by Anuj Alankar, the gurus who have shaped legends of today gave gyan (wisdom) on how to approach and what is the most essential quality to become a good actor.

According to Honey Trehan ( OMKARA, MAQBOOL, upcoming SHHUDDHI, MANIKARNIKA: THE QUEEN OF JHANSI) under whom Mukesh Chhabra learnt the art and minutes of casting, casting came into prominence after Shekhar Kapur’s BANDIT QUEEN in 1994 took the world by storm, premiered in the Directors' fortnight section of the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, the movie introduced talents like Seema Biswas and Nirmal Pandey to the world of cinema, later when Ram Gopal Varma the director of the so called mainstream cinema made SATYA in 1998 Bhiku Mahatre – the character played by Manoj Bajpai became a household name, people started taking casting seriously.

Yes, the change of taste in cinema and with more and more realism finding its space amidst the commercial entertainers/potboilers, the demand for real/ raw faces from the hinterland, gave rise to the phenomenon, with TV constantly grooming, aspiring talents got a new platform to explore and the casting directors played the key role in placing the right talent at the right place.

When asked about the difference between the approach of a Mumbai born aspirant and a small town born aspirant, Jogi Malan ( the man behind the casting in VICKY DONOR, UDAAN) said, “It’s the passion that makes the difference, you should be emotional towards your work, it doesn’t matter whether the aspirant is from Bandra or Banaras, passion backed by talent is a must”.

On asked how easy and challenging casting has become, Mukesh Chhabra who has revolutionized the Bollywood casting field and turned into an industry with professional approach, said, “ All talents in all ages come under one roof, so the process is streamlined, after convinced by the script, character, we start hunting knowing the demand, so it’s the casting director who interacts with the probable lead much before the director and with growing platforms, emerging talents and change in taste and preferences, the responsibility rises, we even fight for an actor if we are convinced seems fit and the director has other opinion, it’s challenging”.

“And it’s not that we are sitting in the office and required brilliance is pouring in at every hour, we movie out, search for the right face” he added.

Janet Ellis Prajapati who is a known name in casting in the television arena highlighted on the growing spurt in talents coming from all corners. Underlining the fact that the demand and challenge in the television industry is more stiff as requirement can pop in at any hour making her team to search for an artiste at mid night for the coming wee hours. Movie industry directors get more space and weight (money) she remarked in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Elaborating on the degree of professionalisms that has entered into the casting industry and the undying passion for perfection that makes them go miles, Honey Trehan shared an incident during the casting of the Iranian master Majid Majidi’s Bollywood debut BEYOUND THE CLOUDS, He said, “Majid Majidi gave me a sketch of the character of Akshi’s mother, I was wandering to get a face near to the sketch, after lot of effort we got to know about the 72 year old GV Sharada, the Kannada cinema veteran had left acting 15 years back and was staying in Bengaluru, she was the face Majidi wanted and we managed to get her on board, she had a small role but that role made a huge impact”.

So before Majidi, it was the casting director Honey Trehan who saw that sketch in flesh and blood.

When a young enthusiast asked for tips, Mukesh said, forget about abs, looks, gym etc, concentrate on what is the core requirement, mastery over emotions, observe, read, watch movies, plays, make a bank, your expressions will be noticed by people on screen, develop an undying passion”.

Honey Trehan beautifully concluded by adding, “Love your passion so much that it fails to leave you, make her pregnant and take care, delivery will be certain”!!.


Janet Ellis Prajapati with Anuj Alankar ((Image courtesy : Jagran Film Festival)
Janet Ellis Prajapati with Anuj Alankar ((Image courtesy : Jagran Film Festival)
From left to right Mukesh Chhabra, Jogi Malang, Honey Trehan and Anuj Alankar ((Image courtesy : Jagran Film Festival)
From left to right Mukesh Chhabra, Jogi Malang, Honey Trehan and Anuj Alankar ((Image courtesy : Jagran Film Festival)