'Most casting folks give the rest a bad name'

Mar 19, 2014, 08:42 IST | Mukesh Chhabra

...says the leading casting director who, in the last seven years, has worked on nearly 30 films

Mukesh ChhabraThe golden rule for every aspiring actor is that fame is temporary, talent is permanent. Those who aren’t really talented are the ones who fall prey to casting touts and their vicious schemes.

It has been a long and arduous journey for my team to bring respect and credibility to the craft that had become notorious, thanks to the suffix ‘couch’. Over a 100 films later, winning prestigious awards and earning recognition from industry bigwigs was not a cakewalk. On the contrary, we had to work harder every time a ‘casting couch’ controversy made headlines in the tabloids. It pains us when the casting process is perceived in a certain way by people who have no idea of what goes behind casting an actor for a particular role. For us, no role is small and no film insignificant.

If the makers have trusted us with the responsibility of giving them actors, we toil to find the perfect characters for a film. We are asked, “Yeh actor hai kaun? Kiska beta hai, kiska bhai, behan ya rishtedaar hai?” (Who’s this actor? Is he related to an influential person?) Such details have never mattered to us. For us, the script is the Holy Grail and the director’s vision is our guiding light.

The few known casting directors have to deal with mind-boggling pressures, but the unbridled passion we have for our craft sees us through. The pride we feel when film reviews highlight our efforts is something we strive to achieve. There is nothing we would ever bargain this for, not money or any other consideration for that matter. It is unfair to ask us about the non-existent casting couch. There is so much more to casting than just that notorious ‘couch’. Ninety per cent of casting folks give the rest a bad name.

We respect all kinds of actors and have roles even for the bad ones. We request the actors to repose faith in their talent and in us, because when the role suits them, their phone will ring. After that it is your luck and hard work that will determine your career. No point in first willing to compromise and then crying foul.

In a digital era, your talent can’t go unnoticed. Why meet shady people who have nothing to offer? On a daily average, we meet 50-odd earnest and passionate actors, but there are only a handful of films being made at a given time. So, it is impossible that everybody gets meaty roles in films that we cast for.

The keywords are talent, patience and perseverance. The industry is going through a renaissance and there will be roles for all the good actors. If you cross the road when you aren’t supposed to, you can’t blame anybody for your accident. While you are waiting for your chance to be in front of the camera, evolve as a human being, watch good films, read good books and when it is your turn, show us that we were right when we decided to call you for the audition.

(As told to Bharati Dubey)

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