Pink: The Inside Story details how Taapsee Pannu, Andrea Tariang, Kirti Kulhari were cast
Editor's note: Our columnist Gautam Chintamani — who has previously authored 'Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna' and 'The Film That Revived Hindi Cinema' is now out with his latest book: 'Pink- The Inside Story'. As the title suggests, this is an in-depth look at the making of Pink, a film that arguably contributed much to the discussion around rape, women's bodies, and consent. Here is an excerpt from the book that details how actresses Taapsee Pannu, Andrea Tariang and Kirti Kulhari were cast.
Ritesh Shah knew that Pink wouldn’t be the kind of film that could be written with a specific cast in mind. 'A lot of things we take credit for are actually borrowed from life,’ says Shah. ‘You don’t steal other people’s movies or books but you do steal other people’s lives, their names, so, whether it’s a Falak, Minal or Andrea, these are real people or a mixture of people.’ Moreover, being a professional writer, Shah knows the heartache of not getting the actor one desires all too well but agrees that in the case of this film the kind of faces he had pictured in his mind for the characters closely resembled the ones that finally played them.
The credit for this largely goes to Jogi Malang, the casting director, who has been associated with Sircar and Lahiri since Vicky Donor. The first person to be cast was Taapsee Pannu. Both Lahiri and Sircar had previously worked with her. While Sircar knew of Taapsee Pannu because of a few commercials that he had shot with her, it was Lahiri who suggested Pannu. ‘I had shot a bit of Running Shaadi with her and suggested her name,’ recalls Lahiri. Sircar seconded the decision right away. Lahiri screened portions of Running Shaadi to give an idea of what Pannu was capable of, and when she came to read for the part, Sircar noticed a certain ‘fiery innocence’ within her that dispelled any doubts that he may have had about her ability to play Minal.
For her part, Pannu could connect at once with not just the character that she was to play but also the reality of the film’s subject. She felt that growing up in Delhi, and being constantly fed the ‘rules’ that almost every single woman lives by in Delhi till they become as normal as walking or talking, in a way prepared her for this role. Till she was cast in Pink, Hindi film audiences had seen her only in Chashme Baddoor (2013), though she was a known name in Telugu and Tamil films. In fact, Ritesh Shah was totally taken by Pannu’s chameleon-like transformation — he didn’t even know that he had actually seen her in a film when he met her for the first time. ‘I was surprised when she said it was her in Aadukalam (2011),’ says Shah.
If it was Pannu’s acting that caught the producers’ eye, it was a failed audition for one of their previous productions that led Kirti Kulhari to be considered for Falak Ali, one of the pivotal characters in the narrative. Jogi had previously considered Kirti Kulhari for the female lead in Vicky Donor and although she had lost that part to Yami Gautam, Kulhari had stayed on his mind. In the years between Vicky Donor and Pink, Kulhari had most noticeably featured in Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitaan (2011), which didn’t do much for her despite making the right noises. She did a few more films — Rise of the Zombie (2013), Jal (2013) and Sooper Se Ooper (2013) — but nothing that made her stand out. ‘Shaitaan got attention but I think I didn’t make the right choices after that or perhaps that thing of being in the right place at the right time didn’t happen,’ says Kulhari. Sircar says, ‘At one point, Soha Ali Khan was a choice, Radhika Apte was an option.’ For Ritesh Shah, Falak was a mixture of many people yet, ironically enough, no one actor came to his mind to best portray her. Maybe it was someone like a Kirti Kulhari that he was looking for to depict Falak. As he recalls, ‘I remember seeing faces like Kirti whom I did not know.’ For Sircar and everybody else, it was Kulhari’s audition that reaffirmed their conviction in casting fresh faces to play the principal characters.
In Andrea Tariang’s case, it was once again Ronnie Lahiri who threw her name in the mix when the search for an actor to portray the character from the North-East hit a dead end. An army kid who had grown up in Shillong, Lahiri was not only familiar with the area but had also kept in touch with many of his friends from his childhood. He recalled that the daughter of one such friend, Rudy Wallang, was a singer and would be ideal for the part. Like her father, who is the guitarist of the popular band Soulmate, Andrea Tariang, too had a band called Lavender Groove and was a regular on the Mumbai circuit. Lahiri called Wallang and asked if Andrea would be keen and if he could get in touch with her. ‘He told me, “Come on, you are her uncle! Just pick up the phone and call her!”’ recounts Lahiri, adding how he was sceptical about calling her directly.
Roy Chowdhury and Shah had always wanted one of the three girls to be from north-east India and once they came across Andrea Tariang they changed the character to mirror her own persona.
Excerpted from PINK The Inside Story by Gautam Chintamani, with permission from HarperCollins India