Mukesh Chhabra on casting for Jabariya Jodi, Super 30, Kabir Singh, and prospects streaming services offer
In an industry obsessed with deifying the star, the spotlight often evades those who work tirelessly behind the scenes. The success of a film is often attributed to its face but seldom to those who constitute the spine. And so, in this column titled Beyond the Stars, Firstpost highlights the contributions of film technicians who bring their expertise to the table.
Prashant Singh's romantic comedy set in Bihar, Jabariya Jodi, that released on Friday, 9 August, is among the many projects that leading casting director Mukesh Chhabra has cast for. In an exclusive interview, he talks about the films and streaming service shows he has cast for recently, whether the digital world has thrown up a whole new set of challenges for him, and the role of a casting director in contemporary Bollywood.
How involved were you in casting the leads of Jabariya Jodi, Parineeti Chopra and Sidharth Malhotra?
For this film, the lead actors were already finalised by the producer/director. For films that need leads, we launch new faces and new talent, and concentrate on primary and secondary roles that are equally important to the film.
Is it more practical to hire actors locally who are more familiar with the milieu of the film?
Local actors bring that extra flavour to the film if it is based out of a certain place. Besides, it is always more practical to cast someone from the region rather than flying an actor from elsewhere, who isn't familiar with the locality or local traits.
With Super 30, you returned to casting children after Dangal. How was the experience there? What did you look for in the children of Super 30?
After Dangal, I have actually cast for multiple projects with kids. In Super 30, what we wanted were kids who were real and wouldn't look out of place in the film. Our next challenge was, could they act?
There were various reviews that said instead of brownfacing Hrithik Roshan, a Pankaj Tripathi could have been cast as Anand Kumar? Do you cast keeping in mind the box office pull of the actor as well?
We only cast with utmost belief in the character and who would be the most suitable for the part.
How did you think of casting veteran actress Kamini Kaushal as Shahid Kapoor's grandmother in Kabir Singh?
She seemed perfect for the part. And being a veteran actress, we were convinced she would be the right person to do the role. So when my assistant Khushaal suggested her name, I immediately told him to contact her.
Now that you have cast for Netflix India Originals like Delhi Crime and Typewriter, and upcoming Amazon Prime Video India Originals like Breathe 2, The Family Man, and The Forgotten Army, is it easier to cast for digital shows, given there is no consideration of box office there?
Actually, the challenge to cast for web shows is even bigger, and the scale at which web is growing makes it even more exciting. It gives us more scope to launch new talent, and create more opportunities for actors.
In Typewriter, you cast fellow casting director Abhishek Banerjee in a key role. So there is no bad blood between casting directors? Do you often seek each other's help?
Haha! What is this bad blood! We are all good friends, doing our job, and being sincere about it. I am most comfortable to pick up the phone on anyone and have a little chat. And I am more than happy if I receive calls regarding casting.
Since you are casting for Lal Singh Chadha, what kind of preparation goes into it? Did you have to watch Forrest Gump for better casting?
We always try and cast something new something fresh without getting influenced by the original. Because it's a remake, and not a copy.
How is your directorial debut, Kizzie Aur Manny, the Hindi remake of Hollywood film The Fault In Our Stars, shaping up with Sushant Singh Rajput and debutante Sanjana Sanghi?
I'd like to talk about my film closer to the release date (29 November).
Updated Date: Aug 11, 2019 13:25:12 IST