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Mukesh Chhabra: Casting for web series is creatively more liberating than films
Mumbai, December 13, 2020
Few people in Bollywood understand the art of casting as Mukesh Chhabra does.
The casting director-filmmaker, who worked wonders finalising actors for numerous films and shows including the International Emmy Award-winning Delhi Crime, says casting in a web series is far more liberating creatively than in feature films.
However, films will always be his first love, he asserts.
"Casting is always an important part of a film or show because, at the end of the day, they are the faces of the characters we have in the script, in our imagination. But something very important is playing a key role in the new-age casting process. There is a distinction between casting actors for a show as opposed to casting for a film," Chhabra told IANS.
He explained: "For a show, we are told to get actors who fit the parts, which has nothing to do with the popularity of the actor. That is how you get to see a lot of new faces in web series and other digital shows. In films, however, we have the pressure of choosing the best actor for the part who is also a known face. We still look for an actor, but with fan-following that will come to the theatre to watch the actor. That way, casting for a web series is creatively liberating. Having said that, film is and will remain my first love."
Chhabra cites two recent web series -- Delhi Crime and Scam 1992. He worked on the casting of both shows. "I was told to find a lead for 'Scam 1992'. I saw the potential in Pratik (Gandhi, who plays the protagonist Harshad Mehta in the show) and I knew that he was perfect for the role. No one else could have done justice to that character. I think now that everyone has watched the show, people will agree with me. But the point is, I had no pressure to choose between popular actors, who fit the best for the role. Such a situation occurred in films. In 'Delhi Crime', Shefali (Shah) was the only choice for the police officer. She was playing such a role for the first time. Again, I was casting the best actress for the right role," he said.
Has he ever faced a tough situation to choose the best actor out of excellent options? "It happened when I knew, both of the actors were new and both are equally good! In 'Dangal' after an extensive process of audition and fitness training and zeroing down on the best potential choices, we were in a tough place to decide who would play (young wrestler) Geeta (Phogat) and who would play (Geeta's sister) Babita. Both of them were new, but good actors. It was a tough call," Chhabra recalled.
"I also remember how 'Gangs Of Wasseypur' involved elaborate casting with a bunch of great actors of our industry. You see, I had all the great actors in my hand and then it was a tough call over who fits which part! That not just has to do with the acting skills but also the image of the character in the mind of the writer. I cannot really explain, but maybe it is instinctive, too," Chhabra said.