Casting director-film director Mukesh Chhabra on promoting new talent, coping with the lockdown and his upcoming projects.
This year has been tough on most of us. It was no different for casting director-film director Mukesh Chhabra. From losing his close friend and actor Sushant Singh Rajput to making his directorial debut, 2020 has been, in Chhabra’s own words, “a roller-coaster ride.”
In a recent interaction, Mukesh Chabbra spoke about promoting new talent, coping with the lockdown and his upcoming projects.
Excerpts from the conversation.
How has 2020 treated you?
It has been like a roller-coaster ride for everyone. For me, a little more. From releasing Dil Bechara to losing Sushant (Singh Rajput), then the success of Scam 1992 to Delhi Crime winning accolades, 2020 has been full of ups and downs.
This year has taught a little something to everyone. What has been your learning?
Simply that you cannot take anything for granted. So, just be kind to everyone and stop spreading negativity.
How did you spend the months in lockdown? Were you conducting auditions online?
Yes, that has actually been my biggest learning. It has been really great working online. You save a lot of time, and you don’t have to travel. I cast so many people during the pandemic. Auditioning online means you don’t have to be in Bombay. You can be in any part of the city and any part of the country and still send your video. I want to continue this for the rest of my life. Just get more auditions online. I cast for two series — one for Netflix and one for Amazon, and three films in this period. I have forgotten how many actors I must have seen in the process. So I utilised my time quite well (Laughs). In fact, even now, 40 per cent of my team is working out of Mumbai. Some of them are in Gujarat, some in Delhi and we are absolutely fine working like this.
Your first film as a director, Dil Bechara, released on an OTT platform. And it was recently announced that now such platforms come under the purview of the ministry. What is your take on the subject?
Everybody is working with certain terms and conditions. You can still make great stuff without taking too much liberty. If they have decided, they must have thought about it thoroughly. Everything has its pros and cons.
Speaking of OTT, SonyLIV series Scam 1992 is still garnering praise from all quarters. Since you were responsible for the casting, how do you feel about its reception now?
I feel very happy. I am glad that Pratik (Gandhi) is doing so well now. This proves that this whole game is about talent and not about big or small star. I just feel happy for everyone who was involved in this project. This goes to show that we should not take the pressure of casting big names. Whoever is right, we should cast them. Pratik, for instance, was perfect for playing Harshad Mehta. First of all, he is from Gujarat himself, so that accent fit him to a T. Plus, he is a fantastic actor.
You earlier spoke about encouraging new talent. Who should we look out for in the coming months?
You will get to see so many new actors in the coming months. There will be new faces in Delhi Crime Season 2, 83, as well as Brahmastra. I have just gone back to casting once again after completing Dil Bechara, and I have made it a point to just bring new talent. It doesn’t matter if I have to fight for their casting with the director or producer.
What is your personal goal for 2021?
I am just glad we are working once again. So I just want the rest of 2020 and the new year to be like this — full of work. I just want to help support new talent and push those people forward who really deserve to be seen.