Mukesh Chhabra: Need to respect new talent, open gates for them in industry

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Mukesh Chhabra has changed the dynamics of the casting in Hindi cinema. The casting director, known for films like ‘Chillar Party’, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ and ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, among many others, has pulled off casting for the Ranveer Singh starrer ’83’, a film which is making noise for its illustrious starcast.

Mukesh recently spoke to IANS about what defines a casting director, his process, database, channels of talent sourcing and his vision for the casting vertical.

Having been in the industry for over a decade has naturally strengthened his database, talking about what the Mukesh Chhabra Casting company’s database looks like, he says: “I have some 20 to 30 lakh talents in my database. I have sourced these talents from across the country, I have literally gone on a hunt to cast talents for some of the projects.”

Does this data really help while casting for a new project?

He is quick to respond: “When you move on to another project the old casting data is of no use because the script changes, the requirement with regards to the actors changes. ‘Delhi Crime’ needs New Delhi people, I can’t deploy talents from other territories that I had cast in some other film.

“Actually data never helps, if it did then the country would have seen more casting directors than actors. You may very well take away all my data, I’ll happily give it to you. Having an eye for talent, and to gauge their potential is something that defines you as a casting director.”

The job of a casting director demands one to be highly proactive and have a good understanding of demographics.

Talking about the channels of talent sourcing, he says: “We have a wide channel of talent sourcing. We go to acting schools, state castings, we go between real people, public schools. A lot of it is also defined by what a film demands. When I did ‘Super 30’ I went to NGOs. Every corner of this country is filled with talent.”

His casting has changed the fortunes of many talents in the industry, a lot of aspiring actors look up to him as a ‘Kingmaker’ but, the casting director chooses to stay modest as he says, “I feel a ‘Kingmaker’ is a very big term, something that I’m not.

“I’m here to do my job and I love this. My only intention is to give work to as many actors as I can. I have directed a film (‘Dil Bechara’) as well but I still love casting people in films or shows.”

Sharing his vision for the casting vertical, he says: “We need to respect more talent and open the gates for new talent to come in the industry. It will strengthen our work culture and cinema in its entirety. Now that the system of casting is getting streamlined, I would like it to become absolutely about the talent with more transparency than ever.”

Having achieved so much in India, one would wonder if he has plans to go international.

As a parting shot he makes his ground clear.

“I genuinely want to do it but before I do that, I want to give work to all the deserving talents in Bollywood. In future, I would like to go international but right now, I want to focus on great talent in India. I’m thankful to all the filmmakers and the talents, it’s because of them that I’m here.”

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