'Ajay Devgn is perfect to slip into Idris Elba's shoes.'
'Taapsee can play any role under the sun.'
Casting director Kavish Sinha has worked on various OTT shows and films, most recently Mumbai Diaries 26/11, and made some terrific choices.
Sinha, who trained under Shanoo Sharma for a year before branching out on his own, started with OTT shows like Shaadi Boys and Lakhon Mein Ek.
In the five years since, he has worked on several films, television, Web shows and advertisements, and he says the real challenge is to bring freshness to a project, along with acting skills.
Kavish tells Rediff.com Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya how he casts actors in his projects, saying, "The biggest challenge was finding Alia, our Alice Morgan, a physics prodigy at 12 and now a psychopath and murderer. She is there in every episode with Ajay (Devgn in Rudra). I went with Rashi Khanna because with her innocent baby face, you don't expect her to kill her own parents. Hers was one of the finest auditions I've seen."
Mumbai Diaries 26/11
'I had a tough time casting 'Beeji' Paramjeet.'
As a doctor's son, Mohit Raina understands the nuances needed to play one and is familiar with medical terminology.
I felt his face could also bring out the pain and pathos inherent in the situation. So I suggested the name of my Kaafir hero for the role of Dr Kaushik Oberoi.
Nikkhil sir (Producer Nikkhil Advani) had a reading with him and Mohit came up tops.
The minute I heard the name Dr Chitra Das, I thought of Konkona Sen Sharma even though there is nothing Bengali about the character.
Fortunately, for us, she liked the role because you don't choose Konkona, she chooses you.
For the three interns in the show, I opted for popular Marathi film actress Mrunmayee Deshpande for Dr Sujata Ajawale who is from Latur.
Natasha Bharadwaj, whom I had earlier cast in the television relationship drama Pawan & Pooja, seemed best suited for the SoBo girl Dr Diya Parekh. She's the only actress to shed real tears during the audition.
There is something about Satyajeet Dubey's face that makes you feel sorry for him and that's what landed him the role of Dongri boy Dr Ahaan Mirza.
I had a tough time casting 'Beeji', Paramjeet.
The 75-year-old patient had to be on the set for a long time and many of the senior actors were wary of shooting in the midst of a pandemic.
Then, I remembered Mohini Sharma with whom I'd done a paan masala ad. She was the right age, and a Punjabi, so her accent was bang on. She didn't mind the blood.
That's how, after months, I finally got my Paramjeet.
'Actresses were apprehensive about playing mother to someone their own age'
The Empire is a look and feel kind of a show, which begins in Afghanistan. So my first challenge was to find actors who looked like they were from the region and could speak the language as the dialogues are heavy on Urdu, besides being performers.
Shabana Azmi, as Babur's grandmother, Esan Daulat, was already on board when I entered the picture, as the role had been written with her in mind.
Who else has the gravitas, regal demeanour and command over language?
The actors, who were subsequently approached, were either excited or intimidated when they learnt that they had scenes with her.
Physically, Babur was not intimidating though he could be brutal. Kunal Kapoor had the persona and the long hair. He could also look 20 and 40-plus.
Most importantly, he was the one actor who could give bulk dates.
Shaibani Khan was half-Mongolian, so we started out looking at actors from the north east. But they could not crack the accent.
One day, I saw pictures of Dino Morea with long hair and a beard on Instagram and suggested his name to Nikkhil sir.
Dino had to go through a four-hour audition with multiple scenes. He was very patient and we got an out-of-the-box antagonist.
For Khanzada, Babur's eldest sister, who progresses from 14 to 40, we were looking for someone in her 30s. Drashti Dhami came up to me at a party and started chatting.
I loved her voice and was fascinated by her eyes.
The real challenge was casting Maham Begum, Babur's third wife and the mother of his eldest surviving son and eventual successor, Humayun.
The problem was that Aditya Seal had already been cast as Humayun and the actresses we approached were apprehensive about playing mother to someone of their own age.
I tried explaining that back then, girls were married by 14. But they were unconvinced.
Sahher Bambba, whom I'd cast opposite Sunny Deol's son Karan in their debut film, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, was up for the challenge.
Mrs Chatterjee v/s Norway
'We were looking for someone who was a young mother herself'
This film is inspired by a real life 2007 case where an Indian woman took on the system in a foreign country after being deemed an unfit mother. Her kids were taken away and placed in a foster home.
Any actress would have said yes to the role of Mrs Chatterjee, but we were looking for someone who was a young mother herself.
And Rani Mukerji is one.
Her son in the film is around four years old, battling undetected autism.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, Director Ashima Chibber had to conduct interviews on Zoom. None of the child candidates measured up.
Then I remembered an actress with a son that age. Thinking that he might have inherited her genes, I got in touch.
The daughter is a six-month infant. Since travelling was a problem, we started looking at Indian kids across Norway and found her in Estonia where the unit was currently shooting.
We have taken several local artists from Estonia, writing out the script for them in English. They work in Shakespearean plays and know their art.
The story cuts across all barriers because everyone understands the pain of a mother.
'Taapsee can look like a girl-next-door and also premium'
Blurr revolves around a blind woman. Taapsee Pannu would have landed the role even if she wasn't producing the film as she is the most versatile amongst today's actresses.
She can look like a girl-next-door and also premium. She can play any role under the sun.
This character has a lot of layers besides the physical limitation and we never looked at anybody else.
There are other characters too, who are not big in terms of the part's duration but leave an impact. They orbit around Taapsee's character, aware they are interacting with a blind woman.
This made the auditions different because the sense of feeling was more important than the delivery.
Director Ajay Bahl's brief was to find good actors, not (big) names.
He wanted an ensemble of fresh talent.
We cast a lot of actors from Nainital since the film is set there.
Rudra: The Edge Of Darkness
'BBC Studios was delighted because with Ajay coming in, Rudra has become very big'
We had a reference point for this show in the original British psychological crime drama series, Luther.
With his gravitas, the intensity in his voice and personality, the understated calmness along with the restlessness, Ajay Devgn is perfect to slip into Idris Elba's shoes.
Applause Entertainment got him on board and BBC Studios was delighted because with Ajay coming in, Rudra has become very big.
Besides Rudra, the villains are the stars of every episode.
Initially, the senior actors we approached were not keen on featuring in just one episode. But once they read the script and watched the original, they were game because you don't get to play such psychotic characters every day.
Besides the criminal world, I also created a cop universe.
Since the set-up was in Mumbai, I cast actors like Ashwini Kalsekar, Ashish Vidyarthi and Atul Kulkarni.
The biggest challenge was finding Alia, our Alice Morgan, a physics prodigy at 12 and now a psychopath and murderer. She is there in every episode with Ajay.
I went with Rashi Khanna because with her innocent baby face, you don't expect her to kill her own parents. Hers was one of the finest auditions I've seen.
'We have very few Parsi actors in their 30s, so Jim Sarbh was the obvious choice for Homi Bhabha'
I have always craved referential casting, but it was a task to sit with pictures of the original and match faces while making sure they had acting skills.
We have very few Parsi actors in their 30s, so Jim Sarbh was the obvious choice for the inspirational Homi Bhabha.
One day, I was chatting with Ishwak Singh on Zoom. I realised that if you put a mole on his face, he'd look like Vikram Sarabhai.
For Mrinalini Sarabhai, I wanted someone with the flavour of a South Indian married to a Gujarati, and who knew Bharata Natyam. I had done an ad with Regina Cassandra and tested her.
She was perfect!
I've also cast for Satyamev Jayate 2, an existing franchise. The challenge was getting actors from Lucknow to bring in the local flavour.
In Those Pricey Thakur Girls, directed by Habib Faisal and Tarun Mansukhani, based on Anuja Chauhan's novel, I had to create the world of the 1980s in the Lutyens' Delhi area. That's how I got Raj Babbar and Poonam Dhillon on board.