Badhaai Do Casting Director Shiv-Ashish: ‘Our first instinct is to always cast someone new’
Casting director duo Shiv Chauhan and Ashish Khare, known for their work in films like Street and the last Badhaai Dosay they constantly want to push boundaries by casting lesser-known faces and establishing themselves as artists who don’t rely on shortcuts.
Under their company The Casting Station, the duo cast nearly 70 actors for Badhaai Do, which follows the characters of Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar – two closeted gay men who enter into a marriage of convenience to keep conservative family members at bay and protect their respective partners.
Along with director Hashvardhan Kulkarni, Shiv and Ashish say they realized the film is not just about Rao and Pednekar – who were already part of the star cast – but also the characters who inhabit their world – mother, brothers, sisters and aunts.
Given that the film is set in the now familiar small-town setting for Hindi films, it naturally features actors who have previously excelled in the genre, such as veterans Seema Pahwa and Sheeba Chaddha.
“But our goal was to go beyond that. They’re household names, but the movie has many characters and so offered the opportunity to cast several actors – who maybe aren’t seen that much on screen,” Shiv said.
So Badhaai Do surprises by casting actor Nitesh Pandey, who has worked extensively in television, as Pednekar’s father or Hum Log actor Loveleen Mishra, who the duo feel “never got recognition”. for his “stellar work” in films.
They also cast Chum Darang, a 29-year-old actor from Arunachal Pradesh, to play Pednekar’s love interest for the film after extensive research in Mumbai, Delhi and even Nepal.
“Our job is not only to find actors who fit the role, but also those who are not so well known, to find new faces, our effort is always that. It’s a difficult process, a challenge, but we appreciate it. Our first instinct is to always cast someone new, because it’s easier to cast someone who does a regular job.
“But it’s relatively easy work, which we want to avoid. We look at every project as ‘This is the one, do it or die’, do it or break it. So we keep, we keep looking, keep looking until we’re not satisfied,” Ashish told PTI.
Shiv and Ashish, both 31, began their journey with the cast of hit horror comedy Stree in 2018. But before the film’s success opened doors for the duo, leading to more work in TVF’s hit series Kota Factory and Aspirants, the two struggled to make a mark in the city.
Shiv moved to Mumbai with acting aspirations in 2014 after extensive theater work in Delhi. At the insistence of a friend, he started as an assistant to casting director Prashant Singh and got his first project with Vikramaditya director Motwane Trapped in 2016 and went on to work on films like Qarib Qarib Singlle, the series Netflix Ghoul and Arjun Rampal-starring Daddy – the first project where he collaborated with Ashish.
Ashish was pursuing BSE at Kirori Mal College in Delhi, but says he enrolled in college only because he wanted to do theatre. He worked as a pharmacist in a hospital in Delhi for three months, saved some money and came to Mumbai in 2015, acting on his mind.
Individually, but around the same time, the two began to feel jaded as casting assistants and therefore decided to quit. They then formed a tag team in April 2017 and bagged Stree in August.
The casting process for the duo is quite straightforward, Ashish explains. They first read the script, talked to the director about each character – their age, their physique – and then got to work coming up with options.
Together, they mark key scenes from the script, which they can use to audition actors, and possibly come up with a shortlist for creators. To seek out new faces, both depend on their love for Hindi films and the network of artists built over the years through their theatrical work.
“If you know even four good artists, they will know ten more. This is how a chain is built, a network is deployed. A good performance is always remembered, even if it’s a small role,” Ashish said.
In Stree, the duo reached out to actor Sunita Rajwar, who played actor Abhishek Banerjee’s mother in the film, as they remembered her in a long-forgotten commercial from the 90s.
“But she had practically disappeared from the screen. We auditioned her and now she is doing a lot of work,” Shiv added of the NSD graduate who has since starred in films like Bala and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan.
Next, Shiv and Ashish have a series directed by Rahi Anil Barve and backed by filmmaking duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, a project with Maddock Films and a TVF series.
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