I ran from my home to fulfill my dreams, says casting director Shivam Gupta

After struggling for work as assistant casting director for a while, I received the call to cast for a Zee Anmol’s show ‘Sai Ki Sacchi Kahaniya’. After that I did not look back, says Shivam

I ran from my home to fulfill my dreams, says casting director Shivam Gupta
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Kumar Raviraj Sinha

Tell us about your journey. How did you become a casting director?

I am from Agra and when I was 13, I ran from my home. I am from somewhat old-school household where studies are given the utmost importance. I wrote a letter and kept it beside my mom’s pillow, and I ran away. When I was at an outer station of Agra, my sister called me and she brought me to Delhi. She asked me, “What do you want to do?” and I replied, “I want to become an actor”. Then she enrolled me in the theatre group of Bani Sharad Joshi Ji. My journey started from there, and my first play was at India Habitat Center. After that I did many plays and I really liked the way it made me felt. So, I decided that this is what I am going to do. One day, a friend of mine offered me an opportunity to work as an Assistant Casting Director for an upcoming film. I asked whether I would get paid or not. As I have to manage my expenses by myself only. So, he said, “You will receive INR 2000”. And I agreed for it.

While working as a assistant casting director, there were many little things that I enjoyed. At the last day of my work, I decided that I will be a casting director.

After struggling for work as a assistant casting director for a while, I received the call to cast for a Zee Anmol’s show ‘Sai Ki Sacchi Kahaniya’. After that I went to Mumbai to work. My first project there was ‘Ki and Ka’ with Shruti Mahajan. But before that I worked with Harry Parmar and learned the different aspects of the job. He has been my angel in Mumbai. He guided me, but since I was not as much interested in casting for TV, so I left after working for 15 days. Even after that he continued to guide me. After ‘Ki and Ka’ I did many films, and it is still going on.

How did you get the opportunity to cast for ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein’?

First of all, I am grateful to the team of ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein’ for this beautiful journey. I got this show in November, 2019. There is a good friend of mine, Anmol Ahuja, who told me about this. I met with Sidharth Sengupta and it went great. So, that’s how it went.

How do you compete with other big names in casting business?

It’s not easy to survive but, it is good to be among them. You get to learn a lot. I have done ‘Asur 2’, the first season was cast by Mukesh Chhabra, so, for me the competition is, to make this even better than the previous one.

How do you approach lead actors?

While casting for ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein’ we were testing everyone, whether it be known, semi-known or new actors. We have a direct contact with every actor, or agencies. I called Tahir directly, and he was interested so we did rounds of auditions. That’s how we begin the process.

How do you organise and prioritise your work?

In the beginning, it was difficult to manage with actors, as they didn’t have anyone to give cues and the process of online auditions was new to everyone. But eventually everyone got the hang of it. But it couldn’t match the feel we get in studios.

What is the most irritating thing you have experienced in your casting career?

Whenever we take auditions in studios, at times actors walk-in and say that they are fit for the age group required, because they are of the same age. I tell them their look isn’t what the character demands. And then this becomes a discussion. This conversation is particularly irritating. And the other thing is when, actors call in the middle of the night.

Since you people have multiple projects simultaneously, so how do you manage to stick to the schedule?

Actually, its quite interesting. Sometimes actors for different shows get mixed up, but we have different teams for different projects. I am grateful to them; they make the workflow easier.

There are many people who go to Mumbai to fulfill their dream but don’t get a chance, and they think that its because casting directors cast people who have connections. What is your say on this?

I don’t agree with this. As you can see nowadays, in many shows we have cast many new actors. Casting through connections does exist, but that is not the only thing that what happens. Everyone has opportunities. We test all kind of actors. And I think if you ask this from actors they will have different answer now, as compared to a few years back.

As a Casting director what qualities you look for in a good actor?

Some of the basics are, the actor should be good in his craft. He should be intelligent and confident.

What is your say about casting couch?

In my circle, where I live and work, these kind of things don’t happen. This industry has different kind of people. Now it depends on who is guiding you and which kind of people you are involved with, that matters. But not everyone is like that. Although, I am not hearing anything like that anymore nowadays.

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Published: 26 Jan 2022, 8:30 PM