“To be a good Casting Director, you have to be a good Actor”, Shivam Gupta

Behind building the carrier of every actor there is always a casting director, but what is the life of a casting director like? To find out we talked to Shivam Gupta about his experience and his life to which he told us,” I am from Agra, and when I was 13, I ran from my home. Since I am from a 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 there, and my first play was in 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 Asst. 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 casting director, there were many little things that I enjoyed. On the last day of my work, I decided that I would be a casting director.”

To have better understanding of his professional life we wanted an insight of the starting days of his carrier to which he said, “After struggling as a casting director for a while, I received the call to cast for 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, 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.”

We wanted to know about his recent as the casting director of ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein’, to which he told us, “I am grateful to the ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein team 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.”

Anyways, if you are working in any field there is a lot of competition we wanted to know how he deals with the competition, to which he said,” It’s not easy to survive but, it’s 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.”

After struggles in an industry like this another big task is approaching the celebrities, he enlightened us about his ways of dealing with them, “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 directly to Tahir, and he was interested so we did rounds of auditions. That’s how we begin the process.”

Adding to it he also told us how he manages everything, “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.” Adding to this he also told us how he manages the schedule while doing multiple projects,” Actually, it’s 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.”

After which he also made us aware of the importance of the casting contract,” It is different with everyone, from production houses to actors. The most negotiating element is the bifurcation in which the actors are receiving money.”

When you are dealing with so many people it’s only natural that you get annoyed, we asked him about his experience. He answered by saying, “Whenever we take auditions in studios, actors walk-in and when they say that they are fit for the age group required, because they are of the same age. I told 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 middle of the night.”

Rumors say, there are many people who go to Mumbai to fulfill their dream but don’t get a chance, and they think that it’s because casting directors cast from a source. To which he gave his insight,” I don’t agree with this. As you can see nowadays, in many shows we have casted many new actors. Sourcing do exist, but that is not only what is happening. 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.”

After that our question came to us naturally about what are the qualities that he wants in the actor? He answered our question by saying,” Some of the basics are, the actor should be good in his craft. He should be intelligent and confident.”

Since we were already into controversial question, so we asked his views about casting, he humbly told us, “In my circle, where I live and work, these kinds 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 are you involved with, that matters. Now it’s purely on talent. There are the kind of people who do things, but that’s a whole different circle. It depends on who is your contact. But not everyone is like that. Although, I am not hearing anything like that anymore.”


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