Have talent? Get cast with or without filmi connections!

Filmi connections or not, filmmakers have just one thing on their mind when it comes to casting for a role — the right talent

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Have talent? Get cast with or without filmi connections!
(Clockwise from top left) Mrunal Thakur, Ankita Lokhande, Mouni Roy, Sanya Malhotra and Sumeet Vyas


In 1992, an unconventional-looking- ctor held his own against his seniors like Rishi Kapoor and Divya Bharti, and went on to bag the Best Debut (Male) trophy at a prestigious award ceremony for his debut film Deewana. Shah Rukh Khan had no filmi connections to brag about, no godfather in the industry to hold his hand and show him the way. All he had was the experience of acting in theatre and a couple of television shows. Plus, confidence and swag!

In a recent interview, actress Aditi Rao Hydari made a reference to Hollywood and said that actors there landed roles purely on the basis of their talent. “There, talent alone matters. A young actor like Jennifer Lawrence started off by doing a small part in a television film after which noted makers spotted her potential and gave her opportunities based on her talent. I wish something like this would happen more often in Bollywood.”

TV to films

B-Town seems to be following in Hollywood’s footsteps. Especially now, when you look at the current crop of actors like Vikrant Massey, who started his acting career with TV shows like Dharam Veer, Balika Vadhu and Qubool Hai, went on to do small roles in Lootera and Dil Dhadakne Do. Since then, he has been critically acclaimed for his role in A Death in the Gunj and a significant one in Lipstick Under My Burkha. Kumkum Bhagya girl Mrunal Thakur has bagged the lead role in the Indo-American production Love Sonia, while small screen’s Naagin, Mouni Roy, will be seen opposite Akshay Kumar in Reema Kagti’s Gold. Ankita Lokhande, who made her debut on television with Pavitra Rishta, will be seen as Jhalkaribai in Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika.

Talent matters

Even Sushant Singh Rajput and Ayushmann Khurrana (who is the flavour of the season with Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan) have made it purely on the basis of their talent. While the former was a household name because of his popularity on TV with Pavitra Rishta, Ayushmann was the winner of Roadies 2 and had hosted many TV shows.

Ultimately, like Ayushmann says, it all boils down to how talented you are. “This is the age where only talent survives. Be it an industry kid or an outsider, you’ll be given your credibility only on the basis of merit and nothing else.  I’m fortunate that Shoojit Sircar recognised my talent and gave me a perfect launch (Vicky Donor). For a newcomer, the first film is of utmost importance. And later it boils down to your choices.”

Godfather begone!

In today’s day and age, the medium doesn’t matter, believes Sushant, who was doing theatre before he got an offer to join the small screen. “My engagement and excitement for performing arts does not depend upon the medium. I got picked up for TV by Ekta Kapoor when I was in theatre and Gattu (Abhishek Kapoor) when I was doing TV. And I feel that till the time makers like Ekta and Gattu are there, we actors can just concentrate on our jobs and not worry about not having a godfather,” he says.

Casting call

Filmmakers are the ones that can make an actor’s career by simply casting him or her in a film, TV show or a web series. Filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava, director of Lipstick Under My Burkha, pitted theatre girl Ahana Kumra and newbie Plabita Borthakur against veterans like Ratna Pathak Shah and Konkona Sensharma. She gives credit for that to her casting directors Shruti Mahajan and Parag Mehta. “There are a lot of talented actors out there but all actors are not right for all parts. I do feel as filmmakers, we need to be more open and cast the right people for the part,” she says.

Nepotism nixed

Unlike the west, casting directors is a new concept in B-Town. Mukesh Chhabra, who has cast for movies such as Kai Po Che, Gangs of Wasseypur, Shahid and Dangal among others, is willing to go to any corner of the country to find the right talent. “I have a theatre background, so that’s where I go to look for them. I visit local theatres in Bhopal, Bihar, Delhi, Chandigarh and Madhya Pradesh. My job is to cast the right actor, doesn’t matter whether they live in Mumbai, Bihar or Kanyakumari!” he shares. The casting director reveals that approximately 700 people drop in to his office every day to audition for different roles. “Sanya Malhotra had come to audition for an ad. I cast her in Dangal as I felt she had the talent and was right for the part,” he adds. As for the star kids, Mukesh doesn’t believe in casting them unless they have the talent and they suit the role. “If somebody is talented, they will get work, whether they are part of the film industry or not. That’s the bottomline,” he adds.

On a role

The reason for the shift towards looking for the right talent, and therefore, different mediums, is also because of the shift towards realistic cinema, believes actor Sumeet Vyas, who did television, bit roles in films, web series Permanent Roommates, and will soon be seen playing Kareena Kapoor Khan’s love interest in Veere Di Wedding. “There was a time when there was a single-minded perception about who can play the hero. Today, it can be anyone, a regular guy who does something heroic. Similarly, as an actor, too, when somebody is able to tell you a story and convince you with his performance that this is the person that he is, then they cast you. So, in terms of the way stories and performances are consumed, the audience is more keen on seeing realistic performances,” he says.

Commercially viable

Film critic and business expert Girish Johar has the last word on the matter when he says that the primary factor today is that the actor should be able to pull off the role. “The second factor is the saleability and only then come the dates, costing, etc. If the person is a known face because of his/her work on television, commercials or the internet and people are aware of them, then it becomes commercially viable to cast them,” he concludes.  


It’s not just SRK who once was an outsider in the film industry and today, is the Badshah of Bollywood. Others too, on the basis of their talent, have carved a niche for themselves in Bollywood:

  • One of the most talented actresses in the industry, Vidya Balan had done television commercials, music videos and was one of the sisters in Hum Paanch on TV, before she landed her debut role in Parineeta.
  • R Madhavan was a television actor and had worked in the Tamil film industry before doing his first Hindi film, Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein, in 2001.
  • Irrfan Khan, who is not only one of Bollywood’s most talented actors, but has even starred in international projects, started his career with television in serials like Chanakya, Bharat Ek Khoj and Banegi Apni Baat.
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