Mukesh Chhabra on his acting studio and hunting down unusual characters
For youngsters with stars in their eyes and no starry connections, casting directors are a boon. Unfortunately, these very same people have no identity outside the industry. In the US, Casting By, a 2012 documentary by Tom Donahue, revealed the untold stories of these star-makers. While we don’t have works closer home, men like Mukesh Chhabra are carving out a name for his ilk. The casting director who introduced us to stars like Sushant Singh Rajput and Rajkummar Rao is starting an acting studio he wants to make accessible to all. “There are so many people who think you need money to become an actor; I want to change that,” begins Chhabra, who has been casting actors for over five years. The Mumbai-based studio will have free weekend workshops conducted by actors or Chhabra himself, besides a 10-day monthly programme with 200 students. “I have a separate team that takes care of walk-in auditions. Since I have worked with several actors and directors, I will be calling someone every weekend for a workshop,” he says. The first workshop was conducted by actor Manoj Bajpayee last weekend and Chhabra plans to bring in Rao next.
The odd combination
Having given an identity to many wannabe actors, wasn’t Chhabra ever bitten by the acting bug? “No. I want to focus on my movies and the studio. However, I am working on a script and I will direct soon,” says Chhabra who has a long list of movies he is working on currently, including Rajkumar Hirani’s P K and Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet.
Being a casting director can be dangerous, he agrees. “I have received death threats from people. Everyone wants to be an actor—some have it in them and some don’t. If I think they need some polishing, I ask them to attend workshops. But in some cases, you know there is no hope,” he says. For youngsters looking to break into the industry, his advice is simple: “Focus on acting. It is an art and you should not get distracted.” And though Chhabra hasn’t come across the casting couch, he says, “I know it exists. What I would suggest is that when you go for auditions, go to places with a lot of people around, with cameras. And be very alert.”
The next weekend workshop is on June 28-29. Details: mccc.in