Free Press Journal

Not just luck by chance: How to stand out from the crowd in Bollywood


Becoming an actor is more than just your luck, it take a lot of hard work and dedication. With thousands vying for the same spotlight, NIKITA WADHAWAN gives you a heads up on how to fulfil your dream.

As an actor, it sometimes feels like you are on a hamster wheel—submitting for auditions, going to auditions, booking or not booking jobs. While you may idolise Shah Rukh Khan, it takes more than a hop, skip and jump to become a superstar. With actors like Rajkummar Rao, Nawazuddin Sidqqui, Radhika Apte and many other making it without any filmy connections, it looks like Bollywood is finally opening its doors to new and fresh talent. So let’s take a look at how you can make your resume as appealing as possible.

Let’s take a look

Before the advent of a casting director phenome in Bollywood, casting depended on the whims and fancies of the director, and sometimes, even the superstars, who were already roped in for the movie. While the definition of an actor maybe evolving, how you look does matter a lot. “When we see the introduction shot of an actor in his audition, we try to narrow who matches the brief of the director. If our film is based in Uttar Pradesh then we see who comes the closest to a typical U.Piet. Then we see which age group they fit into, then we see who fits into the age group. We also see who has more experience,” says Mukesh Chhabra. He was the force behind casting of films like ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘Dangal’ and ‘Kai Po Che!’

“We are not the ones who set a criteria. Directors and the script decide the actor. If there is a film that we need to cast Askshay Kumar’s brother the criteria is desi and should look like his brother. They need to match Akshay’s persona also,” says casting duo Abhishek Banerjee and Anmol Ahuja. The duo have been casting directors for films like ‘Secret Superstar’, ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ and ‘Pari’.

Portfolio is old school

Remember in ‘Luck by Chance’, Farhan Akhtar shot an amateur portfolio and went to various production houses to showcase them. Chuck that idea if you are planning the same. “I don’t believe in portfolio. It is a waste of money. I get so many actors from Facebook and Instagram. A portfolio was required 20 years ago. People look very different from photos, and most of the time they are airbrushed. A good actor’s talent will reflect in the audition,” refutes Chhabra.

So how do you actually get in touch with them, do you need a recommendation? “You just need to walk in and ask for an audition. There are some actors that we know, in the industry who are very talented. We, as casting directors, try to push such actors in films. It is now a competition among us as to who puts out the new fresh talent, and from there you get actors like Nimrat, Nawaz or Anushka or Vani,” says Ahuja.

Colour complexities

Though tall, dark and handsome is a famous saying, it doesn’t hold true for Bollywood. Albeit the trend is changing, aspiring actors should remember that some roles have a racial preference, most characters don’t. “It is a myth that directors, always prefer a guy is chosen over a dusky fellow. It is all about acting capabilities. Today, major production houses are also looking for realistic casting. Only a good actor can look good on screen. But in the end Indians are racist, they are not ready to accept people of all colour. In the end, a filmmaker is putting his money and wants the audience to accept them. Moreover, if film is catering to a particular audience then they need to match the physical persona of that area,” says Banerjee.

“But actors should always beware of fake casting people, no one knows that they have a credentials to be a casting director. When one uses social media to inform about auditions and posts about a colour of the complexions as a requirement, it proves that are not proper casting directors,” warns Ahuja.

What to expect when you audition

The road to becoming an actor is not a cake walk. There are some good experience and some bad. “When I first started auditioning there are ques of girls, and the girls in the front are obviously the most experience ones. More than the casting people being rude, it is the other girls there who are rude to you. They look down on you and that is the competitive space this industry is in. when you start off it is discouraging but you need to fight through it,” encourages actor Sarah-Jane Dias.

Although don’t be over the moon if you get a casting call, you maybe just one among a hundreds. “When I auditioned for ‘Mardaani’, in the first round there were around 600 boys that were called to audition and we auditioned for one scene. Then was brought down to 200 boys and we auditioned for two scenes. Then it was brought down to 50, then 10 and then 5 boys and then 3 boys. And then came the final call,” recalls actor Tahir Raj Bhasin.

You need to do your own PR as well, remember out of sight means out of mind. “I used to call or email people to call me for auditions. And when people see your work they will call you back. More than your surname your work speaks,” says Shriya.