New Delhi: The success of "Pataal Lok" feels like a twofold achievement to Abhishek Banerjee, who has surprised fans with his intense portrayal of Hathoda Tyagi after comedic turns in "Stree", "Bala" and "Dream Girl". With the Amazon Prime show, which is amassing critical acclaim from both the reviewers as well as the audiences, Banerjee pulled off the double duty of being both a casting director and actor.
Casting for a show that delves into the many complexities of the country through an investigative story of an attempted assassination of a journalist by four suspects, was not a cake walk, said Baneerjee.
But creator Sudip Sharma's decision to go with Jaideep Ahlawat for the main role of a seasoned Delhi cop Hathiram Chaudhary made things easy.
"Sudip sir was always impressed by Jaideep's work. My job was just to call him and tell him about the role. All the credit goes to him because he could have easily gone for a more known face. But when you have a good actor like Jaideep leading the show, the pressure is automatically off. You just need to find good actors for other roles," Banerjee told PTI in an interview.
"Maybe because I am an actor-casting director, I always felt that we need good actors in the industry and we need to bring them at the top. Now-a-days, there are so many. The rise is happening because of the casting world. As a casting director, you always think in terms of characters," he added.
Banerjee, who runs Casting Bay with Anmol Ahuja, said they had some "out-of-the-box" moments like roping in singer Anup Jalota for the role of a shrewd politician.
But a lot of the process was just about trying to find good characters in schools, theatre groups and different parts of the country.
"I had seen Anup Jalota ji in 'Bigg Boss' and I always felt he had a character in him. Similarly, Ishwaq Singh and Jagjeet Sandhu, I had seen them in other roles. "My assistant Nikita Grover found Ronaldo (Mairembam Ronaldo Singh) for Cheeni's role in Imphal after a tedious process. The local theatre group really helped us there. We also found kids from a theatre group. Not all of the actors are new but they all are good," he said.
As far as playing the role of the main suspect is concerned, Banerjee said the character's lack of dialogues made it a difficult part to audition.
Sudip was familiar with his performance in indie film "Ajji" and felt he suited the role.
Banerjee said it was not difficult to understand the motivation of his character, whose intensity helped the actor channelise some of his own angst.
"I come from a protected family so it is hard for me to understand what makes someone a brutal killer. But I realised that this character was an achiever and he was thwarted. He was living the life of a champion but his father was not because of the feudal system that still exists in India. This rejection from the system and society broke him.
"There are so many stories that we hear of thwarted potential. That was the focal point, that grief of having it in him and not even being able to live a normal life, forget about achieving anything. His loneliness made me sad. This is why he is attached to dogs because he feels understood by them." It is also a character who has lost all hope in human interaction and communicates only when he feels like, he said. Banerjee always wanted to be an actor but when things did not fall into place, he devoted himself to casting.
"That's the beauty of creative industry that when one thing does not pan out, you have other things to do. For me, it was always that one extra job that you do to survive in the industry. I also realised that I was not well-sculpted as an actor because I was getting a lot of rejections. I stopped acting and focused on casting." He believes casting helped him get in touch with many talented artistes and regain his confidence back as an actor.
"Slowly with talented actors around me, I started gaining back my confidence and did short films and TVF shows. Then Devashish Makhija cast me in 'Ajji' in a very dark role. I got my rhythm back as an actor with that role. It put a lot of eyes on me," he said.