Mukesh Chhabra: The Cast-o-grapher

Image source: Mukesh Chhabra's facebook page
When was the last time you said after watching a movie, “Ah! That new chap was good. What’s his name?” You might have even tried to google ‘that actor’ who caught your attention. Ever wondered who discovers these new talents? The overwhelming number of talented actors; be it from the theaters or the NSD or the other acting schools, has given rise to a new class of professionals in Bollywood whose job is to find out the face(new or nurtured) of that character in the script – The Casting Director. Of course somebody always did the casting; may be the producer or the director but being a casting director, is now being in a completely different trade. It is a sought after profession now-a-days with a casting director also getting his/her name mentioned in the credits. Didn’t notice? Check out the start credits when you catch a movie next time. And while you will be doing that, the name that you will find the most number of times will be Mukesh Chhabra.

Mukesh, in his early thirties has done casting for superhit Bollywood movies which include Gangs Of Wasseypur, Chennai Express, Kai Po Che, Yeh Jawani hai Deewani and recent ones like Shahid, Hasee Toh Phasee, Highway and Queen.  He hails from Delhi and he started his career working as an n Actor and Teacher at Theatre In Education (TIE), at the National School of Drama in Delhi. He took acting workshops on how to use theatre in education for children, students and teachers and actors. He worked there for seven and a half years before he came to Mumbai in 2008 and “there was no looking back” as he puts it. He also a sought after name when it comes to casting in TV commercials.

Mukesh started with casting for small characters or “one-liner” characters in films like Rang De Basanti and gradually moved on to doing the casting for an entire film.  He got his break as casting director when Ranjit Kapoor, his friend from theatre days asked him to cast the movie, Chintu Ji. He cast new actors around Rishi Kapoor as the lead. The film took some time to release but he got noticed and got assignments from the likes of Imtiaz Ali and Anurag Kashyap.

He recollects Chillar Party as one of the most challenging film. “Finding those children was a tough job”, he says. He is proud of Kai Po Che- the three lead actors in the film were his cast. The biggest of them all is surely Gangs of Wasseypur. It had 390 characters out of which 250 had dialogues. Casting for all those characters took him an year. He says that finding actors for small characters is more difficult.  “I interact with 200-300 actors in a day and in the past 4 years, have auditioned 40000 actors”, says Chhabra in an interview with a media house.

The position that he has reached has come after a lot of struggle. There is also another side to being a famous casting director in Bollywood. Chhabra has complained of receiving threat calls from newbie actors.  He says that he gets innumerable calls from struggling actors; influential people try to give him money for their sons to be casted; girls are ready to ‘compromise’ to get that one break. When asked about the existence of the infamous Casting Couch in Bollywood, he says that there is a lot of money riding on films now-a-days; no one will be so foolish to do such things and put their money at risk.

So passionate about his work, Chhabra says that he is on a constant look out for his casts. He has also approached non-actors that he encounters in his daily routine. He says that he child actor Irfan Khan (Fatka in Chillar Party) is actually a boy he saw on the road. He has a team that is on a purposeful look out for non actors on street. Mukesh founded and established Mukesh Chhabra Casting Company (MCCC) – he has a team of people under him who assist him in casting.

Imtiaz Ali is all praises for Chhabra, he says,
Mukesh Chhabra has opened our eyes to what good casting can do to a film. It is because if him that casting is a serious department in Hindi movies today. He has also unearthed fantastic actors who might have otherwise faded away. I see Mukesh's effort as a big service to the world of performance. Personally, he has brought a lot of value to my films and I thank him for that. Best wishes to you Mukesh, a lot depends on you. .

He is thankful to Vikas Bahl, Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali for the quality work that he has got and the position that he has carved for himself in the film industry. Check out this funny Cadbury Shots advertisement featuring Anurag Kashyap who is seen shouting at Mukesh Chhabra over a phone call. 

Currently, he is judging Ticket to Bollywood reality show on NDTV Prime and as always, is busy with casting for upcoming films like Bhoothnath Returns, Bombay Velvet, Peekay and many more.

He reveals his interest to direct a movie soon in this interview with Komal Nahata. Check out the interview to know more about this man and his profession.


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