Entertainment Bollywood 30 Aug 2021 Bollywood's cas ...

Bollywood's casting conundrum

Published Aug 30, 2021, 9:38 pm IST
Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:38 pm IST
Film schedules have been completely disrupted due to the changes necessitated by the pandemic. But is it for better or for worse?
Abhishek Bachchan
 Abhishek Bachchan

Many filmmakers and actors are in a quandary due to the unforeseen Covid-19. They had committed to a bevy of projects, but shooting had to be put on hold. And now the entire dynamics of the cast and crew has changed. Not only do the teams have to be smaller, in many cases, fresh cast and crew had to be selected too.

“Covid is the biggest problem the industry has faced so far. While producers, distributors, exhibitors have all faced huge losses due to films not being released, creativity has also been hit. Karan Johar’s massive film Takht had to be put on the back burner and has shown no signs of restarting even after a year-and-a-half, because it is extremely difficult to get such a star cast in place again. We will have to wait and see whether he manages to make it with the same cast or has to change it.


The latest casualty is the Hindi remake of Ayyapanum Koshiyum, which was to go on the floors this year with John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan. The latter’s shoots for his upcoming season of Breathe have put paid to the plans, and he has been replaced by Arjun Kapoor.

“Every actor has committed to three or four projects at least. Most of them are giving preference to the ones they signed earlier. It is not just films —  many web shows are being made with multiple stars. So when things are restarting, they are going with the actor who is available first, because others are busy for six to eight months at least. There are some shows where the first season was shot and the second was planned, but actors really cannot find dates because they are so much in demand,” says casting director Kunal M. Shah.


Supporting actors  like Vijay Verma, Kay Kay Menon, Chandan Roy Sanyal and Neeraj Kabi also have packed diaries, so makers of shows they’ve been signed on for have only two options — wait or replace.

Jahnvi Kapoor

In fact, directors like Rahul Dholakia were also replaced due to the disruption caused by the pandemic. “I could not direct the Mithali Raj biopic because Covid messed up everyone’s schedules including mine. We had all worked hard during the lockdown, giving shape to the idea, including writer Priya Aven, the studio head Ajit Andhare and actress Taapsee Pannu,” rues Dholakia who was replaced by Srijit Mukherji.


“But this has to be seen as a win-win situation as well, because many makers were able to make changes in their script and better them during the lockdown,” feels Shah.

Rahul Dholakia

 The casting of Mr Lele directed by Shashank Khaitan was among those which underwent a change, with Vicky Kaushal and Kiara Advani replacing Varun Dhawan and Janhvi Kapoor. Only Bhumi Pednekar kept her job in the film. Shashank described the lockdown as a “blessing in disguise”.

He had planned to shoot the film earlier, and the money was saved as the lockdown prevented him from going on the floors. The pandemic was not just a problem for the makers. It was one for actors as well — they were losing jobs. It may be recalled that a lot of senior actors, including Kanwaljit Singh, were replaced because their age precluded them from working during the pandemic.


“We had to make a representation to the government to ensure that this did not continue. But by then a lot of people had already been replaced,” says Amit Behl, Secretary of the Cine and Television Artistes Association (CINTAA).
On the flip side, a lot of actors were not comfortable shooting during the pandemic.

“This was especially true of TV serial actors who were shooting every day for hours together. They shoot with a large cast and no one was sure if the other person was infected or was susceptible to infections and preferred to stay home. No one can force them to shoot when they are uncomfortable. Around 10 percent of actors on television were replaced due to the pandemic,” says film historian and writer Imtiaz Baghdadi.


Location: India, Telangana, Hyderabad