No industry for casting directors

DC probes into why the role of casting directors is close to insignificant in Tamil cinema.

When you get your casting right, 50 percent of the job is done,’ is a well-known adage. But the main question is, how would you nail this crucial job efficiently? And, one can’t help but be curious about how casting is predominantly done in K’town. Unlike the West or even Bollywood, the concept of having a casting director is close to non-existent here. However, in films, casting has been a make-or-break factor. For instance, Bobby Simha, the highly-lauded actor, who got a national award for Jigarthanda, was considered to be a miscast in the film Bangalore Naatkal. Critics cited that the character turned out to be underwhelming more because of the miscast and not because of the actor.

Though there are a few casting directors around like Shanmugam (who again, is known more as an incredible actor than a casting director) here, they have a negligible role to play in Tamil cinema.

Often, Tamil directors also double up as casting directors, but the problem with this long-existing trend is that it becomes unidimensional, according to producer Dhananjayan.

“In Bollywood’s case, it is a delegated industry; that means the work is shared by a lot of people. Take Dangal, it was written and directed by different people. Similarly, they have casting directors to take care of getting talents. Though the last call is made by the director, the choices that are given to him are made by casting directors. This gives another dimension to the film. But, when the casting is also done by the director, like in Tamil cinema, the film lacks plurality,” he says.

There have been recent changes in the scenario with Bench Cast and similar technologically driven companies trying to make casting a professional and exclusive process. Bench Cast, which has now gathered about 12,000 profiles of aspiring actors, still has a long way to go in setting a trend here, says Kaarthekeyen, the COO of the company.

“The process of selecting actors in Kodambakkam can’t be called casting, it can only be called networking. The same actors are being used for the same kind of roles in films. If you take the role of a father, there are about five actors who will keep doing it repeatedly (laughs). So, the predominant role of our company was to identify talent. In a state like ours, where there is enormous potential, I feel, we are failing to tap them,” he adds.

The directors and producers fail to understand the importance of casting directors, he says. “Even if they demand a small amount, the makers think that the movie can be made without them. But, new directors like Karthik Subbaraj, Nalan Kumarasamy, and Balaji Tharaneetharan are seeking the help of casting directors, which is a good sign.”

Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanam was one of the few films in Tamil cinema which credited casting director Prasad, who is also an aspiring filmmaker.

The director of the film Balaji Tharaneetharan, says, “Budget is the main factor for the lack of a delegated person for casting here. Also, our style of working has never demanded such a role. The need for it arises only when one searches for a heroine from other states. For other roles, directors decide from the films they have already watched.”

Balaji adds, “In addition, the moment you set up an office for a film, aspirants start thronging it, since the industry is closely knitted and everybody knows what is happening around. In many cases only assistant directors take care of the casting. But if we have a specialist, it will save some time. Currently, there is no need, but maybe in the future, the role of a casting director might evolve to become a vital one for films,” he opines.

A documentary about casting was made a few years back and Kaali Venkat, who featured in it, shared his experience as a newcomer. Venkat, who is now seen as one of the most promising character aritistes, gives his point of view on this — “Yes, it is true — to my knowledge, there is no specific casting director in our industry as such. But in the Kollywood scenario, most of the movies are based on our lifestyle and are rooted to our culture. Hence, a director writes his/her story with a particular character in mind — whether it is for a newcomer or an established actor. So for our industry, I don’t think it is essential to have a specific person who can take care of casting.”

When we ask if this system will make it hard for a newcomer to get a break, Venkat quickly replies, “Don’t you have me as an example? I am a person who had no contacts in the industry whatsoever. But, auditions frequently happen for many roles and I landed up with a few roles after attending such casting calls. So, I don’t think newcomers would necessarily struggle because of the lack of casting directors.”

(With inputs from Balajee CR)

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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