The hero’s best friend or the heroine’s sister sometimes remain etched in people’s memory long after the film has run its course. That’s when you know it’s a film with great casting. “In earlier times, assistant directors or the production team would look into casting. Even today, smaller production houses or indie films may not hire a casting director,” says Manoj Ramola, a casting director who has worked for TV shows like Savdhaan India and Crime Patrol. Ramola has authored a book, Audition Room, which explores the techniques of auditioning. He gives a brief history of casting in India.
The concept of casting was non-existent in India. The now veteran casting director from Hollywood, Susie Figgis, started auditioning in India, along with Richard Attenborough, the film’s director. Actors like Saeed Jaffrey and Amrish Puri were pushed to international fame a result of this film.
Salaam Bombay (1988)
Until now, assistant directors were often in charge of the process. Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay was the first Indian film to give credit to Hassan Kutty as a casting director.
Bandit Queen (1994)
Director Shekhar Kapoor brought casting into relative mainstream with this movie. Director-actor Tigmanshu Dhulia actually started his journey in Bollywood as a casting director, and was given due credit.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
The casting department had a structured hierarchy. Gail Stevens (High School Musical 3, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) led the team globally. In Mumbai, the casting began as early as September 2007. Loveleen Tandon, one of the five Indian casting directors, made a suggestion to director Danny Boyle that portions of the dialogues be written in Hindi for authenticity. She was offered the additional responsibility of penning those dialogues, and eventually of directing parts of the film. She was credited on screen as a co-director.
Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
This was the first Indian film where credit to the casting director, Mukesh Chhabra, was provided in the opening scene. In fact, the casting process was talked about in the film’s promotions too. It is interesting to note here that Dhulia, one of the earliest casting directors, was cast as the main antagonist.