You walk into the theatre, settle in your seat, make sure the viewing angle is right and (hopefully) turn off your phones. Through all of this, you miss the opening credits with names of designers, writers, make-up artists, choreographers, singers, editors, and many more crew who make the magic happen.
Earlier, people behind the scenes usually remained just there, and never got due credit. But it’s an exciting time for cinema. Every cog in the wheel gets attention and every team member gets his turn under the spotlight.
A bunch of them, like screenwriter Abhijat Joshi, choreographer Geeta Kapoor, fashion stylist Anaita Shroff Adajania, music composer Mithoon and casting director Mukesh Chhabra tell
that it’s a glorious time for people who are mostly in the green room.
Abhijat Joshi: The writer who helps breathe life into Rajkumar Hirani’s stories
The team created India’s biggest box office hits - Lage Raho Munnabhai, 3 Idiots and PKRecently, when PK crossed the Rs 300-crore mark at the box office, everyone from Aamir Khan to director Rajkumar Hirani and Anushka Sharma to producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra gave interviews and each one was touted as the next big genius. But one man – he had co-written the movie – stood silently on the sidelines.
: Omi Vaidya’s famous chamatkari speech from 3 Idiots launched his career as a comedic actor
Arshad Warsi’s career got a reboot after he played the loveable Circuit.
Anushka Sharma delivered a performance that was completely different from her previous bubbly roles.
Geeta Kapoor: The choreographer who makes Farah Khan’s moves pop
Together they have designed steps for some of the most popular item songsDespite a solid collaboration of over 20 years with Farah Khan, choreographer Geeta Kapoor has remained dutifully second-in-command and away from media glare. The only time Kapoor remembers being envious of her mentor? An obscure incident from way back when she hadn’t even started dancing professionally.
Geeta Kapoor and Farah Khan have collaborated on many item songs
(From left) Deepika’s belly dance song, Lovely; Madhuri’s dance comeback in Ghagra; Katrina’s iconic Sheila Ki Jawaani
Mukesh Chhabra: The casting director who discovered actors like Rajkummar Rao and Sushant Singh Rajput
He has cast big blockbusters and also given the indie industry some of its best acting talents
People have no idea how much effort goes into finding a talented actor, says Mukesh Chhabra, who has cast Badlapur, Haider, Ugly, Highway and Jai Ho in the last one year.
“Sometimes a film has Salman Khan or Ranbir Kapoor, but then there are films like Kai Po Che!, where you have to start from scratch. I still remember how difficult it was to convince director Abhishek Kapoor to cast Sushant Singh Rajput, who had come from TV.
I pushed for Rajkummar Rao because he was an undiscovered talent, and I literally picked Amit Sadh out of a line of Bollywood aspirants who were waiting to audition for some role. That’s how Kai Po Che! was put together.”
Sitting in his office, you can’t miss the big signboard behind his desk, with Thank You notes and messages from his finds. There are notes from Sushant Singh Rajput, Rajkummar Rao, Swara Bhaskar, Huma Qureshi and Vineet Kumar among others.
“This is what really matters,” says Chhabra, who did the casting for Gangs of Wasseypur too. “These people still remember my contribution to their career; they drop in unannounced and chat with me for hours.”
Chhabra has doggedly worked towards giving Bollywood some of today’s biggest acting talents. “I rely on instinct more than anything else,” he says. “I just get a feeling whether an actor will be able to pull off what the script requires. But even after that, you’ve to figure out whether they will adapt to a particular accent required by the film, whether they have chemistry with other actors, whether their dates match the film’s schedule, and so on.”
The quest for a good actor has taken him to places unknown and led to horrific experiences. “I spotted a child doing wheelies with his bicycle at a traffic signal,” he recalls. “I wanted him for Chillar Party, so we followed him home. Since it looked suspicious, his mother thought that we were there to kidnap him!” But he believes these are the hoops one has to jump through, to find a diamond in the rough.
Chhabra is also an acting coach and has conducted workshops with Sidharth Malhotra and Shraddha Kapoor for Ek Villain, Aditya Roy Kapoor for Aashiqui 2, Imran Khan and Kangana Ranaut for the upcoming film Katti Batti.
“I’ve never received complaints,” he says. “But if a movie fails because of the actors, I take the blame. There are times when I feel I could’ve pushed the actors more.”
Chhabra is happy with the way the industry has credited him. “Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali and Vikas Bahl have even put my name on their films’ posters, which is rare for a casting director,” he says. “And when it comes to actors, I feel a sense of fatherly pride towards Rajkummar when he wins a National Award, or Sushant, when he bags a big film.”
However, when his mother asks him why he doesn’t win any awards for Best Casting, Chhabra tells her that he hopes they add the category to awards shows soon. “Production designers, costume designers and make-up artists put their hearts into a film,” he says. “All of them are getting recognition, and I believe the spotlight will soon fall on casting directors too.”
Mithoon: The composer behind the chartbusters in several Bhatt films
If the soundtracks of Aashiqui 2 and Murder 2 are so hummable, it is because of this composerWhen Atif Aslam shot to fame with the superhit song, Woh Lamhe (from Zeher) in 2005, not many people knew that the creative genius who collaborated with him on the song was a 19-year-old composer Mithoon Sharma.
Mithoon’s greatest hits
The composer, just 30, already has these hits under his belt
Tum hi ho: This song from Aashiqui 2 won most Best Song awards and has around 43 million hits on YouTube
Phir Mohabbat: This Murder 2 song marked Mithoon’s return to the Bhatt banner after a 5-year hiatus
Woh Lamhe: Mithoon’s breakout song from Zeher