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Cast Issues

As the Khushwant Singh Lit Fest entered the second day, it was apparent that the women were poised to take over. Theatre actress and casting director Dolly Thakore reveals how theatre became entwined with casting in Hindi films.

chandigarh Updated: Oct 20, 2013 12:53 IST
Navleen Kaur Lakhi

It’s another sunny day in Kasauli and you spot actor Rahul Bose warming himself at Kasauli Club, where the Khushwant Singh Lit Fest is underway. But, Rahul doesn’t hold your attention, because your eyes seem drawn by their own will to a woman sitting beside him.

A large red bindi on her forehead, a long bead necklace and some silver bracelets, it is theatre actress Dolly Thakore — the multi-talented woman who has done commendable work in not only theatre, but also as a casting director.

While Dolly addresses a session on Bollywood, you realise that those from the world of theatre are perhaps the most loyal to their profession. She might be talking about Bollywood making waves overseas, but at the bottom of it all, Dolly gives credit to theatre when she reveals that the concept of ‘casting directors’ came to India at the time of the making of the film Gandhi in 1979.

(Photo: Keshav Singh/HT)

“At that time, I used to do theatre. Richard Attenborough, the director of Gandhi, came to my house and saw a wall which had pictures of all my plays. Immediately, he announced that I would be the casting director for his film. Before that, no one had ever heard what a casting director does, not even me,” she laughs. Dolly goes on to share that in the capacity of a casting director, Richard allowed her to travel to Calcutta, Chennai and other parts of South India, apart from, of course, the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi.

Soon, Dolly was attending every big play. And this is how, she tells us, the trend of roping in theatre actors in Hindi films was set. “A lot of actors that I cast in various films are from NSD.

In fact, it was only after the Hindi film industry was introduced to the profession of cast direction that theatre actors started getting work there. Now, there are acting workshops and institutes. Indeed, the world of acting has opened up for everyone,” says Dolly, who was the casting director for various international and national films such as Gandhi, The Far Pavilions, Kim, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Jinnah, Such a Long Journey and Sixth Happiness.

Dolly is glad about a change of another kind having made itself at home in the country. “Off late, those belonging to the world of theatre are being given respect. There was a time when people would indulge in theatre only once they got free from work, theatre never being a full-time occupation.

Now, many have taken up theatre full-time. For that matter, those trained in theatre are even hired by multinationals to groom their employees in body language, voice modulation and increase their confidence. After all, who else can teach these features better than theatre people?” asks Dolly, knowing you are convinced.

The theatre artist, who has acted in plays by Tennesse Williams, Arthur Asher Miller and Harold Pinter, continues to give her heart and soul to the stage. “Plays such as Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues always witness a full house. Acting on stage is what I enjoy the most,” she says, adding with pride that her son Quasar Padamsee has also found love in theatre. “Today, he has made a name for himself in the field.

For the past 15 years, he has been organising a national theatre festival called Thespo, which is a platform for young theatre artists (aged below 25) to showcase their talent. They audition in around 12 cities, find the best of actors and encourage them to perform
at Mumbai,” Dolly reveals.

Apart from theatre, the actor stays busy associated with causes such as the Spastics Society of India, National Association for the Blind and Laadli Girl Child Campaign and is on the selection committee of NSD.