The cast hunters

After passing out from Chitkara University with a Mass Communication degree, landing jobs in media — print, electronic and radio — was cakewalk. Their ‘creativity’ however, was compromised, thanks to the monotonous nature of their jobs. So, buddies Chandan Gill, Varun Khokher and Vivek Sharma quit their jobs and started doing theatre in Chandigarh with Alankar Theatre Group.

“Working under someone was not our cup of tea. Since we had learnt it all — photography, video editing, shooting documentaries, making advertisements, jingles, short films, plays — during college, we decided to build our ground with plays such as Andhayug, Thought and Ram Sanjeevan Ki Prem Katha. At the time, Sanjeev Mauraya, assistant to casting director Dilip Shankar (who has done the casting for Life of Pi, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Monsoon Wedding) approached us to help him with Punjab’s casting for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB),” recalls Varun.

That’s when Friday Arts Productions came into existence, in December 2011. They managed to find the character of Sampreet Singh (Milkha’s best friend) and a child artiste to play young Mikha for the flick. It was only by fluke that Chandan got selected for Sampreet’s role, says he, “Though all my scenes are with Farhan Akhtar, working with director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra was the highlight. He is a perfectionist and I got to learn a lot from him.”

Such was the demand and the trio’s success that their batch mate, Abhinav Chabbra, and juniors Guneet Dogra and Navya Mittar, joined the team. “Post BMB, Amita Sehgal [casting director for Black, Guzaarish, Aisha and Saawariya] asked us to do the casting for Dove shampoo, which was then followed by a few music videos, till we got the project of making two documentaries for the election campaign of Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. Thanks to the tremendous response thereafter, we were asked to make a short film, a biopic on revolutionary Hira Singh Bhattal. Though its script and screenplay is ready, it’s still under process,” shares Vivek.

The golden opportunity, however, was when White Lies — a film by Sikhya Entertainment with Hollywood director Danis Tanovic and Bollywood actor Emraan Hashmi — came their way. Chandan says, “It was difficult, as we asked not to disclose anything about the flick. Despite such restrictions, 30 actors were selected from our casting; our theatre bank helped us. From Emraan’s sister to kids and neighbors, we found everyone.”

Did Friday Arts know that with the success of one project, they would be offered another? “Immediately after it, we got the line production for two short films, from the same production house; both were shot simultaneously with White Lies. Dhadiyal is a film by Anubhuti Kashyap [Anurag Kashyap’s sister]; Hidden Cricked is by Shlok Sharma, who has been assisting Kashyap for long. Vivek, Varun, Chandan and Navya have also acted in the films.”

Currently, they are handling Punjabi casting with Amita Sehgal of an upcoming film by Anil Kapoor Productions.


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