Deepali Sarin, a Noida-based casting director who runs Abhi Creations, is very busy. These days, she is scouring the city for the cast of 11 films to be shot in Delhi in the next six months.
Sarin, who has just finished auditions at Triveni Kala Sangam for filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri's Freedom, says, "We needed artistes to play about 42 characters in the film. About 700 turned up for the auditions conducted over 10 days."
Bollywood's shoot fest in Delhi has spawned a whole new community of 'junior artistes' and 'extras' in the city in the past few years.
Today, there are about 5,000 artistes in the city, and 60% of them have joined the Bollywood bandwagon in the past couple of years.
In fact, the city sees about 200 auditions every year organised by a growing tribe of some known and some not-so-well-known 'casting directors'.
Malviya Nagar, Rohini and Lajpat Nagar are some of the areas where casting directors and portfolio photographers have set up shop to sell Bollywood dreams.
Delhi's junior artistes are different from Mumbai's strugglers in that they are mostly lawyers, doctors, teachers or professors who take time out of their busy schedules to pursue their passion for acting.
"I make sure that I don't miss any important audition. Business comes second to acting," says Parvesh Kumar, who has acted in several films such as Agent Vinod, etc, and runs a clothes showroom in central Delhi.
And while they make anything between R1,000 and R20,000 per day, money is not the main attraction.
Casting directors have divided Delhi artistes into A+, A, B, and C categories depending on their looks."Posh and good-looking artistes belong to A+ category. We need them for sequences shot in places like DLF Emporio. For airport and CP shots, we go for A category, and for Chandni Chowk scenes we settle for C category artistes," says Sarin.
With auditions taking place in the city throughout the year, many acting schools have come up in areas such as Noida, Laxmi Nagar, GK and Lajpat Nagar, luring students with the promise of teaching acting and also helping them get roles in films.
A Delhi-based line producer, who does not wish to be named, said that with so many film shoots happening in Delhi, many top Bollywood actors are hunting for homes in Delhi and NCR. As many as 12 films are lined up for shooting in the city in the next six months. "Many film shoots in Delhi last for over a month or two. So, actors feel it is better to buy a home here than stay in a hotel for such long periods," the producer said.