How Harry Potter’s only Indian characters, Parvati and Padma Patil were cast from amid scores of contenders
Harry Potter’s only Indian characters, Parvati and Padma Patil, were played by actors Shefali Chowdhury and Afshan Azan, who were picked from obscurity. Here’s who they were chosen.Updated: May 20, 2020 14:16 IST
For Indian Harry Potter fans, a highlight of the fourth film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was the Yule Ball. It was the scene that properly introduced the series’ only major Indian characters, the twins Parvati and Padma Patil. Played by Shefali Chowdhury and Afshan Azad, Parvati and Padma were Harry Potter and Ron Weasley’s dates at the ball.
Shefali and Afshan played the Patil twins in five Harry Potter films, including the two-part finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Parts 1 and 2. In a 2005 BBC interview, the actors spoke about the nerve-wracking process of their casting.
Shefali said, “It all came about when the casting agents were going round some schools in my area looking for some people to go to the auditions. I had just got out of an exam and I thought that I had done really badly in the exam, and I was in a bad mood and my teacher was waving my name at me on a sheet of paper with all these other girls. She said someone came looking for two twins for the Harry Potter books to be in the film - are you interested? And I was like yeah!” She added that since she was a fan of the series, she decided to give it a shot. She continued, “I went to the first audition and I thought OK there’s a lot of girls here, I don’t know if I’ve got a chance, but there’s nothing to lose, so I just went for it. Then I got a call about a week later, maybe more, saying that I was through to the next round, so I was OK I’ve got a chance now. I was really getting excited, and they just kept calling back after each audition until me and Afshan auditioned together with Mike Newell the director, then we got a call back saying that we both had got it - that was it really.”
Afshan added, “In the morning (at school) we have notices and we had a notice that our form tutors just reads out. And I remember just sitting there and my teacher was going through all the activities that were going on today and it was really boring. Then she said that casting agents were coming to our school to look for two Asian twins to take part in the Harry Potter films and everyone just started laughing.”
She continued, “I went to an all girls school and so everyone wanted to take part and we said: ‘Oh let’s go!’ So me and a friend had read the book, and we thought we’re never going to get in but we’re not going to lose anything. So we sent in after school and saw all the girls lining up and they were all looking after themselves, all combing their hair, putting make-up on. I literally thought I didn’t have a chance, so I just went in as myself you know, smiled a bit and out of my group of five I was the only one that got through to the next round. So my friends were like: ‘Oh my God maybe you’ve got a chance’ and I said: ‘No way - this is Harry Potter, a person like me wouldn’t get into Harry Potter!’ But then little did I know that I’d get called back day after day, week after week and, like Shefali said, I got put with Shefali in the last audition with Mike Newell and it all started from there really.”
Shefali said that before her final audition for director Mike Newell, she couldn’t eat anything all day. “Mike was offering me this fruit and he was like ‘Oh you must eat something’. He was so nice,” she said. Afshan added, “I remember actually you were quite nervous and I thought: ‘Oh God, if she’s nervous, I should be nervous!’ It wasn’t just us at the final audition - there were about 12 more girls. But me and Shefali got put back a lot because they were trying to find twins - it was quite weird because there were twins there but Mike was saying that we would rather have two people that could act than twins who couldn’t act.”
About getting the opportunity to work with Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, Afshan said, “They are so down to earth, they are just normal people, absolutely, so humble and down to earth. And we, Dan and I, became best friends and Rupert was so hilarious on set. He’s a right joker, it’s hard to understand but they’re really just genuinely normal people, normal teenagers who were just up for a laugh and we all just had fun. Everyone was like family on set and everyone just went to each other when they needed a shoulder to cry on or shared the laughs.”
Shefali added, “Dan’s hilarious. Dancing - we were better dancing off-screen than on-screen and he’s got like a crazy sense of humour, so full of energy and he’s just really supportive. Because I got quite nervous at one point and I was doing a scene with me and Afshan and Rupert. I got quite nervous and he was being really supportive.”
The Harry Potter series concluded in 2013, and is currently the third highest-grossing film franchise in history. Afshan married Nabil Kazi in 2018, while Shefali’s last role was in the 2019 short film Odilo Fabian or (The Possibility of Impossible Dreams). Both are 31 years old.
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