Shanoo Sharma is one of the top casting directors in Bollywood today and actors consider themselves lucky if she even notices them. Till date, she has introduced Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra, Vani Kapoor, Bhumi Pednekar, and in a way, Alia Bhatt to the big screen. A popular figure in the film industry, Shanoo says she doesn't introduce people with the notion that they are going to be stars. She meets them thinking they would make good actors.
In an exclusive conversation with Sunday Herald, she talks about what it means to be a casting director in the world's largest film industry and more...
Casting directors are very important to a film today. But not so long ago, they didn't really have a status to speak of...
Earlier, scripts were not handed over, you were just expected to find people. When I first came into the industry, people would say, 'Arre, ladki le kar aayo, jo Rani (Mukherjee) ya Preeti (Zinta) jaisi ho', and I would be gobsmacked because they are two totally different people! I had to put my foot down to do things professionally. Today, I also groom actors and help them open up. So, the role of a casting director has certainly increased, and is an integral part of a film.
Who do you see as your mentor?
Most certainly Shekhar Kapur... he is my favourite person. When he discussed casting, I learnt so much from him that I felt like a director myself. While I had a chance to work with him on Paani, he opened me up to newer things and I learnt clarity of thought from him. And he has such youthful energy. I was floored when he asked me for my views because here was a film-maker who had made great films but it felt like he was a first-time director every time he sat in front of me.
Has the industry become more professional over the years, where casting is concerned?
Yes, of course. Scripts are given, characters are discussed and all actors are told their parts and are also given the freedom to say yes or no to the part. Today, there is social media. We inform newcomers about our Facebook pages. So, it is far more organised. But we do warn them about fake profiles that really are money scams.
What would you say is the difference between Hollywood and Bollywood in terms of the casting process?
I have heard that in Hollywood, the agent is God. He can bring stars, producers, directors, in fact, a whole film together. That is yet to happen in India.
Are casting directors acknowledged by the actors that they introduce after they become stars?
I have always been given love by those I have introduced. They still come up to me for opinions, which I find overwhelming.
What is the relationship between a casting director and the film's director?
It depends on the director, really. And each one is different. I have a beautiful relationship with Shekhar sir, and very different ones with Manish Sharma and Karan Johar.
Why don't you cast for other production houses?
That is because I am an employee of Yash Raj Films. It's a decision I consciously took eight years ago. Karan Johar is the only exception because I started my journey with him. A lot of directors come to me and I do help them, but not professionally.
Where do you go from here? Are you planning to direct a film?
I am planning to direct a home....get married and live happily ever after! But who knows the future? I had never planned to become a casting director, so I can't really say for sure where it will take me.