'For all casting directors, character is the driving force'

In the world of casting direction, Manoj Ramola is a known name. He is popular for his work on television shows like Savdhaan India on Life OK. He has done casting for various brands commercials like Marvel Tea, Microtek, Markwin and Skipper. Currently casting for television series Crime Patrol on Sony TV, Ramola recently came up with a book called Audition Room which is a culmination of his skills as a casting director.In a conversation with Metrolife, Ramola talks about various aspects of casting direction in India, its current status, and the dos and don’ts for aspiring actors during their auditions.

Excerpts:

What are the recent developments in the industry?
Casting is relatively very new term in Indian film industry. Earlier assistant directors used to do casting. If you go by credits, then Hassan Kutty (Saalam Bombay) is probably first casting director. However, it was Tigmanshu Dhulia, who made it to mainstream cinema with Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen. Again, both were respectively involved as assistant director and writer with the said films.

As for recent developments, I can say that bigger production houses have institutionalised casting as a part of film making process. Even televisions have, but the vast indigenous films and regional industry is still grappling with the process.

What consequences lead to Audition Room?
While working as casting director, I observed that most actors are not able to differentiate between acting and auditioning skills. I have often seen better actors, giving bad auditions and at the same time average actors with better auditioning skills landing up the role. Also there is a huge information asymmetry between professional acting aspirants and reality of entertainment industry. This results in frauds and exploitations. It is disheartening to see an actor suffer due to lack of knowledge and that led me write
the book.

What is the difference between auditioning and acting?
Auditioning is not exactly like acting in a film or serials. Both require different skills. The major difference between them is the preparation time. You do not have enough time to work on your character at the time of audition and there is no director to guide you or suggest you adjustments at that time. Audition is just an extempore where you do not have time to visualise the back-story or apply your methods. Your job is to just concentrate on your character and make them alive in front of the camera with zero preparation.

What is the current status of casting directors in India?
Even though casting as a profession still has a long way to go, casting directors are now gaining better recognition in the industry. Now in India, casting directors are being given credits in the opening title. One can hear aboutcasting directors at award functions also, which is a pleasant development. Directors and producers are beginning to understand that it has its own niche and only professionals can to do the job.


What is the role of supporting actors in movies?
Supporting actors complete the canvas of any story. It is impossible to conceive a story without supporting actors, at least for feature films and TV episodes. For instance, Gabbar in Sholay, Mogambo in Mr India and Mehmood in Teesri Manzil still stand out. Not just the plot, supporting actors also shoulder the viewing experience for audiences. The moment things tighten up on screen, you will always find a supporting actor breaking monotony and adding something fresh.

What is the criterion of selecting supporting actors?
For a casting director, there is nothing called a supporting actor. It is only actor. There is a character that needs to be conveyed on screen be it any medium. So for all casting directors, the character is the driving force. For big banner Bollywood films, the lead cast is always decided upon due to commercial implications and casting directors fill up for other characters. This is the only significance of supporting actors in a casting
director’s life.

Are newcomers still struggling in Bollywood?
Influx of newcomers in Bollywood is huge. There is a huge discrepancy between demand and supply. The success ratio is hugely skewed. A lot also depends on the individual’s grit to sustain. A positive development is the fact that these days actors want to know more about the casting process and the casting director, which is an indication of professionalism entering the industry. Today actors are sensitised towards casting process and this make the hiring also transparent as opposed to just relying on inside sources.

Are casting directors here to stay?
Looking at the way things are shaping up for our industry I can say, things are changing for better.  It is happening gradually and I don’t see a reason why this profession should not evolve further. The requirement of better talent is growing and thus casting directors should play an important role in the coming days to cater to this rising demand within the entertainment industry.

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