Ashim wanted to cast human beings rather than actors for Daddy: Prashant
Daddy, the biopic on Arun Gawli – one of the most dreaded names in the Mumbai underworld, tells the story that no one dared to touch and tell, so far. Gawli has been an enigmatic figure and the film aims at bringing up the anecdotes that shaped up the man. In order to stay true to the story, the team chose a mix of real people and actors auditioning almost 700 to 1000 people for the various characters.
Casting Director Prashant Singh shares the process of finding talents and how they managed to pull off the near perfect casting.
How did you bring together the varied characters as per Ashim’s brief?
Ashim didn’t want out and out actors for this film. The script that he wrote demanded real life characters that have been through the complexities of life. Ashim wanted to cast human beings rather than actors. So, we went looking for people, who could play these characters keeping the things very real, like the mundane routine of a normal person. For this, we cast a lot of actors from Dharavi, Mira Road and Pune. For the other set of characters, we did a mix-match of professional actors to strike a balance.
We insisted that the actors read as much history about the characters as they could, so that it became easier for them to bring out the finer nuances of the characters
How many actors did you audition on an average for each role?
Although it’s difficult to remember the actual number but, I think we easily auditioned somewhere around 700 to 1000 actors. The whole process was very time-consuming since we had to cast non – actors as well. The thing with non – actors is that when you test 100 of them, you get one good actor. And, to bring non – actors into a set bracket is a Herculean task in itself.
On an average, it took me around 1 to 1.5 hours for each actor’s test as far as primary characters were concerned. For secondary characters it took me 45 minutes per actor’s test. We used to audition 100 people a day. We spent 15 days in Dharavi and Pune looking for people.
Any character that was difficult to cast?
I would say it was the kids’ parts. Working with kids comes with its own set of responsibilities and challenges. They have to look a certain way, lay the foundation for the character arc and also, they need to be believable in the audience’s eyes.
Also, Nishikant Kamat’s character of Inspector Vijaykar Nitin in the film was very challenging to zero down to. We tried many faces for the character but nothing could seal the deal because every time there was something that we were missing out on. Finally, Nishikant filled the shoes of Inspector Vijaykar. Since Nishikant is a director himself, it helped as he was on the same page as Ashim. A filmmaker-actor can generally sense what his/ her director wants from him/ her and the former also gives inputs to make things better.
It took me around 1 to 1.5 hours for each actor’s test for primary characters while for secondary characters it took almost 45 minutes per actor’s test
How did Aishwarya Rajesh’s casting happen?
Aishwarya is playing the key role of Asha Gawli and we had shortlisted a lot of actors prior to her for the said role. However, Ashim and Arjun’s thoughts weren’t matching with the faces that we came up with. Then, Ashim suggested Aishwarya Rajesh’s name. Ashim’s sense in casting is very sharp, he called Aishwarya and spoke with her about the character and also gave her the essential information with regards to the story and the character. Everyone was quite impressed with Aishwarya since she is not a very actor-actor kind of a person but, at the same time, she beautifully portrayed the mundaneness of her character in the film.
Were there any workshops organized in order to fine tune the actors’ nuances?
We didn’t organize any dedicated workshops as such. It was mostly a part of the casting process and was carried out during the look test of each actor. I would sit with the actors to give them insights about their roles. I think it was only Aishwarya Rajesh’s character of Asha Gawli that required a workshop to fit into the universe of the film.
Aishwarya is not a very actor-actor kind of a person but, at the same time, she beautifully portrayed the mundaneness of her character in the film
For a film like Daddy, how do you manage to see beyond an actor’s present life and his/ her capabilities that he/ she would bring out the finer nuances when it comes to emoting what’s written in history?
We used to brief the actors about the character and tell them to study its background based on historical facts. Thereafter, I encouraged them to grasp the psychological rhythm of the character. People of that time (1970s) had different set of opinions, social conduct, and cultural interactions. See, when you delve into a character’s psyche, it becomes easy for you to hold the nerve and it opens up the possibilities to play around with the character. So, in a nutshell, we insisted that the actors read as much history about the characters as they could, so that it became easier for them to bring out the finer nuances of the characters.