She’s a star in her own right and has been in the limelight for putting the right actors in the right places. This time Shanoo Sharma got the bindass bhidu aka Jackie Shroff to play the role of a sensitive father in Faraz Ali’s 17-min film, Makhmal. In an exclusive interview the Casting Director reveals what attracted her to the short film and the casting process.

Casting director Shanoo Sharma

Casting director Shanoo Sharma

What made you suggest Jackie Shroff for the father’s role in Makhmal?

I’ve grown-up loving and being obsessed with Jackie Shroff. I grew-up watching films of Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Mr Bachchan and Mr Rishi Kapoor. I had earlier cast Jackie Da in Dhoom 3 and Aurangzeb. When I read Faraz (Ali)’s script I felt that I needed an actor who would make the viewer feel for the father. And I felt Jackie Da can play a husband who is separated from his wife for whatever reason yet have the gentle stroke and sensitivity of a father. He is a versatile actor. When I am casting, there is no format. Sometimes a name pops up intuitively and instinctively  and at times I have to really search for the perfect actor for a role, which may go on for months. With Makhmal, Jackie Da was the first name that came to my mind.


Was it easy or difficult to get a star actor like Jackie Shroff on board?

Faraz and I were having dinner when I suggested Jackie Da’s name for the role. He loved the idea, so I immediately called Jackie Da and requested him to meet Faraz. He (Jackie Shroff) is someone who will do a film just because you tell him. But I told him to read the script and come on board only if he loved it. I don’t like to get actors to do something because of some pressure. I also told Jackie Da that I’d understand if he would say no. Luckily, Faraz met Jackie Da and both cracked a vibe and he was on board. He is such a star, not just in the filmi sense, but a star who lights up people’s lives. He is a gem of person and would put in the same kind of hard work in a big budget film as well as a small film. It is possible that an actor from the 80s-90s wouldn’t even understand the concept of short films, but Jackie Da has evolved and is in sync with today’s time. With Makhmal everything just fell into place beautifully, especially the casting. Bhuvan Arora, who plays the assistant, is a very good actor. Even Deepti Sharma, the mother, is a very fine actor, with intense eyes and an interesting look. Palak Dey, the kid is also special. So, everyone just easily came on board.

Can you tell us how you found Palak Dey, who plays the girl child in Makhmal?

I looked for little girls and put out a word among the people we work with. And that’s how I found Palak. She is so childlike and wasn’t trying to be an actress. She has crooked teeth and when she smiles her face lights-up and when she frowns you’d feel bad for her. I usually don’t like to cast for children because I want them to be kids. So, when I cast for kids I look for children who are children and not actors. Palak is watchable. Faraz was very clear that he wanted her and I was most happy with that decision.

Palak Dey in Makhmal

Palak Dey in Makhmal

Jackie Shroff is brilliant as the father. What made you think he would be able to pull off such a sensitive role?

That man should be given ALL THE LIKES in the world. He can play Sai Baba or a gangster and a rich dude with equal conviction. Jackie Da is a very happy man and is getting interesting work at this stage of his career, but I feel current filmmakers haven’t explored him yet. I am happy I grew-up watching films in which directors explored his versatility as an actor. I just feel there’s a magic box inside Jackie Da that is waiting for someone to say ‘abracadabra’.

Apart from your friendship with Faraz Ali, what attracted you to Makhmal?

The reason I met Faraz was because of Mehrooni (his independent short film). I happened to stumble upon Mehrooni and I liked it so much that I wrote to him – it is something I never do. From his Facebook profile I figured that he is a really young guy, so I asked him in the message if he had directed Mehrooni. It was him. That’s how we met and soon we were discussing about films and everything related to it. I loved his sensitivity towards films and we often discussed a lot of ideas. I always knew his sensibility is very different. He puts a lot of passion, sensitivity and love in his films. For him his film is like his child, and nothing can come in between the two. Also, I loved the script of Makhmal.

Actually, I like doing photography. So, once I had shot a picture of a girl in hijab with her father. I had actually taken a few shots of the girl alone, but her father insisted I click pictures of them together too. I guess the protective nature showed up. Anyway, after clicking a few pictures, they started walking away with their backs to me. However, I continued clicking. Suddenly, at one moment the girl turned back and was smiling to me, and her tiny hand was clasped in her father’s hand. It was such a beautiful moment. Coincidentally, Faraz’s script had a similar visual at the beginning of the film. So, I guess we both connected at that level too. Also, I am a daddy’s girl, which is the biggest reason I did the film.


Given your experience in the industry and casting for films, is it easy to rope in big names for small / short films?

Firstly, personally I don’t differentiate between casting for a short film or a film with the biggest budget of the year. For me, casting is supreme. The amount of hard work I put in any film is the same. I started my career with a student short film, Monsoon, by UCLA student Shyam Balse. I cast the late Ravi Vaswani in it, who is also a star in his own right. Makhmal is my second short film. Luckily, bringing the actors for both films was easy. It could be me or the people or timing or kismet. So, getting stars has not been difficult. But to be honest, I can’t speak for how the industry works and don’t have the experience. And I don’t like to faff.

Do you have any casting tips for short filmmakers?

Because it is a short film format I assume they will be new filmmakers. A few things that come to my mind are – they should be very confident of their subject and have clarity whether they want a star or newcomer. Also, communication with the technicians is extremely important. But I also feel everybody at that stage is so new and bursting with energy that you can’t mold them. They are willing to learn from their own mistakes. I would not give any advice. Young filmmakers should just follow their heart and learn. I really don’t have the experience to tell a new filmmaker what to do.