Abhishek Banerjee, who is a renowned casting director and also among industry's good actors, had a chat with us recently. The actor, who was applauded for his latest work in Anuskha Sharma's Paatal Lok as Hatoda Tyagi, opened up about his journey, thought of giving up acting, facing rejections from his own people and realisation of getting popular. Watch the video below:
How did your journey from a casting director to an actor start?
I was always an actor and came from Delhi to Mumbai to pursue acting. But when I came here, I realised it is even an uphill task to give an audition. Luckily, I knew a few people in the industry and amongst them one was Gautam Kishanchandani, who has done casting for Anurag Basu films. At that time, he was casting for Once Upon A Time In Mumbai and I joined him as an associate casting director thinking that he will cast me for something. I used to give cues and feel I am a very good actor and main to easily kar lunga. But nothing of that sort happened. I used to hussle a lot and that's how my casting journey started.
Getting a break for becoming a casting director was easy than acting?
After working for Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, film director Milan Lutharia noticed my work and he liked it. He offered Gautam to cast for his next Dirty Picture and Gautam didn't want to do that because he was focusing on his script that time. So, Milind sir asked him if his associate (that's me) can do casting for him. And he readily said yes- he is always a very generous man. That's when my journey as an independent casting director for a very big film started. That film at that time earned 100 crores and was a female oriented film. After that I got a lot of casting offers for the film. I did films like Mickey Virus, Gabbar Is Back and then me and Anmol decided to start a casting company because at that time OTT shows were just coming in.
So you completely shifted to casting then?
I was also acting. My friends used to call me and make me act in their short films. But I was facing many rejections also while I was auditioning for film roles. There also came a point when I felt like quitting acting and giving up because I felt that I am not good enough. I was very disheartened and used to get very cautious and nervous. Till TVF pictures happened. There was one tiny line which I said and that became viral. And after that youth started connecting with me and that's when I got my confidence back.
How do you feel now when people call you a good actor?
It really feels good but at that time I ask myself really? Because as an actor I feel very nervous though we show that we are very confident but it's not the case actually. After the take we are the most worried ki kahin koi ye na bolde ki 'gandi acting hui hai'- aaisa sun ne se har actor darta hai. Agar aap kisi bhi actor ko bol doge ki main tujhe bol dunga tune gandi acting kari hai to vo dar jaayega (laughs). But every compliment is a pat on the back.
When was the first time you felt that I am famous now?
During the lockdown, I had stepped out to pick some stuff and I was driving and I saw 2-3 bikes chasing my car continously. That actually made me worried that why are they crossing me again and again, so I rolled down my car's window to ask them what is the problem? There were three guys on one bike and they said, 'eh hatoda tyagi na'. And that's when I was like I didn't even think that way that they may be chasing because they have recognised me. The series got launched during lockdown and as we are not stepping out and meeting anyone physically, I didn't realise how popular the character or I have become. Also, the sudden rise in numbers of followers on my social media- isn't that the way we are calculating popularity these days? But the incident that happened with me was more exciting.
You have been acting from a long time. Do you feel the recognisation as an actor came really late?
I don't expect anyone to spot me in Rang De Basanti, No One Killed Jessica or Bomaby Talkies role. I am a casting director, so I am really very practical in that. My first recognisable character was in Pictures. From there I graduated to a film like Ajji which was my first feature film with a lenghty role. Some of my own filmmaker friends started recognising me as an actor. Then Stree gave me another wider reach. Now, that became my gradual extended version of me getting that fame.
You still want to continue casting?
Casting Bay is like my baby. Right from the name to the logo- everything is by me and Anmol Ahuja. And I wont let go of it like that. My prescence in the office might reduce but I will always be creatively involved in it. And that is also going to help me learn more about characters. I will keep doing casting because we want to give opportunity to a lot of talent. In a way it's a give back to the world where I come from. Acting will now of course take the front seat in my life. I will be learning new skills and techniques, so that I can use it going ahead.
Your Hathoda Tyagi character got accolades but also ignited a controversy about you casting yourself in it...
I will not generalise and answer but give you my personal take. I am the first example of a casting director turned in to a part time and now full time actor. Before Ajji or Stree, I was not getting any part. Not because my director used to not cast me but because I didn't have any inclination. Most of the roles which I wanted to do were given to established actors. Like I wanted to do Manu Sharma in No Killed Jessica. Idris in Ghanchakar which Amit Das got the part. So, those where I wanted to do I gave auditions and I got rejected. I got rejected by my own directors and in fact my own boss Gautam Kishanchandani has rejected me. Rajkumar Gupta has rejected me. Stree happened to me because AmarKaushik and I both were associate casting directors for No One Killed Jessica where I acted for one small role also. So, he knew me as an actor too. He called me for an audition and when I gave the audition for the first time in my life I felt I actually gave a good audition. I actually killed it in that audition. In fact, my audition was better then my performance in the film I would say. And still I didn't get the role...
Somebody else got that part but then something happened and major changes were done at the last minute. And they called me. Similary, in Dream Girl the character I played, although I was the first choice but later director Raj Shaandilyaa informed me that Rajpal Yadav sir will be doing that character. But he got stuck in his legal issues and that part came back to me again. There my luck favoured me. Bala happened because of Amar Kaushik again, he gave me birth as an actor, so if he wants me to play some part I can't say no.
And then comes Paatal Lok, where I was only casting talents. In my other interviews, I have said that I never looked at Hatoda Tyagi because I wanted to do Ansari's character. But it was Sudeep Sharma who said that I liked you in Stree but I dont want you for Ansari but Hatoda Tyagi. And that's when they made me audition for it. The minute I gave the audition, I knew it I was very good. Now, of course I can't select myself. I have to send the tape to makers. And honestly this was again the same situation where I am the casting director, I have send my audition to the makers and I may get rejected that very moment. So that's more tough. And I have faced that a lot. I have been a casting director for 11 years and I have done only 4-5 films.
Image Source: instagram/nowitsabhi
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