Interview: Ludo's casting directors Shubham Gaur and Trishaan on putting together the ensemble
If there is a film in recent times that hooked all of us, it is Anurag Basu’s Ludo. Featuring a stellar cast of Pankaj Tripathi, Abhishek Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao, Aditya Roy Kapur, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Rohit Suresh Saraf, Pearle Maaney, Inayat Varma, Asha Negi, Shalini Vatsa and Ishtiyak Khan to name a few, the dark comedy is packed with four independent stories that intersect with each other so chaotically that it is hilarious and worth the praise that it has been receiving.
Interestingly, this was the first time that Anurag Basu brought a casting team on board. But how was it like putting this ensemble together? We ask the casting directors Shubham Gaur and Trishaan, who have not only done casting for Ludo but also for several national and international projects, including Sense 8, Furious 7, McMafia and Four More Shots Please!. Excerpts:
Q: Tell us about your early days in the industry.
Shubham Gaur: I did my graduation in journalism and was working as an assistant writer for a news channel. In 2009, the recession hit the market and like many others, I found myself unemployed. A friend mentioned that there is a vacancy in Yash Raj Films in the casting department. I interviewed and got the job and worked under Bhumi Pednekar, who was my boss. But I had joined YRF to assist and since it didn’t happen, I left the place. Soon I met casting director Seher Latif who gave me my first film Lunchbox.
Trishaan: As soon as I passed out of film school, I started working with Seher Latif and my first film was Tigers by Oscar-winning director Danis Tanovic (of No Man’s Land). By then Gangs of Wasseypur was being cast and soon after its release, the post of a casting director became more important than ever in the Mumbai film industry.
Q: How did you both end up forming a company?
T: Shubham and I were associates to Seher Latif. While we were working with her, we started receiving independent casting projects and when I was approached to cast for Hotel Mumbai, we decided to form our own company together. Although we were associates for a long time, we formed the company in 2017. Some of the projects that we have worked on are Hotel Mumbai, Bose: Dead/Alive, Beecham House, Special Ops, Percy, The Wedding Guest, The Glorias, Chaman Bahar, Tigers, Bioscopewala and of course, Ludo.
Q: What was the brief given to you by Anurag for Ludo?
SG: The brief was simple — look for personalities and actors who can improvise on the spot. Dada is quite unpredictable and that’s what makes him a magician. It takes some time to get his beat but once you do, you would be smitten by his world like us.
T: Anurag creates stories in a new universe and such had to be the actors. As per the genre of Ludo, we had to find actors who are quirky and have great improvisational skills. Anurag is someone who looks for the personal flavour of an individual rather than an actor.
Q: In which genre would you put this film?
SG: For me, it’s surely one of the coolest dark comedies that I have seen so far. In fact, the narrative is quite tough to pull off. Only a director like him can execute something so magical.
Q: Take us through the challenges that Ludo brought for you.
SG: The challenge was that we had little information about the script because dada perhaps wanted us also to improvise and seek actors who could react to random situations that were given to them. To our surprise, most of them enjoyed it. There were very few auditions since he doesn’t believe in the process of auditioning. We interviewed a lot of people on camera about their training and their personalities.
Q: Who was the most challenging character to cast?
T: Casting for Mini (Inayat Verma) was quite a challenge as it is a task to get the performance from a child actor without treating them like a child.
Q: You also have access to the Casting Society of America. What does it mean? How did it happen?
T: We are one of the four Casting Society of America members in the country and it connects us to casting directors from America and Europe, which allows us to have access to actors from most parts of the world. Also, as and when I do cast for an American Union film, there is a certain wage that I am entitled to. There is a certain criterion to get a CSA certification. It was possible as I was associated with international films from the beginning of my casting career.
Q: You have been a part of several international shows. How did that happen?
SG: Seher Latif is solely responsible for introducing us to the world of international cinema and its casting process. We were pretty fortunate to have worked on some epic films and shows like Sense 8, Jungle Book, Homeland season 4, Viceroy House, McMafia, Furious 7 to name a few.
Q: You also did an incredible job with Four More Shots Please!. What made you zero in on those four girls?
SG: I had worked with Anu Menon on her filmWaiting (starring Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin) so when we got to know about her directing Four More Shots Please!, we reached out and expressed our interest and soon we met the producers Rangita and Ishita Nandy. They had already set a tone on how they want to mount the show. We discussed and then pitched the final names, and fortunately, it worked out. Not just the girls but we also cast Simone Singh, Prateik Babbar, Milind Soman, Neil Bhoopalam and the remaining 100 members and it was quite an adventure.
Q: It was nice to see Prateik Babbar, what made you find Jay Wadia in him?
SG: We also wonder why no one thought of casting him in a part like that. He looked the part and did really well with his performance.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming projects.
T: There are a couple of Netflix and Amazon Prime shows besides Four More Shots Please! season 3, an Indo-American film, three indie films, six acting workshops, three short films and some more.