In 2017, Sahaj Pratap Singh Bhadoria started working with a production house in Mumbai as an associate casting director. Before that, Sahaj had assisted several reputed filmmakers and worked on a bunch of projects as an actor as well. As he started casting actors for different projects, he realized he had a knack for it and was good at spotting the right faces for the right parts. In the last few years, Sahaj has cast for projects like ‘Puncch Beat’, ‘Class of 2020’, ‘Cartel’, Hostel Daze 3 ‘ Flames 3’, ‘IRL: In Real Love’ and ‘Lust Stories 2’, among others.
This year, Sahaj launched StarShade Casting, an independent casting agency that will cast for projects across every medium including films, television, web and advertising. In this interview, he talks about the thought behind the newly established company, the process of casting, growing opportunities for actors, upcoming projects and more.
What was your thought behind setting up StarShade Casting?
There are many casting agencies in Mumbai today. Every casting director has a different approach. I started working as an associate casting director in the year 2017. My growth in this space happened very quickly. With God’s grace, I got the opportunity to work on some good projects and with people who propelled my growth forward. When you grow in your career, you realize people are appreciating your work and like the way you operate.
After gaining a good amount of experience over the last few years, I decided to set up my own company. At StarShade Casting, my goal is to provide opportunities to talented actors who have not got their due. My job is to ensure the right talent meets the right opportunity. These actors could be of any age group. There is no dearth of talent in our country but more than not, talented people do not get the right opportunities. Take Mr. Gagan Dev Riar for instance. He was doing theatre for years and was looking for one good opportunity to showcase his skills on the screen. After years, he finally got that opportunity with Scam 2003 and that proved to be a breakthrough project for him.
There are so many institutions in India today that teach acting. Every year, a batch of actors complete their education from these institutes. We want to collaborate with these institutes and find actors who are ready to face the camera. Apart from casting experienced actors, we will consistently work towards bringing under-exposed actors to the forefront.
The demand for casting directors seems to be growing rapidly in the industry.
Yes! In the past, several films and shows have suffered because of bad casting choices. This led to filmmakers realizing the importance of casting directors. Now, there is a lot of respect and demand for casting directors in the country. The work of a casting professional never stops. During the Covid-19 situation, when lockdown was imposed all over the country, shoots were on hold. However, we were still casting for upcoming projects. A casting director has to prove himself or herself with every project so that they keep getting approached for work.
Before launching StarShade Casting, you worked as an associate casting director for a couple of years. You worked with several established casting agencies including Casting Bay.
I had a great experience working with Casting Bay and the entire team led by Anmol (Ahuja) bhai and Abhishek (Banerjee) bhai ,Around the time I finished working on the Alt Balaji show ‘Cartel’, Anmol bhai was looking for an associate casting director for Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Babli Bouncer’. It was my first project with Casting Bay and I went on to work with them for two years and worked on projects made for OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video .A lot of professional things and techniques I know about casting today is because of Casting Bay.
With so many casting agencies around, do you think this is a good time for people to try their luck in acting?
Because of casting agencies, the industry has become much more organized now. Actors are now aware of the fact that there are many agencies out there whom they can share their profiles with and give auditions to. Almost every reputed production house today seeks the services of a casting agency.
However, there is a flipside to everything. In the last few years, one has witnessed a rise in the number of frauds. There have been people who have pretended to be casting directors, taken money from actors promising them to give them work and have disappeared. When actors go through such experiences, they get disheartened and move back to their hometown. Before trusting anybody, actors should do a background check on them and find out whether they are genuine or not.
There is another thing actors need to know about. In the industry, some people work as casting coordinators. There is a difference between casting directors and casting coordinators and actors need to understand that. While casting directors are hired and paid by the production house, casting coordinators are people who take commission from actors for providing them with some work.
Sometimes, actors find it difficult to figure how to reach out to casting directors.
It is very easy to approach casting directors these days. Social media has grown at a rapid pace over the last few years. Every credible casting agency has its own social media handles. On these handles, actors can get all the information pertaining to the company including its e-mail address, contact numbers and address. Apart from mailing their profile, they can also come to the casting agency’s office and give an audition.
You started your career as an actor and worked on several projects in Mumbai as well. Are you open to acting opportunities?
Yes, I always wanted to be an actor and I came to the city wanting to be an actor. I did a lot of theatre and acted in a bunch of ads, short films and shows as well. In the last few years, I was extremely caught up with my work as a casting director, so I could not take up any acting projects. However, now that I have set up my own company and have a good team working with me, I am ready to take up work as an actor as well. Lots of casting director’s had a similar journey. Even though they runs a casting agency they also takes up projects as an actor as well.
Being an actor has actually helped me tremendously in my journey as a casting director as well. Since I am an actor, I can see the strengths and flaws in an actor objectively. Apart from casting the right actors for different parts, I can also see the areas in which an actor needs to improve upon. Actors are trained to be observant and this quality comes in handy while casting other actors.
The journey of your company StarShade Casting started with three ads for Neugo Buses. What is the kind of work you are planning to do in the near future?
We have cast for a couple of ads that will come out very soon. We are also in talks for a couple of films and web shows. StarShade Casting will be casting across all mediums. I have set up a team which will continue to grow with time.
Every day, several actors come to Mumbai to become actors. As a casting director, what would be your advice to an aspiring actor be?
The one thing I would request every aspiring actor to do is to prepare themselves well. A lot of people decide to come to Mumbai and then, start working on their craft. While the process of learning never stops, somebody who wishes to pursue acting as a profession should know about the basics of their craft before arriving in Mumbai. When somebody asks you to give an audition, you should be ready for it.