When you get to know about the kind of journey Abhishek Gupta has had in the entertainment industry, you realize hard work and perseverance does pay off in the long run. In his nine-year long journey in the entertainment industry, Abhishek has managed to make a name for himself as a successful casting director. Being the multi-faceted person he is, he has also worked in other departments of TV production and has amassed tremendous amount of experience in the last several years he had been working in the industry. In this interview, he talks about his eventful journey in the entertainment industry, the projects that are closest to his heart, the qualities a casting director needs to have, tips to aspiring actors, dream of starting a production house and more.
You grew up in Panna, a small town in Madhya Pradesh. When did you decide to come to Mumbai and work in the entertainment industry?
I always wanted to do something different in life. When everybody in the family is either an engineer or a doctor, you wonder whether you should follow the same path or do something different. I come from a middle-class family and though I had a desire to get into the entertainment industry, I could not voice it out in front of my family for a very long time. I had some friends in Mumbai. I came here, met them and asked them how should I go about finding work in the industry. I met some people from the industry through one of them and started working.
Did you come here with plans to become a casting director?
No, I did not have any plans as such. I thought I will try and look for a job in the field of media and then, explore other options. I decided to do a job as I thought it would help me buy some time in Mumbai. A friend of mine from Gwalior introduced me to Mr. Prashant Joshi, a well-known casting director. I started assisting him. The first show I worked with him on was ‘Saavdhaan India’. After that I worked with him in shows like ‘Ishq Kills’, ‘Adaalat’, ‘Singhasan Battisi’ and ‘Service Waali Bahu’. ‘Yeh Hai Aashiqui’ was my first show as an independent casting director.
Tell us something about your educational background.
I did a course from Indian Diamond Institute in Surat. My father wanted me to study law father and had persuaded me to fill up a form for the same. I joined a course but left it after six months. I am very stubborn. It is important to be headstrong in this industry. I have always been very stubborn. If I set a goal, I leave no stone unturned to achieve it. I guess that is one thing that has helped me sustain myself in this industry.
Which has been your most special project till date?
‘Yeh Hai Aashiqui’ would always be special as it was my first independent project as a casting director. It helped me gain some recognition in the industry. After that, I did shows like ‘Kaala Tika’, ‘Police Factory’, ‘Parvarish 2’, ‘Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi’. I did a web series called ‘U Me Aur Ghar’. Even though I am not a Maharashtrian, I did the casting for a Marathi show called ‘Vithu Mauli’. I got to work with Johnny Lever sir on ‘Partner’ and that has been one of my most memorable experiences so far. Recently, I did the casting for a show called ‘Daaman Mitti Ka’ which is currently being aired on DD Kisan.
You have also worked as a creative producer and an associate director.
Yes, I want to keep doing different things. If I find a certain job to be interesting, I take it up. If I sit in an office and work only as a casting director, I will soon get bored of it. Also, working in different departments help you grow as a creative person.
In an interview, you had stated that your goal is to start a production house someday.
Yes, that’s the plan. I want to work in a channel and gain some experience. After that, the big goal is to start a production house and produce serials. I am not thinking about getting into film production. The reason behind that is work happens on a regular basis in the television industry. I like working like that. Also, television offers stability and financial security.
Every day, a large number of people from different parts of the country arrive in Mumbai to become actors. What would be your advice to them?
Before coming to Mumbai and trying to get work in the industry, they should try and get some basic knowledge about the industry. When you come prepared, you can deal with a lot of things better. Many a times, people come here to work but get distracted by other things. A lot of people believe that they will be able to make a lot of contacts if they attend parties. That is not true at all. If you keep working towards sharpening your skills and do things honestly, you will definitely get work. I personally believe that it is very important for an actor to do theatre and engage in workshops. Usually, you would observe that actors who come from a theatre background have a better command over their craft. It is important to have family support. Without it, it gets very difficult to survive initially as it takes a while to find work. As I said earlier, basic knowledge is required. An actor must always do meetings at the office of the person who asked them to meet. Coffee shops and malls are not the places where should be having professional meetings. Whenever you are about to meet somebody, find all the requisite information about them from the internet. A lot of people spend a lot of money in getting portfolios done as soon as they arrive in Mumbai. You can get jobs by submitting regular pictures as well. Never pay anybody to get work. You are here in this industry to earn and not to pay people to give you work. When somebody asks for money, you must know that they are not genuine. Hard work and honesty will help you make a mark in the entertainment industry.
You have been an admirer of producer Vikas Gupta. Why do you find him inspiring?
I have followed his journey and been hugely inspired by him. He was an outsider who started working from a very young age and has managed to achieve so much in a short span of time. I hope I get the opportunity to work with him some day.
What are the qualities a casting director needs to have?
It is very important to be patient. Whenever I conduct an audition, I treat the artiste as a friend so that they feel comfortable. A lot of times actors, especially newcomers, are a little nervous during an audition. You must treat them well and help them build their confidence when they are performing. Casting directors look for actors according to the story of the show. We brief them about the character. After taking all the auditions, we send the options to the creative team. The creative team then forwards it to the channel. The channel then takes the final call on the actors.
Apart from conducting a large number of auditions, so many actors must be reaching out to you on a regular basis. Do you ever lose your patience?
No, I never get impatient. Every day, I get numerous messages and calls from actors. I always make it a point to reply to each and every call and message before I go to sleep.
You came from a small town to Mumbai to fulfill your dreams. It has been quite a long journey.
Yes, I have completed nine years in the industry. I have had many highs and lows but it has been a beautiful journey.
What is the next project you are working on?
I am doing the casting for an upcoming show on Doordarshan. It is based on the works of Rabindranath Tagore.