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LIFFT India: Casting couch is a big racket, must be exposed, says Sohan Thakur

In a conversation with LIFFT India founder and festival director Riju Bajaj, the casting director spoke about what he looks for in an artiste and also the prejudices in the film industry.

Sohan Thakur in conversation with Mita Vashisht and Nandita Puri (centre) at the Lonavala festival. Courtesy: LIFFT India

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Sohan Thakur, casting director of several hit television shows such as Pratigya, Ghulaam, Madhubala and Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo, and many reality shows as well, was in conversation with LIFFT India founder and director Riju Bajaj at the festival at Lonavala today.

Thakur spoke about various issues, including the profession of casting director and the requirements of an artiste, and busted the money-making racket that many casting portals are engaged in. Thakur said he has a data bank of more than 25,000 people and has been successfully casting artistes for hit shows across channels.

Recounting his journey towards being a casting director, Thakur said that while he originally planned to be a director, he started work as a scheduler for television. Then he met with an accident and had to use crutches for a while, so he decided to become a casting director. Slowly he created a bank of artistes and started casting for television shows. He was fortunate that the shows did well and he was able to create a name for himself. 

Despite having a huge database of talent, Thakur said his company is always on the lookout for new talent as they are working on six to seven shows at a time. He uses social media extensively to reach out to aspiring actors and actresses.

Talking about the requirements of the television industry, Thakur said that earlier producers and directors just wanted a good-looking face. “I was asked to get a 'hot' boy and a 'hot' girl," he said. "I have never been able to understand the meaning of ‘hotness’.”

The scenario has changed now, however, he said, and people look to cast proper artistes instead of just good-looking faces. 

As a casting director, Thakur was asked about his relationships with artistes. He replied that he was very honest in his feedback and had not cast his friends for five to six years as he thought they were not fit. This has created respect for him in the industry as the artistes know “when they are fit, they will be chosen”, he said.

Asked if he wanted to move into other spheres of the film industry, he replied in the affirmative, saying he had entered the industry to become a director but was unable to follow his passion after his accident. He does plan to take up direction in the future, he added. Meanwhile, his directorial skills have helped him in casting artistes for shows.

Busting the myth that casting directors charge a registration fee for enrolment and projects, Thakur said he had been offered large sums of money by artistes desperate to be cast. However, he said vehemently, “I don’t charge and I won’t charge the actors.” His recently launched website, www.sohanthakurcasting.com, ensures that all artistes get a free and fair chance to approach him and his team for assignments. 

Asked by Bajaj about the infamous casting couch, Thakur said, “The casting couch exists big time in films and also in television, but both sides are responsible as the actors also makes the choice. It’s a big racket and it must be exposed.” He added that artistes do not usually come out and expose this for fear that they will not get any work if they speak up.

Finally, offering advice to all aspiring artistes, Thakur said, “Actors should get their training before coming to the industry. A good body etc has a limited shelf life. Respect kala [talent] and you can become big stars. This space is very crowded, so do not come without training, and be prepared to face the struggle.”

He ended by giving artistes their due in enabling him to create a name for himself. “I am here today because of actors, so I respect them immensely," he said. "I don’t hold grudges against any actors.”

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