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It’s Talent Over Bloodline, Always: Shanoo Sharma

As the nepotism debate rages on, the Yash Raj Films casting head speaks about how talent, craft and a hunger to succeed are the only things she considers before giving an actor a break

Shanoo Sharma Shanoo Sharma

August 7, 2017 | 11:08 AM

shanoo sharma, yashraj films, nepotism, aditya chopra, Anushka Sharma, Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor, Bhumi Pednekar, Saqib Saleem, Saba Azad, Tara D’Souza, Nishant Dahiya, Tahir Bhasin, Swara Bhaskar, Parineeti Chopra, Aadar Jain, Anya Singh,

When I got into this profession many, many years ago, I didn’t have too many filters in my mind. The basic idea was to cast really good actors so that I don’t get criticised and could get more work. So rule no. 1 was to make sure whoever I cast was good at what he/she does and is appreciated by people. Simple! 

Not much has changed since. I’ll admit I have gone wrong at times but that had nothing to do with casting an ‘unknown’ or ‘known’ person. Today I work for a man (Aditya Chopra) who has given me the freedom to bring him talent from any part of the world. I can freely audition actors and show him whatever I like. This could be someone from a conservative working family or from the film industry - an actor or technician. In fact, he insists I find people who have the hunger to make it. People who would die if they didn’t succeed in films. 

Our main criteria are talent, craft and a hunger for being the best version of yourself. Talent wins over bloodline, always. I have met almost every star child and if this industry was ruled by nepotism, I would have cast all of them. 

If ever I casually say, ‘You know I met this actor’s daughter at a party and I really think she has something,’ he will turn around and say, ‘Please try getting me someone from outside the industry because it’s harder for them.’ 

My office is the most accessible office there is. We are both online and office and transparent about where we are, what we are doing and who works for us. Anyone can mail us or walk into our office and give an introduction. I will see it for sure. Maybe not that very day, but within that week. 

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My assistants are trained to treat people with a lot of respect. We also have a team sourcing for potential actors online (Facebook, Instagram, etc) and writing to them from our official accounts for details. 

So just as they have the the freedom to be auditioned by me or my team, the same freedom, is also extended to an actor’s child. We do not treat people from the industry any differently from the kids from non-film families. The audition process is that same for all. 

Our main criteria are talent, craft and a hunger for being the best version of yourself. Talent wins over bloodline, always. I have met almost every star child and if this industry was ruled by nepotism, I would have cast all of them. 

Ours is a production house (Yash Raj Films) which has cast actors like Anushka Sharma, Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor, Bhumi Pednekar, Saqib Saleem, Saba Azad, Tara D’Souza, Nishant Dahiya, Tahir Bhasin, Swara Bhasker and many more. 

It has the longest list of people from non-film families, but that doesn’t mean we won’t cast someone like Arjun Kapoor or Parineeti Chopra. They did not get it easy! Arjun had to work as hard as Vaani or maybe even harder. Parineeti had to audition and work on herself before she could be signed on. Just as I cast Aadar (Jain) from a well-known family, I also cast Anya Singh from a non-film family in Delhi. 

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I rather not go on and on with examples. All I want to say is that just as an actor’s child get launched, so does a non-actor’s. A lot of actor’s children have never made it and are back to the grind. 

We get tapes from all over the world! Anyone can take pictures, upload them online, and get called in for an audition. People get picked up from reality TV shows too. It is much easier to make your mark today than it was back in the day! I remember once I had to do a selection from a junior artist supplier for the featured casting of a film and I had really liked a girl. She was called in, and I trained her myself for almost 6 months. She didn’t make it with us but today she is getting work as an actor in the industry and has no complaints. 

Let’s be honest. I also want my work as a casting director to shine. I get complimented on some work, and get told off for others. But what means the most to me is when another casting director calls me and tells me what an awesome cast I had. That makes my day!

Within our own community we need to make sure that we love and admire each other’s work. And that means - go credible at all times! Find the right face for the part! Stay true to that and you can’t ever go wrong. 

The high of having cast the right person for the part is the best. It feels amazing when people forget who the actor is and lets him take your hand and lead you into a wonderful adventure.