Have you ever had problems casting a role in any of your films?
In my first film Kuch Kuch Hota Hota, I had become a beggar. Eight heroines had said no to playing Tina that was played by Rani. I thought I would have to wear a short skirt and do the role! Eventually, Shah Rukh and Aditya Chopra both recommended Rani’s name after looking at a particular expression of her in Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat. So I went to Rani, who was going to do Ghulam at that time.
For Salman Khan’s part in the movie too, I had to roam here and there. Finally, it all happened. I had to literally beg Salman and Rani to be onboard.
Do you think in this current scenario, we have a limited choice of stars?
Yes, it is a big problem. We have hundreds of films to make and there are six (actors) who can sell your film. We have very few movie stars and I hope the country starts loving more. It’s a problem. We are going through a crisis. There are just a few stars who are viable and saleable but there are many filmmakers and stories to be told.
Has casting assumed more prominence in filmmaking recently?
I think Lagaan opened the door of unusual casting in mainstream cinema. Earlier, it was industry casting; but these were all real people. I think the large part of the success of Lagaan was the casting of the cricket team.
When you find the exceptional talent that is available to you through the digital format it makes you create characters and change things; you don’t follow the conventional path of creativity. I am vastly excited about the possibilities. I think we are not making the kind of content that we use to, there is a paradigm shift in terms of what we want to project in our cinema. There will always be the mainstream, but unusual filmmaking is finding large acceptance.
As a producer and director, how much importance do you give to casting?
As a producer, I never get involved with casting; it’s the director’s job. When I am a director, casting is an integral part of the film. Today, characters have so many layers. There is a need for fresh talent. One doesn’t want the same actor playing the role of a father or mother every time.
Will you continue launching new faces in your upcoming films?
I hope so. We want to launch new faces. One needs to create talent. I need to also have saleable faces at the end of the day as I am a producer and not a studio. When I made Student of the Year I took a chance and fortunately it worked. But it doesn’t work out always. I would request all filmmakers to launch new faces and then leverage them as I did with Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt ... I went on to do several films with them. That is what we need to do.