In Shah Rukh Khan‘s last release Fan there were two Shah Rukh Khans. But the leading ladies were virtual unknowns, Waluscha D’Souza and Shreya Pilgaonkar. In his next release Raees, Shah Rukh has opted for none of the well-known actresses in Bollywood but a Pakistani actress Mahira Khan.
According to the head honcho of a leading production house this is a ploy at production cost -cutting. “A-list Bollywood heroes charge anything from Rs. 20 crores to Rs. 60 crores. Producers have no option but to economize with the rest of the budget by casting actors who don’t charge that much money.”
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta who normally works with actors like Rajkummar Rao and Manoj Bajpayee rather than stars feels big-budget films don’t need to cut corners. “I think it is more about freshness than cost. Also, I think it is because there are professional casting directors like Mukesh Chhabra, Honey Trehan, etc. who put together the cast based on characterization than ‘face value’.”
Hansal welcomes the trend towards casting newcomers. “There is so much talent around and it is a relief to see that big-ticket films are providing a platform to new talent.”
Filmmaker Rahul Dhalokia who has cast a new face opposite Shah Rukh Khan in Raees feels the casting is dictated by the script. “It depends on the script and how the director and scriptwriter sees the character. It probably works to the advantage of the film in most cases.”
Trade expert Taran Adarsh also feels casting relatively less popular faces with superstars is more a creative than a financial decision. “I don’t think it’s a cost-cutting exercise. Casting not too known or popular names in a film could be due to various reasons. It could be that the makers want a fresh face for a fresh pairing OR the length of the role isn’t substantial enough OR with the main lead actor allotting bulk dates to complete the project, you need co-actors who can work out the dates suiting the main actor. The reason can also be that the actor chosen for the part suits the character. Taran feels co-cutting is not a priority in the competitive world of Bollywood filmmaking. “With business growing rapidly with each passing year and film budgets escalating too, cost-cutting exercise is last on the mind of a top film-maker these days. Quality is important and so is right casting.”
Vikram Bhatt feels casting two big stars together could be problematic. “More than cost cutting it gets easier to make the film if there is a less popular co-star with a big star. It becomes virtually impossible to match the availability of big stars over long periods. Also sometimes the star-cast dictates a lesser-known face opposite a big star. Satte Pe Satta is a case in point. Lagaan is another one.”
Sanjay Gupta feels a film featuring an A-lister doesn’t need to cut corners. “When you have a Hrithik Roshan or Shah Rukh Khan in the cast you don’t need to cut costs.”