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Meet Atul Mongia, Dibakar Banerjee’s man Friday for LSD

April 8, 2010

There isn’t one recognisable face in “Love Sex Aur Dhokha” (LSD), yet audiences are flocking to see the actors. Behind this casting coup of a different kind is Atul Mongia, the man who selected and trained them.

“The vision was director Dibakar Banerjee’s. He gave me a brief for each character. It was up to me to find the perfect fit,” Mongia, who also acted in the film, told IANS.

Most of the actors in LSD – audiences are raving about them – faced the camera for the first time.

“There’s an actor in each one of us. All of us play ourselves. Those who can play others as well are actors,” says Mongia. “My job was to bring the actor out in each individual in the film.”

How he found his actors is sometimes funny and often strange.

Neha Chauhan, who plays Rashmi in the second story, was discovered by Banerjee from a marriage video. Sandeep Bose, who is seen as the father in the first story, is actually a casting director who was providing actors for LSD. And Namrata Rao, whose bitchy portrayal of the day-time sales girl in the second story has earned her a fan following, is the editor of the film.

The challenges for an actor in LSD were many. The actors were also carrying the camera and choreographing the scenes. There was no ‘action’ and ‘cut’. Most often there were only the actors with cameras on them. The shots were long. This meant the actors had to hold their presence on screen longer, and improvise when need be instead of sticking to the script as with other films.

Even established actors find it difficult to give long shots; so how did Mongia make first timers do it?

For over two months, Mongia, a former acting instructor at Barry John’s theatre school, trained the cast, breaking them down physically and emotionally to get them into the skin of their characters.

Arya Banerjee, who plays Naina, took a month before she gave in. Others required wit.

Raj Kumar Yadav, who plays Adarsh in the second story, was too sweet while his character required darker shades that he was unable to explore properly.

One day Mongia and Kanu Behl, co-writer, assistant director, told him they had heard he would be kicked out. That did the trick. In the workshop later that day, Raj demonstrated a range of emotions that surprised everyone.

About Mongia also being assistant director and actor in LSD, he said: “The schedules for each never clashed.”

On being asked who cast the casting director, he laughs, “It was Dibakar’s idea. I told him I would get him a good actor to play the brother in the first part, but he insisted I do the part.”

That was Banerjee’s masterstroke. Ask anyone about the scene he remembers from the movie and it would invariably be that of Mongia’s big bulging eyes staring at the camera before hacking the lovers to death.

Banerjee says of his casting coup, “There’s no shortage of good actors. Mumbai has an untapped talent pool of great actors. The rarer commodity is good casting. Atul did just that. First he selected the actors and then with Kanu worked for months to remove the layers of Bollywood acting style in them. They handled the entire crisis. I came in at the end. When the meat was properly marinated, I came in and put the sauce.”

Mongia meanwhile is awaiting the release of “Shor” that he has done the casting for, while he is also busy casting for two other films. “Both are challenging,” he says.

How does an aspiring actor reach him? “At atulcasting@gmail.com.” And would he cast and train unknowns? “I already have, a full film load, haven’t I?” he winks.

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Categories: Entertainment
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