The hassled yet endearing son in the Vodafone ‘Made for Moms’ TVC, the cute North-Eastern girl in the Nestle ad and the dancing pair in the Engage deodorant TVC were all picked out by Casting Director Gayathri Smitha
Sapna Nair | Delhi | December 8, 2014
An engaging story, a compelling background score and oodles of visual appeal are the most important components of a TVC. Add to that a celebrity or a known face, and the viewer may as well not skip the ad. But, sometimes, unknown and ‘interesting’ faces stay with us and strike a chord. And for that, the credit goes to Casting Directors.
Meet Gayathri Smitha, Co-founder and Casting Director, Insaights, a Bengaluru-based casting company, who is always looking out for new faces. She is responsible for some memorable ads such as the Frooti TVC with Shah Rukh Khan; Nestle’s ‘Share Your Goodness’ TVC; ‘First Love’ and ‘Made for Moms’ TVCs for Vodafone; Titan’s ‘The Joy of Gifting’ TVCs; and Incredible India (2012), among others.
Smitha has worked with Thinkpot Films and Nirvana Films, before starting out on her own in 2012. As an AD to Prakash Varma of Nirvana, she was tasked with location hunting but gradually veered towards casting. After spending four years there, she decided to become an independent Casting Director.
Once briefed by the director, she builds the campaign in her head and figures out what the character has to be like and then on begins the search. Typically, from receiving the brief to completing the casting it takes about two weeks.
“Some scripts require just interesting faces, while there are others for which we need real performers,” she states, citing the example of the Bluestone launch TVC featuring a couple talking to each other in bed.
“For that TVC we needed people who could perform really well so that the video didn’t look cheap and tacky. The husband had to be irritating and the woman had to be smart. It was a simple script, totally dependent on the actors to transform it,” she reveals.
Talent can strike anywhere, believes Smitha who scouts for fresh faces at malls, social media via common friends’ connections, at five-star hotels and even on the streets. “I make it clear to clients to not come to me for known faces or for casting models. I only look for fresh faces…90 per cent of the time,” she emphasises. And being a woman, she does not elicit suspicion or reluctance among people.
She found the guy from the Engage deodorant ‘escalator’ TVC from Amsterdam’s Netherlands Contemporary Dance School, got in touch with him on social media and got him to audition. He, apart from being a great contemporary dancer, was a foreigner who could pass of as Indian because of his dark hair.
“I have my own way of looking for talent. I scout for talent in theatre groups for performance-based ads – from NSD, FTII or Prithvi. And I look for people on social media,” she says, adding that she prefers to look for people herself than having people contact her.
Random searches on social media too yield great results. The guy in the Vodafone ‘First Love’ commercial was spotted on Facebook, so was the guy in the ‘Made for Moms’ TVC, who was actually an Assistant Director to filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee.
A movie buff, Smitha says it’s not difficult to understand casting, although a lot of it is based on gut-feel and luck.
Behind The Scenes
It’s not all that simple as it is made to look in those 30 seconds. Casting can be riddled with trials and frustrations – finding the right talent and getting the nod from the director.
The ‘Magic with Frooti’ commercial with actor Shah Rukh Khan on a football field was one of the tougher ones for Smitha. The TVC showed Khan guzzling down a whole bottle of Frooti as a bunch of kids watch salivating. It is later revealed that the ‘kids’ are actually grown-up players who turn into ‘children’ yearning for a sip of Frooti. The TVC required the kids and the grown-ups to look similar, in terms of attire, facial structure and hairstyles. Two hundred kids were auditioned and out of them 20 were selected.
Recalling the shoot, Smitha says, “When we shortlisted the children, their parents refused to let us change their hairstyles to match the hairstyles of the adults in the TVC. Parents had issues modifying the kids’ hair-dos and demanded more money for it.” Eventually, after some convincing the shoot proceeded.
Another toughie was the corporate TVC for Nestle, ‘Share Your Goodness’, which was widely appreciated for its social angle. The brief was to have a North-Eastern looking girl to make the ‘adoption’ angle clear, and for that Smitha and her team went searching across the North-East. “It was frustrating because we found cute girls but they were very shy and weren’t able to perform well,” she recalls.
The adopted girl in the TVC is actually of Japanese origin and had come to India just a few days ago. “Her family was kind enough to agree. The chemistry between the girl and her brother in the TVC was fantastic. It was magical,” Smitha says.
The advertising industry has, lately, been giving casting the prominence that it once lacked. Earlier, agencies would merely rope in modelling agencies to do the job.