I had spoken with Shanoo a couple of months ago over the phone. I told her that I was an actor looking for a break and would like to meet her. She had said that she was very busy and had no time to meet anyone but that I can send her my pictures by email. I did that immediately after the call but at that time, I was not very confident those pictures would work. As expected, I did not hear anything from her for the next two months. However, I decided to try again. So I messaged Shanoo this time saying that I am an actor and would love to meet her. I was surprised when after 3 days, she replied saying – “I am very busy right now. Please talk to my assistant Priyata on (cell number) and she will do the needful. Thanks.” This was a big surprise for me for two reasons –
1. Shanoo Sharma, the casting director for Yash Raj Films and many other projects like My name is Khan, I hate Luv stories, Yeh Saali Zindagi and Khoya Khoya Chand had actually bothered to reply to my SMS.
2. She had replied after 3 days..by then, I had already lost hope that she would reply and was looking for another way to get in touch with her!
Anyway, I saw a ray of hope here. I immediately called Priyata up. She did not answer my call. I waited for a couple of hours and tried again. This time she answered. I told her about my conversation with Shanoo and that I really wanted to meet her. She was very sweet, she listened to everything I said carefully and replied in a very polite tone – “The thing is, we are very busy with some casting work right now. So Shanoo can’t meet anyone. What you can do is, give me a call next week and then may be we can arrange for a meeting?”. That’s all that I wanted!! I thanked Priayata and told her I will call next Monday.
I was anxiously waiting for Monday because I realized how important this meeting with Shanoo was! It could change my life forever. Shanno could say – “Ok, I am casting for this film and you fit the bill..come and audition”. And then if I turn out to be good, I could be in the next Yash Raj film!! That’s like the biggest break one can imagine!! However, as destiny has it, you do not get a break so easily!!
I called Priyata on Monday and reminded her of our previous conversation. She remembered me and said she will talk to Shanoo and schedule a meeting in the next couple of days. I asked her if I should send her my pictures in the meantime. I had the fresh lot of pictures clicked by Swapz so I was feeling a lot more confident asking people if I should send them my pics 😛 She said – “Please do that..that would be great!!” What happened after this was unbelievable!! I went back to my desk, sent Priyata my pictures, and in the next 1 hour I get a call back from her – “Shanoo is free right now..can you come in 20 minutes?”. I was shocked, amazed, surprised, happy, nervous, and clueless too!! I told Priyata that I was in Andheri East and it would take me a lot of time to reach where Shanoo lives as the transit means going through the most pathetically crowded and busy road of the city – the Andheri Kurla road!! Priyata said – “Well, you have 20-30 minutes..try and make it”. I ran, picked up my bag, told my team leader Sanjay that I have to leave RIGHT NOW. He let me go since he gauged it was something important. I took off on my bike! You know, bike rides can be quite weird when you are with your thoughts and approaching something of this calibre. I don’t remember having seen a single thing, vehicle, person, shop, animal, or anything on the busy road. I was so lost in my thoughts about the meeting that the only thing that registered in my memory is Shanoo’s building when I reached there. I can’t recollect absolutely anything else about the ride between my office and Shanoo’s place. I was getting all kinds of thoughts – It must be the pictures that did the trick, may be they are good? Is it just by chance that this is happening? What the hell do I tell her? How do I start? Should I come across as nervous and someone who is desperate for work or should I come across as confident and flaunt a cool attitude? Shanoo must be meeting thousands of aspiring actors..how do I make myself look different? I think I should just be myself..but myself? Nervous, Underconfident, Not knowing what to say, Not looking my best (as I was caught off guard when Priyata asked me to come down immediately) – this was MYSELF at that point of time..so would being myself help? Passing through these wonderfully comfortable thoughts, I arrived at Shanoo’s building!
I rang the door bell and Shanoo opened the door. She welcomed me with a smile and asked me to come in. I could see Priyata and another lady standing at a distance. I took off my shoes and proceeded to the dining table where she offered me a seat and sat opposite me. On my way to the table I said, “Thank you so much for agreeing to meet me!”. I was sweating from the bike ride in the hot sun and the heat of the situation of course. She came right to the point – “So Dilip, tell me.” I went blank but had to say something…So I went – “There is no perfect way of saying this so I will just say it the way I feel. I am a good actor and a good dancer. I am looking for work in films.” Just when I got some clarity of thought on what I will say next, she interrupted. She said, “What have you done?”. I said, “I have been doing theatre for the past 3 years.”
“Ok. Are you looking only for lead roles?” she asked.
I interpreted this question as “do you want to become a lead actor?” and replied “Yes!”. This was my goof-up I think because what followed was not very good. Shanoo asked me why I want to look only for leads. When I replied that it means more work, more money and a chance to showcase both my acting and dancing talent, she said a Boman Irani makes more money and does more work than many of the lead actors. I wanted to argue, explain, take a stand but thought it would be rude and it will mess up my own case. She then said what I thought should have been my answer – “You should take whatever comes your way and then if some director thinks you are good for a lead, he will cast you.” This was something that I knew. I knew that I would have to start small and work my way up. I don’t know why I said “Yes” when she asked if I was looking ONLY for lead roles. So when she said all this, I just agreed with her and said, I want to audition for anything that I am fit for and that my AIM is to play lead roles but I do not mind starting with whatever that comes my way. She then said, “Well, right now I am looking for people between 17 and 21 for Yash Raj, that’s what the market demands today and you have already crossed that age…However, I also keep getting other projects to cast and I will see if something comes up for you.” She then said what most people say to end a conversation like this – what Shahid said, what Honey Trehan said – “I have your pictures, I will let you know if something comes up.”
I realized that she wanted to end the meeting and probably wants me to leave. I felt bad that I had almost messed up this entire opportunity of meeting one of the most prominent casting directors of the country by coming across as a confused guy who doesn’t know what he really wants. But before I left, I wanted to say something more. So I went – “Thanks a lot! See, I am 25 years old and I really want to make a career in this industry. If I have to do something good, I MUST start now. I am confident that if I get a start, I will work things out and move up! So please let me know if there is anything for me.” This time, when I looked at her, I knew she was listening carefully and understanding what I mean .
She said, “Don’t worry. I will definitely let you know. Right now, I am going to be busy with the YRF 17-21 year-old casting for a while..almost 3 months..but you can call Priyata every 2 months and follow-up in case you do not hear from me. ” When she said this, I felt that it almost meant that I am NOT going to hear from her and that I need to follow up like several other aspiring actors do. I felt that I had lost an opportunity. May be I was expecting too much from the meeting. What else could come out of it? It was silly of me to think that Shanoo might immediately cast me for something. I was disappointed that I could not leave a mark and the impression I left on her was not great! I put on my shoes, thanked her once again and left the building. As I approached my bike, I said to myself – this was round 1!! I knew that I would need to repeat this entire process once again 3 months later. Not just with Shanoo, but also with other casting directors, and directors and producers too! I was lucky that Shanoo was so sweet and nice to me, others might not be! I could see in her eyes that she wanted to help me and everything she was saying was genuine advice! It was me who expected too much and goofed up. Anyway, meetings might not always go as planned but I would need to learn from them and be better in the ones that come!
Right now, I am carrying on with the hope that I do actually hear from Shanoo some day…