Flirting with the director!

Siddhant Behl was part of the same theatre group, ACT ONE, in Delhi, albeit several years after I had stopped actively acting with them. But since I was still involved with many ‘behind the scenes activities’, we knew each other very well. IMG_7200

We met again in Bombay during a theatre workshop. At the time, I had already been doing auditions for the character of Mastana, the male protagonist of Jugni. Mastana as a character is flamboyant yet innocent, a rogue who is a charmer, a flirt who is true. The character has greys but is still a full on ‘mainstream hero’! And since Mastana is a very very good singer, we wanted to cast a singer-actor. Needless to say, it was an uphill task!IMG_3211

Siddhant is NOT a singer ( as everyone on the Jugni set will testify, 😉 ) but a great actor, so I asked him to come for an audition for Mastana. Since Jugni had only a few characters and fewer resources, we had decided to do the auditions ourselves, without the (very valuable) support of a casting director. In any case, even if I was working with a casting director, I can’t imagine not being a part of the auditions and just looking at tapes that the casting director sent, as is often the case. But it just isn’t the same as seeing an actor in flesh and blood, pushing them to do more if need be, imagining till where they can go, what their stumbling blocks in this audition are, and then, armed with all this, deciding if they fit the bill or not.

That day, Manas was shooting as usual, and I was giving the cues. I always tell actors to make eye contact with me because again, I can’t imagine how they can do anything interesting imagining the camera or some random point as the person they are talking to. Yes, sometimes that ‘random point as person’ is a requirement of the medium, but I like to help the actor as far as I possibly can.
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So Siddhant positioned himself behind the harmonium. It was a scene where Mastana, a fabulous singer himself, is bantering with his girlfriend, Preeto. I sat across the harmonium where Preeto might have been and we began. Siddhant is an improvising actor and suddenly, he changed the scripted line in response to my cue and muttered something at which Manas started laughing and the camera shaking. I laughed too, because I could sense what he had said, but didn’t get the exact line. He repeated it… it was fully risque!!! But fully “Mastanaesque…”! He got the slap he deserved!! Watch…

Then in the middle of the scene, from across the harmonium, he caught hold of my hand, looked into my eyes and blew me a kiss… Ahhhhhhhh! With great difficulty we completed the rest of the wobbly audition! 🙂 Here you go… Watch…

As soon as Siddhant left, Manas and I turned to each other with the look that we both knew well by now. It was the ‘this is it’ look and immediately, we shared the audition with our third partner, Karan. As expected, he called back instantly, excited…

We had found Mastana! Our male protagonist, our HERO! And Siddhant Behl, take it from me, you have a long long long road ahead! You Hero fellow!! You…

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