When stars take the upper hand

With stars taking creative and casting decisions for their films, how much power is left in the hands of the director? We find out.

While a director is supposed to be the ultimate authority behind all creative choices made with regards to a film, oftentimes, he is not given the power that his position demands. In an industry inundated with star power, a director must do his best to get a couple of A-listers to star in his movie.

The problem with that is that, as soon as a star is cast, a lot of creative power slips out of the director’s hands. The controversy between Kangana Ranaut and screenplay writer Apurva Asrani over credits to the script of Hansal Mehta’s film Simran is a perfect instance of the clash of power over films when a star is brought in.

Rumours have also been zipping along the Bollywood grapevine about how Aamir Khan recommended Fatima Sana Shaikh for Thugs of Hindostan and Salman Khan recommended Jacqueline Fernandez for Race 3. Tiger Shroff also allegedly recommended his rumoured girlfriend Disha Patani for Baaghi 2. Ask the actors themselves, and they are all in absolute denial of any such involvement.

A leaked first look of Thugs of Hindostan where Aamir  allegedly suggested Fatima Sana Shaik for the leadA leaked first look of Thugs of Hindostan where Aamir allegedly suggested Fatima Sana Shaik for the lead

Aamir’s wife Kiran Rao defended her husband, saying, “We don’t deal with casting. Aamir, Adi Chopra and Victor (Vijay Krishna Acharya) decided the casting so they must have given it a good thought because it’s a big film. There has to be merit, or else they wouldn’t take risk with such a big film.”

Tiger also rubbished all claims of helping out Disha. “It’s a rumour. Who am I to recommend anyone? The only person I ever recommend in films is myseld,” he says with a laugh.

However, sources close to the industry don’t seem to agree with these claims. “Stars come with a lot of baggage, of course. Them coming on board itself is a huge boon to any film, but having said that, they also have their own views on many different issues. Sometimes it’s termed as interference and sometimes as suggestions but there are also times when they sit on the edit table,” said the source.

Avinash DasAvinash Das

Anaarkali of Aarah director Avinash Das’ says that taking on a star does come at the cost of creative freedom. “Bollywood is a market and creative as as directors may be, ultimately, everyone wants to make something that sells. Big directors opt for stars in their films as a way to ensure success. But once you take on a star, it comes with its own baggage,” he says.

“Often, a star will change a scene or certain dialogues according to their sensibilities and the director has to go along with it. The same goes for casting. Star actors suggest people whom they are comfortable with as co-stars in their films. So, that often takes precedence over the director’s creative views,” Avinash adds.

Director Remo D’Souza, who recently worked with Tiger Shroff, Jacqueline Fernandes and Shraddha Kapoor for A Flying Jatt in 2016, says that taking inputs from stars can sometimes be a good thing.

“I always work with my cast and crew as a team. If they have a suggestion to make, and it’s a valid one, why shouldn’t I take it? Often, the actors that you are working with have positive suggestions to give and you need to acknowledge it if their vision works better than your own. In all my films, we sit down and thrash out the details of the film together. That goes for casting too, if someone has a good suggestion for an actor who can play one of the characters in a film, why should I refuse,” he shrugs.

However, the director still believes in keeping the reins in his own hands. “While I do take suggestions from everyone involved in my film, I do believe that the ultimate decision should remain in the hands of the director,” he signs off.

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