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Actor-casting director Abhishek Banerjee: ‘All that filmmakers care about is whether a person can act or not’

Abhishek Banerjee stars in Keith Gomes’s short film Sex, Likes and Stories, streaming on the director’s YouTube channel

Ratnalekha Mazumdar Calcutta Published 31.05.23, 03:36 PM
Actor and casting director Abhishek Banerjee strikes a pose.

Actor and casting director Abhishek Banerjee strikes a pose. Instagram

Actor and Casting Bay founder Abhishek Banerjee has a message for up and coming actors: no social media influencer can replace a good actor because filmmakers only care about talent. It amuses him that young actors put so much importance on social media validation, as it can get them temporary attention but not long-term glory.

Abhishek stars in Keith Gomes’s new short film Sex, Likes and Stories (streaming on the director’s YouTube channel) along with Mokshda Jailkhani and Shruthy Menon. The 12-minute-23-second film showcases three individuals whose lives revolve around social media and how they get trapped in the toxicity and spew negativity.


In conversation with The Telegraph Online, Abhishek discusses the perils of social media, how to safeguard ourselves against it, how he unwinds and how Paatal Lok became a game-changer for his career.

The Telegraph Online: Sex, Likes and Stories presents a world that makes us think about where are we headed. It’s a world that trivialises human emotions. Did it make you pause and ponder?

Abhishek Banerjee: It’s the beginning of the end for sure! We see a lot of people leaving Twitter. It happened with Orkut, then Facebook; it’s the beginning of Instagram. It creates a lot of toxicity and a lot of personal issues in people’s lives. It’s a major distraction from real lives and people get into a virtual sense of reality. It hampers how the mind functions, especially in kids. It’s important to regulate it. People should know how to use it like any other mobile application. The moment we try to seek validation, it becomes a problem.

You are close to the film’s director Keith Gomes. Is it why you said yes to this short film?

Abhishek Banerjee: Yes, I am very close to him. Even if Keith had come to me with a bad script, I would have done it. (Laughs) He’s the first one to give me the casting director’s work and he’s the reason I am in Mumbai. Keith played a major role in my career.

Sex, Likes and Stories was entirely shot on iPhone. What was the shooting process like?

Abhishek Banerjee: It was easier as there were not many retakes. Not much time was spent on lighting and stuff like that. I know it was easier for us, but for the camera guy it wasn’t easy to do some shots. We needed to do rehearsals of those single shots, where I had to run. The framing was a tricky one, but it was quite an easy and smooth process. We finished the film in three days.

How has the response been so far?

Abhishek Banerjee: The woke audience loved it and some people didn’t. That’s exactly the kind of people I play in the film. Some guys aren’t liking the goddess reference. This is exactly what our film is talking about. Keith is sweet, so he goes and talks to all the trolls and explains the film to them. To which, the trolls are saying, ‘Okay, thik hai. Ab hum samajh gaye.’ (Smiles) These days, it’s easy to make an opinion and change it as well.

As a casting director, you must have come across young actors who get upset when their social media performance dips. Does it amaze you?

Abhishek Banerjee: It does and it amuses me as well. Some actors get depressed and worry about their careers because their social media isn’t helping, and their following isn’t increasing, or they aren’t getting the desired number of likes on the posts, so it troubles them. Also, many are of the notion that influencers and people with more followers will replace them. But it’s completely untrue because directors are still looking for talent and all they care about is whether the person can act. This is a message as a casting director and as an actor.

What about people who are deluded about social media’s impact?

Abhishek Banerjee: People like me, who are in their 30s, feel that they didn’t work on themselves as they aren’t making Instagram Reels. It’s important to carry on, work on yourself and be a good actor. If you are good, nothing can stop you. That’s the case with so many good international actors. We have an example like Ranbir Kapoor who isn’t on social media but has the widest following. We have one of the biggest superstars, Leonardo DiCaprio, who doesn’t post his pictures or about his films. He’s using the platform to create awareness (about global warming and climate change), so we can use the platform for other things as well.

How can we bring about a change if that’s possible at all?

Abhishek Banerjee: Aah… social and moral awareness is lacking. We need to validate the information that we are getting. The day we do that, it is going to be easier. We are already in a situation where everybody can have an opinion and when it is free, chaos is bound to happen. Then how to safeguard yourself from the chaos and live a normal life without posting your happy or sad times on social media? I think people should understand that life is better kept private. That’s why there’s an option for private profiles. We are public figures, so we don’t have the option as we must promote our films, endorsements and brands. We need to treat it like an entertainment channel, have a good mix of it all and remember to switch it off.

Getting rejected at auditions is pretty normal. How do you make someone understand that they haven’t cracked an audition?

Abhishek Banerjee: I hope they understand. It’s difficult to tell someone that they haven’t cracked it when they think they have. It’s for them to realise that your fan following on one medium doesn’t mean you will be popular everywhere. For instance, an IPL player isn’t necessarily selected for the international team. So try to be that player who can play all formats on a bigger stage.

How do you divide time between being an actor and a casting director?

Abhishek Banerjee: I am a procrastinator, so I need to have multiple jobs; otherwise I will become very lazy. My manager maintains my schedule. My dad was in the army. Mujhe dekh ke hi darr lagta tha ki itna kya roz kaam pe jana hai! I love sitting at home on days I don’t have work. I daydream. As an actor, it’s important to daydream, so I like to go into my imaginative world. The secret to my workaholic life is I am running away from my lazy attitude.

Paatal Lok completed three years recently. You were acting before that too, but the web show put you in the spotlight for filmmakers to cast you in different kinds of roles…

Abhishek Banerjee: I was very worried when Stree, Dream Girl and Bala released. All were big successes. It started my career in Bollywood but I was getting all these comedy, quirky roles. I hate the word ‘quirky’. People were appreciating my comic timing but I had other things to show as well. Paatal Lok changed the notion of filmmakers and that’s when I got Rashmi Rocket, Apurva, and a new genre of characters, like Jaffa in Rana Naidu came my way. Up next, there are multiple things. I will be shooting an action film which I can’t talk about right now. It’s one of the most important films in my career. I will be playing a very interesting dark character. Then, there’s Dream Girl 2, Stree 2, Apurva, which is a direct-to-OTT release, and Rana Naidu 2.

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