Casting was yet another interesting stage that we went through. We first approached Mrs Jaya Bacchan for the lead role of Maiya. She was very interested in the character, but expressed her inability to shoot in Varanasi due to certain political scenario. We had also met with Simi Garewal who was also very interested in the role and the story line her availability was subject to the condition that we make a few changes to the original script. She told us that reading the script made her cry, since the original script had a negative climax. However, when one is involved with something to the depth that Anil and I were, change is something that you wouldn’t want to accept and that is what transpired here; we were unwilling to incorporate any change from what we had perceived.
As we considered other senior actors who we thought could do justice to the lead character in question, the name of Mrs Asha Puthli again popped up in my mind. I brought it up in my discussion with Anil. She, I felt, had all the qualification and attributes required to carry the role gracefully and was a veteran in the field. In addition, there was also a sentimental side for me to be inclined to choose her as she was also the choice of Dr Alex. Anil was on board with the idea without any hesitation. Asha Puthli was on her holiday in India and we met her in Mumbai and discussed our proposal which she was very interested in. We therefore, finalised her for the lead role of “Maiya”. She also introduced us to Uma Decuna, a big name in festival movies, based out of Delhi who helped us in finalising Rajit Kapoor for the role of ‘Madhan’ and he in turn helped us finalise Asheesh Kapoor for the cast of ‘Madhav’.
For the role of Kishan, the orphan child, we wanted to cast someone who was actually an orphan, so that, through the process of film making we are also able to kindle a life, which would be, in some little way, a contribution to the society as well. We, therefore, wrote to several orphanages all across the country explaining our intention and also included some highlights of the script but received no response from any. I had met Mr Jitendra Mishra of ‘Smile Foundation’ during the Cannes Film Festival. We had a discussion with him and reached an agreement to give a part of our earnings to sponsor the complete wherewithal of the child, in case they could find us one. However, the search was a difficult and a long one.
While we awaited response from the orphanages, we also finalised on the cast of Priya, the daughter-in-law and Diya, the girl child. Ilaria Borrelli, the Italian born French actress, was referred to us by our friends whom we met during our visit to the Cannes International Film Festival for the role of the Daughter-in-law. Anil had a few discussions and casting interviews with her and we found her to be suitable. The photographs that Ilaria had sent over included those with her family and I, somehow, felt that her beautiful daughter, Alma Freddi would suit the role of Diya. A proposal that was very willingly accepted by the family. The hunt for a suitable cast for Kishan was still on and we finally received a response from a Muslim Boys Home in Delhi. This facility provided shelter to a few under privileged boys who were either orphans or only had single mothers who could not look after them. Anil and I visited them and interacted with the boys. After a few minutes into our interaction, we both homed on to Syed Zaidi, a boy with the most wonderful and innocent smile. Anil took him aside for a small talk just to get to know him better and when he was back, he was certain that we had found our Kishan. We finalised our decision then and there and signed a contract with the Boys Home.