By Surbhi Gogia
We have known him as an actor, who can master any role with perfection. Be it playing a deaf serious boy focused on his goals or a naughty aimless youngster conning people around in Golmaal series — Shreyas Talpade, the versatile actor of Bollywood, has carved a niche with his acting brilliance. Recently he demonstrated his directorial skills too with the launch of Deol Brothers starrer Poster Boys. The movie is the official remake of Marathi film Poshter Boyz which Shreyas had produced and acted in.
The movie did not only establish him as a great director, but re-established him as an entertainer who is mastering the art of bringing crossover cinema to the audiences. Shreyas started his career with Marathi soap operas and stage shows. His first big break came when he bagged the role of a deaf and mute boy in Nagesh Kukunoor‘s critically acclaimed movie Iqbal . The film set him as the next ‘big talent’ to watch. Films like Dor, Welcome to Sajjanpur and Om Shanti Om made people sit upright and take a notice of him.
Shreyas gives full credit to Marathi cinema and theatre for grooming him as a fine actor. He is now one of the main forces behind connecting Marathi cinema with Bollywood. The best example is the movie Poster Boys. The Marathi remake picks up serious theme of increasing population and desire to have a boy baby amongst Northern Indian families in a comic way. Indian media lauded Shreyas and his team for localising the Hindi adaptation and comic punches well. But what pleasantly surprises you the most is the hilarious Deol brothers jugalbandi in a never-seen-before comic avatar. “Shreyas extracts the best out of them and it is their comic timing and odd tributes to each other’s previous hit films that amuse you the most,” wrote one newspapers.
For Shreyas himself, the crossover has been a dream come true. He says, ” Every day, when I look at the poster and read my name along with Dharmendraji’s, it makes my day, and gives me such a boost.”
In an exclusive interview with Desi Today, he talks about his journey into the world of entertainment and his future plans.
1) Please tell us how and in what age you started your journey into this world of glitz and glamour? We understand you had family responsibilities and it was hard for you to take a risk of getting into acting. What motivated you?
Back in the day, as a child, I never held acting in high regard. I always thought it was a complete waste of time and energy. But once, without realising how that one decision of my mother taking me for a play would completely change my life. My mom took me to watch the Marathi play ‘Karaar,’ starring Swati Chitnis and Satish Pulekar. I still remember how the play created a lasting impact on my mind and convinced me that theatre required exceptional skill sets and talent, and how I had been missing out on all of it for a long time.
So, I started frequenting the theatre practices happening at school. I must admit that I was quite an under-confident child, and preferred handling the backstage chores, as opposed to craving for an on-the-stage presence. But destiny had different plans for me, clearly! The story about how acting happened to me is very interesting.
Honestly, one of my greatest strengths is the fact that I am extremely invested in any project I am working on: whether it’s a play, a television show or a film. Even back then, I used to be very involved with theatre, and I would know all the lines of every character by heart. I remember, Teacher’s Day was coming up and we, at school, were setting up a modern-day Ramayana, with twists and contemporary turns. And as luck would have it, at the eleventh hour, the girl playing Sita suddenly cancelled on her commitment. Everyone was panic-stricken, and then, I don’t know how and why, a new idea was floated. The idea was that I would have to play Sita and everyone somehow thought that I would be able to pull it off. And you know what, I did! The play was a huge success and I am happy I did it. It set the ball rolling for me.
2) Your entry into Bollywood was marked by a very unconventional role of a boy who could not speak or hear in the movie ‘Iqbal’. How did that role come to you? And why did you decide to take that role?
That period, slightly before ‘Iqbal’ and during the shooting of the film is very special to me for two reasons: I was entering the dream world of Bollywood as the protagonist of a film, and marriage was on the cards. I was called for the audition of ‘Iqbal’ and the only brief given was that there was a requirement for a young boy, who could also play cricket. I thought I could give that a shot, and turned up for the auditions. Sitting in front was the writer-director Nagesh Kukunoor, and in a very plain style of speaking, he asked me, “Are you a cricketer?” I said, “No. I am an actor.”
“Oh! I’m actually looking for a cricketer,” said he, adding, “How old are you?”
“29,” I said, to which he responded, “I am trying to find an 18-year old lad.”
After the auditions, I was almost sure that things won’t work in my favour, as clearly, I did not seem to fit the bill. I thought, life is full of stumbling blocks and often, it nastily keeps hurling failures at us. But hey, not every time! There’s also a bundle of beautiful surprises and for me, ‘Iqbal’ was one of these happy, new beginnings. I got the film and that opened bigger doors to me!
3) Post Iqbal, the audience wanted to see you more in such unconventional roles, however, your career graph in Bollywood was later dominated by the genre of comedy. Was it a deliberate decision or it just happened?
Post the success of ‘Iqbal’, most filmmakers looked at me as a very serious actor. I recall there was one very reputed filmmaker who wanted to cast me in one of his comedies but he felt that my serious image would probably hamper the film and that particular role so he decided against it.
Luckily, for me, Rohit Shetty cast me in ‘Golmaal Returns’ and that changed a lot of things for me as far as comedy films are concerned. As far as I’m concerned, I took it up as a challenge to make sure that I also excel in comedy films because as an actor everyone wants to prove his mettle and wants to prove the fact that he can do varied roles so that’s how it started. Post ‘Golmaal Returns’, I remember a reputed filmmaker who had not cast me in one of his films came up to me and told me that I was very good at comedy and that he should have cast me in his film as well. But nevertheless, that is what worked. Because ‘Golmaal Returns’ was an out-and-out commercial masala entertainer, it reached out to more people and that’s how the comedy genre started dominating my career choices because there were a lot of films that were being made at that point in time which were multi starrer comedies.
A few of them were made by friends so obviously there wasn’t a way where I could have said no to that. But yes, it wasn’t really a conscious decision to keep continuing with comedy post that. But doing comedy at a point when people looked at me as a serious actor was definitely a conscious decision and I’m glad it worked because people usually want to see you in certain roles which they’ve liked and we are entertainers and performers so we will do everything to make sure that people are entertained.
4) The movie ‘Dor’ re-established your unique acting skills. Please tell us something about that role?
‘Dor’ is one of my most favourite films and that role of Behrupiya is undoubtedly one of my most favourite ones. I remember this was my second film with Nagesh and in the first film, Nagesh was very particular about every little thing that I did. But in the second film, he gave me a lot of freedom to improvise and I enjoyed every bit of doing that particular thing because one, it involved me playing varied characters in that one particular role and also the graph of that particular role, his relationship with Gul Panag’s character and the things he does to help her out was superbly executed by Nagesh. I think, all in all, the whole team work, Nagesh’s faith in me as a director and somewhere, all the improvisation techniques that I had learnt during my college days came to my rescue and it helped me portray one of my finest performances till date. So ‘Dor’ definitely remains a really very special film for me and I would love to do something like that over and over again.
5) You have been actively involved in Marathi cinema too. It has carved out its own niche place. What do you have to say about the recent progress of Marathi cinema? How much you think your involvement in Marathi cinema has contributed to your acting skills in Bollywood?
Marathi cinema is going through a fantastic phase right now. There is new talent and new filmmakers coming in with absolutely fresh new ideas and the audience is loving those ideas. Audiences are loving the films. The youth is patronizing Marathi films and that is making a huge difference in the box office collections. I’m so glad that I’m a part of this ever growing industry. In fact, whatever contribution Marathi films have done in my career, I thank Marathi films and my entire team of actors and directors who helped me reach where I am today.
In fact it’s not just Marathi films but Marathi theatre which has helped me groom myself a lot and reach this particular place. With films like ‘Sairat’ coming in and touching the 90 to 100 crore landmark figures is a great lesson for all of us that there is potential and if we make good films then obviously there is a certain section of audience which will go and watch those films over and over again. So that is a huge boost and great encouragement that has inspired all of us to keep doing better and better. There are a lot of Bollywood filmmakers who are venturing into Marathi cinema because of the kind of potential that it has so I’m happy to be a part of it and contributing in whatever little manner that I can to this ever growing industry.
6) Please tell us more about the recent remake of your movie ‘Poshter Boyz’ as ‘Poster Boys’. How did you select the actors for the Bollywood remake?
I highly respect Sunny paaji, and I have been a huge fan since forever. Right from ‘Betaab’, to ‘Ghayal’, ‘Gadar: Ek Prem Katha’ and ‘Ghayal Once Again’, I’ve always been awestruck by him. It has been an honour to direct him and believe me he is so modest and calm. During the shoots for ‘Poster Boyz’, he never questioned my decisions as the director. He trusted my sensibilities and my vision, and that gave me immense confidence and reaffirmed my faith in the film. With Bobby, I share a great camaraderie. He is more of a friend, a buddy. Outside my office, there’s a huge cut-out of ‘Poster Boyz’, and it reads ‘Dharmendra presents Poster Boys…A Film by Shreyas Talpade.’ Every day, when I walk in, I look at it and read my name along with Dharmendraji’s, it makes my day, and gives me such a boost. After watching ‘Poster Boys’, Dharamji had called me, and said, “bachcha…I saw the film and loved it.” I will never forget that call, those words of appreciation and the warmth that he showered on me. The Deols are extremely adorable!
7) What are your next projects?
The streaming platform ALT Balaji’s upcoming naughty, fun web series titled ‘Baby Come Naa’, which will flag off from mid-September. I am particularly excited about it since I am very intrigued by the web space; it’s the new world order. Then, there’s this slice-of-life, emotionally charged film ‘Teen, Do, Paanch,’ which is about a couple that adopts three kids, and what ensues later is a roller coaster ride.
8) You are an actor, producer, director. What role defines you best?
I have always been an actor. Although I ventured into direction and turned producer recently but at the heart of it, I shall always remain an actor.
9) Recently you became a father. How is fatherhood treating you?
Well, it’s great being a father. Earlier I was a little scared and nervous but since the time Aadya is born, the kind of happiness that she has brought into our lives is something that I cannot describe in words. Yes, there are new challenges every day and it’s wonderful to see her grow. There are so many things that you want to do for her. The entire universe revolves around her. It is an entirely new purpose in life now that she’s born. It’s a new phase in Deepti and my life and we are enjoying every moment of it. We just want to make sure that we give her the best as far as education, lifestyle or the environment is concerned. We just want to make sure that it is secure and best for her.
10) Which one is your most memorable role so far? Or has it yet to arrive?
Honestly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my directors, producers and actors to help, support and encourage me and getting me till here. But yes, the best is yet to come. The kind of films that I’m doing this year which will probably release next year and the scripts that I’m reading are all wonderful scripts. I’m so glad that filmmakers are approaching me with fresh subjects and subjects which are not only humorous but also thrillers, drama, and a little more serious roles. I remember Rishi Kapoor sir mentioning in one of his interviews that some of the best roles in his life are the ones that he’s portraying right now so yes, you never know what tomorrow holds in store for you. Just keep hoping for the best. Keep your fingers crossed and make sure that you give more than your hundred percent whenever you get a part to play. So I’m similarly keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.