All's well, touchwood

WITH HUMOUR: Shreyas Talpade

In the half hour we spend with Shreyas Talpade in his vanity van at Mumbai’s Film City, the actor who has exhibited a vast range in performances in the limited films that he has done touches wood — the cabinet in front of him — every time he or I say something good about his career. Obviously, Shreyas knows how difficult it is for a Maharashtrian hero to become a successful mainstream leading man of the conventional variety, something that predecessors like V Shantaram, Amol Palekar, Sachin and even Nana Patekar were not. We start off on that note.

Excerpts from an interview:

Riteish Deshmukh and you are the first heroes from Maharashtra in mainstream Hindi films. Why do you think this shortfall was there when there have been so many female Marathi superstars from Leela Chitnis in the 30s to Madhuri Dixit today?

I don’t think that Maharashtrian actors ever lacked the talent or skills, but yes, we fall short in selling ourselves, and in our confidence. With me, I was very clear that if I acted in Hindi films, it would be in the lead only. “Let’s give the best shot” should be our motto.
Why should we feel inferior when we are not?

You co-produced the Marathi film ‘Sanai Choughade’ with Mukta Arts and Subhash Ghai. Are you planning more productions? Why don’t you act in Marathi films, or are you apprehensive that it will adversely affect your Hindi film career?

I want to make more films, including in Hindi. But my main problem is time! My acting commitments do not allow enough spare moments, though I am working on a couple of scripts. As for your other question, I need something very challenging as an actor to do a Marathi film. Till then, Hindi films remain a priority as the money’s good and I am able to reach out to more people. But I do not think that it will make a difference to the Hindi filmmakers and the audience if I do a film in Marathi.

Within your limited films, you have managed a lot of variety.

I have always aimed for variety. Fortunately, these days there are a lot of comedy films being made and since I am doing mostly comedies, I was very fortunate to get a debut like Iqbal, which established my credentials as a serious artiste. On the other hand, in a serious film like Dor, I provided the humour. Om Shanti Om was another kind of breakthrough. Then in Aggar I did a negative role.

But though you are taken seriously, isn’t it true that comedy is the most difficult facet of acting?

Yes. But the audience does expect variety from you. They seem to say, “Okay, now we know you did this and can do that. Now what else can you give us?” Of course after a while they also want you to come back to something you did well earlier, but with a different shade of course. My comedies like Apna Sapna Money Money, Golmaal Returns, Welcome To Sajjanpur and Paying Guests couldn’t be more different from each other.

‘Paying Guests’, though it did not work, was like a college reunion, right?

Well, Paritosh Painter and I were together in college and we were active in dramatics. Since he was making his debut film for Mukta Arts, the banner that launched me, there was no question of turning down the film. Yes, music directors Sajid-Wajid are also from our college.

How was it playing a woman in almost half of the film?

For me, it was one more challenge as an actor. So many of our legendary actors have done this, including Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan, and such roles are always one-off happenings in your career. Every actor wants to play a woman, partly because of the challenge about getting the body language and expressions right, and be the best at something so many great actors have done in the past!

Which are your next films?

I am now doing two satires — Aage Se Right and Season’s Greetings and a horror film Click. I play with different zones to keep me fresh. And of course Hook Ya Crook with David Dhawan.

What about turning director?

I do have plans, but whenever it happens it will be an impulsive decision, not a planned one. So it can be anytime!

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