Soon after the back-to-back critical and commercial disappointments of Joker (2012) and Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal (2012), Shreyas Talpade was forced to introspect. The actor who had carved a niche for himself with roles in acclaimed films such as Iqbal (2005) and Dor (2008) was unable to find work. He was also no longer enjoying what he was doing with his career and couldn’t understand why. It was around this time that Talpade had the opportunity to produce a Marathi film, Sai Kabir’s Chemistry (2013), and he also set up a production company, Affluence Entertainment.
The 41-year-old actor hasn’t looked back since. He appeared in what has been described as Marathi cinema’s first superhero film, Baji (2015) and produced the popular Poshter Boyz (2014). In the works are Golmaal Returns and the Hindi remake of Sameer Patil’s Poshter Boyz, starring Talpade and Sunny and Bobby Deol. Talpade will also be sitting on the director’s chair for the first time for the September 8 release, in which three men find their faces on a poster advertising vasectomy. In an interview with Scroll.in, the actor spoke about directing himself, why he is drawn to comedy and how he defines success.
What brought you on as the producer of ‘Poshter Boyz’ and what made you want to direct it yourself in the Hindi remake?
When Sameer [Patil] came to me with the script for Poshter Boyz, I thought it was a different story that was very simply told and I thought the film would work. Lots of people who saw that film said it had a pan-India appeal, and I realised that I wanted to bring it to a wider audience. When I was working on the remake, one of my friends asked me if he could give the script to Sunny, and I said that it would be great because I had thought of him from the first stage itself.
After that even Bobby came on board. I had one or two people in mind to direct but they were working on other projects, so Sunny suggested that I work on the film. I was hesitant and told him that I was a first-time director and it would be difficult to direct a senior actor like him, but he told me that I had a lot of ideas for how the film should be made and whoever I hired for the director’s position, I would make them try and make the film that way, so it was best to direct it myself.
Does your approach to acting differ from your approach to direction?
Not really, my acting helped me be a better director. I had past experience on film sets, particularly in the comedy genre, and so I knew how certain lines of dialogue had to be set. I am also shooting Golmaal Returns, so observing Rohit Shetty on set and how he does it helped me direct on my own project.
What was the experience of directing yourself?
It was quite challenging, actually. I initially only wanted to focus on the acting but then when I became the director, I wasn’t able to separate the roles. I workshopped the roles with Bobby and Sunny, I memorised all the lines and knew all their scenes, but ended up forgetting my own. At one point, I said the wrong dialogue on set and Sunny reminded me of the correct lines. So I stepped back and focussed on being an actor and tried to forget that I was a director too.
Have you change anything in the remake?
The original was quite successful, so I didn’t want to tinker with the story too much. Of course, there are a few alterations because we have changed the location from Maharashtra to North India, which is unspecified, it could be either Punjab or Haryana. Certain other things we added to keep a pan-India feel, but otherwise it is the same film.
Was it challenging about directing a comedy about vasectomy?
I was clear while making the Marathi original that we wanted to make a family film, one that everyone could enjoy. I also didn’t want to be preachy or give a message. People should enjoy the two hours they have spent with the movie and go home with a smile. We didn’t want to make too many jokes about vasectomy or sexuality. It’s just a simple story about three men finding themselves in an alien situation and trying to deal with it.
Why do Indian men have such a big problem with vasectomy? Would there be a different reaction to the poster had it been an urban setting?
I don’t think there will be a difference in the urban or rural setting. During the marketing campaign of the film, I asked some boys to pose for a poster that would be similar to the one featured in the film, and none of them wanted to do it. And this was in Bangalore. I just think we as a nation are uncomfortable with any topic related to sexuality and this always been the case.
Is there a particular reason for the recent trend of Hindi films dealing with sexuality and the body?
I think it is happening organically, but it might also be that filmmakers are finally becoming comfortable with these topics. There is also the constant search for new and different kinds of stories, and this is a subject that is underexplored in our cinema.
Were direction and production always part of your career plan?
I wouldn’t say I always wanted to be a director. Maybe I had a slight interest in production, and when I did at the behest of Subhash Ghai, I really enjoyed it. There was a period in my life when my films were not doing too well and I began introspecting. It was at that time Sai Kabir came to me with Chemistry. I really liked the story and that is how my production career began.
Did you find yourself wanting to be in charge of your own stories?
That did a play a part, but it was not the main focus. Certainly there are some stories that I wish to tell and certain things interest me, but I just wanted to explore different things in my career.
Have you become more selective in your choices? The films that you are most well-known for, such as ‘Iqbal’ (2005), are not being made.
Honestly, I have not been getting too many offers from filmmakers. That is the only reason.
I never really took myself seriously as an actor and didn’t want to slot myself in any one kind of role. If you look at my filmography, I didn’t only focus on one kind of film. For every Iqbal, there was a Apna Sapna Money Money for every Dor, there is a Golmaal. Along with Welcome to Sajjanpur, I also did Om Shanti Om.
We are making many good films even now, sometimes better than those.
A lot of the films in your career have been comedies.
It is something I am naturally drawn to. I enjoy being in films that are light-hearted and not too serious, have humour and maybe some elements of drama. This influenced my directing approach as well. Although while I could be an actor in a sex comedy, I don’t think I could direct one myself or make a horror film because I am scared of watching them.
Anything you are working on in the future?
On the acting front, we are trying to remake a South Indian film, although I cannot confirm any details right now. After this film is released, I will begin work on the sequel to Poshter Boyz and begin scripting for that film. I’d also like to explore myself more as a director, experiment with filmmaking techniques and push the boundaries of what I know.