Bollywood actor Shreyas Talpade, who is also a big star in the Marathi film industry, was seen in a Bollywood film after a long time in Wah Taj. This week’s release, Wah Taj had Shreyas playing a Maharashtrian farmer who claims that the land on which Taj Mahal was built is his and fights to gain his fundamental right. He is teaming up with Manjiri Phadnis in the film. In an exclusive conversation with the indianexpress.com, the talented actor talks about his upcoming film, difference between Marathi and Hindi cinema and what one must do to sustain in Bollywood.
Wah Taj seems like a unique concept. What was the thing that fascinated you to sign the film?
First of all, I felt that the concept was unique and original and second is that you get to play what you are – a Maharashtrian farmer – who goes to Agra and claims that the land on which the Taj Mahal is built is his land. It is a cause you relate to, something that you connect with as we keep on hearing about the farmer crisis and how they are killing themselves. And thanks to Nana Kaka and Makrand Anaspure who are really doing some great work. And being a Maharashtrian, you feel that if you are getting an opportunity to make a certain kind of statement on behalf of farmers, then why not. So I grabbed the opportunity and tried to do justice to the character of Tukaram who represents 95% of farmers across India.
What reference did you take while preparing for this role?
Whatever we see, hear or read gives you an idea of what is happening around you. But this film is a satire and you try to tell the story in a funny manner because, at the end of the day, it’s a film. So it is important to keep people entertained throughout the film so that the film’s social message reaches across and leaves an impact on them. There is not just one reference. The kind of language that Tukaram use or the way he speaks, I had kept Makrand Anaspure in my mind. So when Makrand speaks Hindi, he has a strong Marathi accent. There is a different kind of magic and sweetness to this way of speaking and it appealed to me.
Since you have done comedy roles earlier, how different is it from your other films.
Actually in comedy movie like Golmaal, you don’t have a strong message. And if you are able to talk about social issues through comedy, then there’s nothing like it. There is comedy, which is slapstick or situational. In this film, he is fighting for his right. He is serious at times as well as dramatic as per the situation. Wherever he tries to put forth his issue, there is an element of humour in that. When you see it, you find it entertaining but at the same time, you also look at the seriousness of the issue. There’s one courtroom scene in the film which is my favourite where he is trying to address the issue to the judge. So when you get something to do like this, as an actor you get a lot of space for yourself.
Very few actors from Marathi industry have managed to find a place for themselves in Bollywood. How difficult is it to break through?
When you don’t have any godfather, it is very difficult for you to get good films in the industry. And there are four stages. First, you have to get a good film to work. Second, the film should be ready. Third, the film should get a release and, fourth, the film should also be a hit. Then it automatically paves your way ahead. If you don’t get any of these things right, then things don’t work for you. So it is very difficult but you have to keep trying, you have to keep working. And nowadays, there are a lot of people and agencies who are willing to take care of work, publicity, marketing and branding. So now it has become more social and open. I remember when I tried to do Hindi films, I approached and met many typical secretaries and they used to tell me hanging. I was an unknown face then. After a good hit film, things start getting easy. But after that also you need to have some godfather who will be there to guide you and tell you that these kinds of film you should do or should not do.
You have appeared in Marathi movies like Pachadlela and Savarkhed Ek Gaon before making your debut in Iqbal in Bollywood. How has your journey been from Marathi film industry to Hindi film industry?
It has been very fascinating. There were many obstacles in the way, I made many good friends also, there were people who supported me and some people tried to pull me down. Some of my movies became hit, some I thought they will become a hit, but they flopped. With age and experience, you learn many things. I am proud that whatever I am earning is because of my own hard work and the efforts that I am putting in. Ten years down the line when I would look back, it will leave me satisfied that whatever I have done so far and where I have reached is because of my sheer hard work.
Why don’t we see many Marathi actors playing good roles in Bollywood?
There was a time when Maharashtrian actors were ruling the industry. Madhuri Dixit to Urmila Matondkar to Shilpa Shirodkar to Namrata Shirodkar were among the top Maharashtrian names. So It’s only a phase. There are good Marathi actresses who are working. Maybe their presence is not as effective as it was earlier, but they will make their way to the top.
For the first time you are working with Manjiri Phadnis in this film. How was your experience?
It was really very nice. Genuinely I feel Manjiri is a great and talented actor and should do a lot of work in the industry. The kind of work that she should be getting hasn’t come her way till now. But I would really like to see more of her. She is very beautiful, very talented, very hardworking and always tries to push the envelope.
Since you have worked in both Marathi and Hindi film industry, what difference did you feel between them?
The only difference I feel is that of the budget. Hindi films have a bigger budget and Marathi films have low budget. However, things have changed now. Marathi films have now started getting a wider reach and people have started watching Marathi movies. But actually, Maharashtra is the market for these films. So the making and marketing cost is limited because of that. But still, there are a lot of Marathi artists, technicians who are doing work according to Hindi film industry standards. Because if you come in Mumbai, you are not just only competing with Hindi cinema but also with English and other regional films. So you have to make sure with whatever film you come up with, people should feel that this movie is well made.
Movies like Natsamrat and Sairat have managed to break the boundaries of regional cinema. Comment.
Natsamrat and Sairat both are films that are produced by Zee. And Zee’s promotional strategy and budgets are different. It is very difficult for a single producer to bear the cost without the support of the channel. If you don’t know what movie is releasing, how will you generate revenues and reach wider audiences? Even Sairat didn’t pick up in the initial weeks. Then because of the strong word of mouth publicity, people outside Maharashtra started watching the film and loved it.
You are also making your directorial debut in Bollywood with the Marathi remake of Poshter Boys.
We haven’t started shooting for the film yet but I guess we will probably begin from next month.
And you have also roped in Sunny and Bobby Deol in this film?
First of all, they liked the script and subject of the movie very much. And they haven’t done anything like this before. And this is what that they got attracted to because as you can see many actors have now started experimenting with themselves and I think Sunny paji and Bobby must have also thought that this is the script where they can try something different. So they loved the script and immediately agreed to be a part of it.