Bollywood actor Shreyas Talpade is popularly known for his comic roles in Golmaal and Housefull. He is now ready for his upcoming film, Setter, to be released on 3 May. Talpade is playing a villain for the first time in his career. In conversation with Guardian 20, he spoke about his past films and his journey in the entertainment industry.
Q. Tell us about your film Setters. What got you interested in this project?
A. Setters is about the people who do different kinds of “settings”, like leaking papers or getting proxies to sit in exams. Essentially, the film talks about the modus operandi of such setters. It is a thriller, about cops and setters. I play the setter in the film, someone who works for a don. He is the brain behind the entire operation. I play the role of an educated guy who decides to do the wrong thing instead of the right thing, and is convinced about it. This is the first time I will be playing a grey character. In fact, it is also the first thriller film for me and I am excited about it.
The entire story is based on true incidents. So these things have actually happened exactly the way we’ve portrayed them in the film. That is what got me excited and I immediately said yes to the film.
Q. You are known for your comic roles in Golmaaland Housefull. Would you like to move away from that image now?
A. I guess every actor is in search of different roles, different characters, wants to explore himself, wants to reinvent himself. I love doing films like Golmaaland Housefull and I would continue doing the same. But having said that, as an actor there is a certain urge, there is a certain need to try different roles and different genres. So, yes there will be films like Setters that I would be doing. But at the same time, I don’t think I will ever say no to a Golmaal or a Houseful.
Q. How important is the age factor in the film industry?
A. Well, today in our industry, age has just become a number. Actors like Bachchan, Anil Kapoor have shown that age is really just a number. If you have the hunger, the drive and the passion to do your work, then I guess the sky is the limit.
Q. What are your criteria for signing a film script?
A. For me, the script is the top priority. The story has to be good, or something has to appeal to me, something that I have probably never tried before. The role has to be exciting enough for me to add value to it, to improvise, to do something new, or try something new that I have not tried. If I have tried it before, then maybe explore it in a different manner altogether. Another factor for me is the director—the captain of the ship—because that is an important task. Sometimes the story can be average but the director can take it to another level. And then comes the question of who is producing the film. There are times when I have succeeded and there are times when I have failed, but I guess the process will go on in the same manner.
Q. You were a theatre artiste before coming to Bollywood. How did that help you as an actor?
A. Whatever I am today is only and only because of theatre. Theatre has given me an immensely strong foundation. Today, as a theatre actor, there is no role that I would be scared of. I have seen certain actors saying no to certain roles because they feel, “Yeh toh hum nahi kar payenge [We won’t be able to do it].” Fortunately, that thought has never crossed my mind. It is only because of theatre. It has given me the confidence to play every part or portray any role to the best of my ability.
Q. You made your directorial debut with Poster Boys in 2017. How did this shift happen? And which role, between actor and director, do you prefer playing in your professional life?
A. Once an actor, always an actor. Acting has been my first love, my passion. So I love doing that. Direction was something that happened spontaneously at that point of time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every moment of it. If given a chance, I would love to do it again because when you are directing, you are involved in every little aspect of filmmaking and that is a different kick, a different high in itself. So if given an opportunity, I would do that again, but acting, till the day I die, would remain my first love and something that I would never ever want to trade.
Q. What according to you is that one element that makes a film stand out?
A. I think that one element is—surprise. Surprising people, whether it is the concept which surprises them, or the performance that surprises them, or the writing that surprises them, or the unusual casting that surprises them. I feel this element of surprise is very important. Also, there has to be a lot of unpredictable quality about your storytelling or your films, because if people are expecting a particular thing and you give them something else, again they are surprised. Most of the times the audiences will like it. And yes, there maybe times when it completely falls flat. But I would still choose this element of surprise.
Q. You have worked in Marathi films as well. How relevant do you think is regional cinema today?
A. Cinema in general for me is very important—whether it is regional or Hindi or English, it does not really make a difference to me. I think regional cinema, especially Marathi, has evolved a lot in the last 10-15 years. New filmmakers are coming in with new ideas and the youth patronising Marathi films has made a huge difference to the business and revenue that Marathi films are earning. Films like Sairat(2016) have proved that Marathi films can reach up to Rs 90-95 crores in terms box-office collections, and I think that is a very good sign. Gujarati films are doing well, Punjabi films have also started doing great again. So I think regional cinema is equally important.
Q. Is there any particular film or role that you would like to do in the future?
A. I have always said this, that I would like to do a biopic of Kishore [Kumar] Da. I think he is one of the most versatile and talented personalities that our industry has ever had. Singer, actor, writer, director, music director, lyricist—he has done it all. Every artist, they say, has this little bit of madness in him. So that little quirk, that little madness that he had—portraying something like that would be amazing for me.
Q. What else is keeping you busy these days?
A. I am working on one Marathi film right now, finishing the script of my Hindi film and working on production projects—one in Marathi and one in Hindi. So right now, there are a few things on my plate that are keeping me busy. But yes, always on the lookout of some great roles, great characters, great stories with some great filmmakers.