Actor Shreyas Talpade, known for his performances in films such as Iqbal, Dor, Om Shanti Om, Golmaal Returns, Housefull 2 and others, has come up with an OTT platform called Nine Rasa, which, in his words, is “technically the very first OTT dedicated to the performing arts.” The actor said the platform will feature “everything that is performed on the stage – plays, dancing, singing, stand-up, etc.” It will present plays from across the country and the actor plans to expand it internationally through collaborations. In an interview with indianexpress.com, Shreyas opened up about the idea behind the OTT platform. The actor has traveled the memory trail and revisited his school and college years to tell us about his first experience watching and being a part of a play.
The 45-year-old has opened up about his Bollywood innings, the difficulty breaking down stereotypes as an actor, and his dreams as an actor and filmmaker.
Tell us about Nine Rasa?
The idea came during the pandemic when the lockdown was imposed. It was then that everything was online. During this time, many of my friends were concerned about how the theater was going to survive. That’s when we thought about creating the OTT platform exclusively for the performing arts. Initially the plan was to shoot a play and put it on another platform, but we felt there was a greater need for theater to reach more people.
Do you remember the first play you watched in a theater?
The first play I saw was a Marathi play called Karaar (The Contract). Like many, even I thought it would be boring but my mom forced me. I wanted to play cricket. So naturally I wasn’t in a happy space but by the time they started playing I was in a different world. In the end, I was amazed. This is how I started to watch plays regularly. I joined the school drama society not because I wanted to act but because I wanted to be a part of the magic.
What was your first play as an actor?
Once for Teachers’ Day, every class was supposed to happen. We decided to put on a play on Modern Ramayan. But a few days before, the girl who was supposed to play Sita came out. A friend of mine suggested my name (to the teacher) for the role of Sita. When I learned this, I thought to myself, “How can I? It’s a role for a girl. I used to attack the script. So my friends was like you already know the dialogue so you will be the best person. And finally, he became the ki izzat ka sawaal class. So simple andar ke mard ko jaga kar aurat banana pada. This is how I ended up becoming Sita. My school loved my performance, I became popular but being on this stage gave me a lot of confidence. Likewise, next year I ended up playing Draupadi in Modern Mahabharat.
Was it your realization that playing is your calling?
In college, after my first lecture at around a quarter to eight, I would go into the theater and sweep the whole floor, then start my rehearsal. I remember once I was alone and sitting there, that moment I realized – that’s it and I can’t do anything else.
Did having a theater training help you in Bollywood?
The theater gave me the confidence to meet the challenges that my director throws at me. As an actor, I’ll never say I can’t do this part. When you appreciate someone for their versatility, it’s because the theater has given them the confidence to never say no, to try. These actors are not giving up. In my experience, most actors (who are from the theater) are revered. We respect and are admired. Maybe we’re not good at marketing, but in terms of performance, we know our shit very well.
But if we look at your journey, even after receiving praise for Dor and Iqbal, you ended up being called a comic book actor. Was it disappointing?
After doing Dor and Iqbal, I met a director who was making a humorous film, which today is a big franchise. I auditioned for him but he said my image was that of a very serious actor. He wasn’t sure the public would accept me. I felt very downcast. Soon the roles changed for me when Golmaal came to me. After its release, the same director approached me to appreciate it. However, that was back when multi-star comedies were a thing. I didn’t even realize I was doing back-to-back comedies. I ended up typed. I realized how much of a task getting out of this picture was. Now I want to remind people that I can do something like Iqbal. So let’s see when that happens. But to be honest, making people laugh is important, but difficult. I’m looking for scripts that challenge me as an actor.
I have no regrets but yes, my potential as an actor is unexplored. There are many more. But I love my job. I like comedy. They (people) love my job. People still come to me and are happy to see me. I’ve seen falls (in my career) but life hasn’t stopped.
You became a filmmaker in 2017 with Poshter Boyz. Can we expect something to happen soon on this front?
There is a film in which I act and I also direct. It’s called Sarkar Ki Seva Mein, a slice of life movie. As long as there is humor, you will see my serious side in the movie. We’ve completed 50% of the movie, but this whole coronavirus pandemic has happened. We hope to resume filming by the end of May.
In the future, what changes do you want to see in the film industry?
I think that changes a lot with the entry of OTT. There are so many new talents and their performance is phenomenal. They are amazing. The way the script is written has also undergone a huge change. With OTT, the public tasted good content. Public expectations have increased, which means we’ll have to roll up our socks.
How would you sum up your trip to Bollywood?
Interesting for a boy who had no contact. I believed in my work and in the fact that only your work can give you more work. My belief has brought me to where I am now. But I feel the trip is still at the beginning (phase) because if we look at the trip of Amitabh Bachchan sir he took a break, came back with Kaun Banega Crorepati and since then he is unstoppable which is also because he has this hunger in his stomach to perform. So if you have that in you, there is no stopping despite the phases where you feel you are done. But the end comes when you die, until then you don’t know what life’s journey has in store for you.
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