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 first-ever OTT dedicated to performing arts.” The actor said the platform will feature “everything that is performed on the stage – plays, dance, singing, stand-up and so on.” It will feature plays from across the country and the actor plans to expand it to the international level through collaborations. In an interview with indianexpress.com, Shreyas opened up on the idea behind the OTT platform. The actor walked down the memory lane and revisited his school and college days to tell us about his first experience of watching a theatre play and being a part of one.
The 45-year-old spoke about his Bollywood innings, the difficulty of breaking the 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. That was when everything was going online. During that time, a lot of my friends were concerned about how theatre is going to survive. That’s when we thought of creating the OTT platform exclusively for performing arts. Initially, the plan was to shoot a play and put it up on another platform but we figured there was a bigger need for theatre to reach more people.
Do you remember the first play you watched at a theatre?
The first play that I saw was a Marathi play called Karaar (The Contract in English). Like many, even I thought it will be boring but my mom forced me. I wanted to play cricket. So, naturally, I was not in a happy space but the moment they started performing, I was in a different world. By the end of it, I was amazed. That’s how I started watching plays regularly. I joined the school’s 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 Teacher’s Day, every class was supposed to perform. We decided on putting up a play on Modern Ramayan. But days before, the girl who was supposed to play Sita walked out. One of my friends suggested my name (to the teacher) for the role of Sita. When I got to know about it, I was like “How can I? That is a role for a girl.” I had the habit of mugging up the script. So, my friends were like you already know the dialogues so you will be the best fit. And eventually, it became class ki izzat ka sawaal. So, mere andar ke mard ko jaga kar aurat banana pada. That’s how I ended up becoming Sita. My school loved my performance, I became popular but being on that stage gave me a lot of confidence. Similarly, next year, I ended up playing Draupadi in Modern Mahabharat.
Was that your realisation that acting is your calling?
In college, after my first lecture around quarter to eight, I would go to the drama room and sweep the entire floor and then start my rehearsal. I remember once I was alone and was sitting there, that moment I realised – this is it and I cannot do anything else.
Did having a theatre background helped you in Bollywood?
Theatre has given me the confidence to just take up challenges my director throws at me. As an actor, I will never say I cannot do this part. When you appreciate someone for their versatility, it is because theatre gave them the confidence to never say no, to try. These actors don’t give up. As per my experience, most of the actors (who are from a theatre background) are revered. We have respect and are looked up to. Maybe we are not good at marketing but when it comes to performance, we know our s*** very well.
But if we look at your journey, even after receiving praises for Dor and Iqbal, you ended up being typecast as a comic actor. Was that disappointing?
After I did Dor and Iqbal, I met a director who was making a comedy film, which is a big franchise today. I auditioned for him but he said my image is of a very serious actor. He was not sure if the audience would accept me. I felt very dejected. Soon, the tables turned for me when Golmaal came my way. After it released, the same directed walked up to me to appreciate. However, that was the time multi-starrer comedies were a thing. I didn’t even realise that I did back to back comedies. I ended up typecasted. I realised how breaking out of that image was a task. 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 yet difficult. I am looking for scripts that challenge me as an actor.
I don’t have regrets but yes, my potential as an actor is unexplored. There is a lot more. But I enjoy my work. I enjoy comedy. They (people) enjoy my work. People still come up to me and are happy to see me. I did see some falls (in my career) but life has not stopped.
You turned a filmmaker in 2017 with Poshter Boyz. Can we expect something coming up soon on that front?
There is a film I am acting in and directing as well. It is called Sarkar Ki Seva Mein, a slice of life film. While there is humour, you will see the serious side of me in the film. We have finished 50% of the film but then this whole coronavirus pandemic happened. We are hoping to restart the shoot by end of May.
Going forward, what changes you want to see in the film industry?
I think it is changing big time with OTT’s entry. 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 audience has tasted good content. Audiences expectation have increased, which means we will have to pull up our socks.
How will you sum up your Bollywood journey?
Interesting for a boy who had no contacts. I believed in my work and the fact that only your work can get you more work. My belief has got me where I am now. But I feel the journey is still in the beginning (phase) because if we look at Amitabh Bachchan sir’s journey, 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 belly to perform. So, if you have that in you there is no stopping despite phases where you feel you are done. But end happens when you die, till that time, you don’t know what the journey of life has in store for you.