Shreyas Talpade on His Dream Debut ‘Iqbal’ and the Journey Since

Shreyas Talpade opens up about the significance of ‘Iqbal’ in his life and all that he’s learnt ever since. 

8 min read
Shreyas Talpade on His Dream Debut ‘Iqbal’ and the Journey Since

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A deaf and mute boy with grit, determination and a passion for cricket, lives in a remote Indian village and dreams of playing for the country one day. Does the story ring any bells? Surely, Shreyas Talpade’s big hearted smile just flashed in front of your face from Iqbal? The Nagesh Kukunoor film won hearts across the nation back in 2005.

Shreyas Talpade, who started his career in Bollywood with Iqbal, looks back on his journey in this exclusive, from a story that was all heart, to everything else that followed. As the film re-opens at MuktaA2, the biggest screen in Asia, Shreyas recounts memories from the making of a classic.


Q: While making Iqbal did you think it will turn out to be such a big success?

Shreyas Talpade: No film maker or actor can say with guarantee that a particular film will work or not. Obviously we keep trying our best and that is what we did at that point of time. Till date, it is one of the finest scripts and roles I got in my career, so we worked hard on it and kept our spirits high. Everyone wants their film to work, but the kind of response it got after the first screening was phenomenal. It was my first Hindi film so it was very overwhelming for me. The first hit is the most special for any actor.

For the first time my poster was coming out, so a guy, Mangesh, he used to work in marketing team called me and told me ‘tera hording lag rha hai, barfi wala college ke paas mein, ja jake dekhle’, because I kept pestering him. I got into the car with my wife and we went where these people who were putting up the poster, but it still wasn’t visible and I asked them ‘kiska hoarding hai ye’ and they kept wondering, because they thought a random guy in the middle night wants to know about the hoarding. They said ‘pata nahin, jaao yahan se’. But I stood there waiting for them to complete the process and then saw my poster coming up for the first time. It is a very special memory, no one really imagined that in a way this will become a cult kind of a film.

I remember me, Nagesh and others on the team used to go to theaters to check the audience’s reactions and the moment they came out of the cinemas they would see me. When they saw me talking they would say, ‘Oh! you can talk!’.  It was very funny at that point of time, there are many memories about the film that are still crystal clear in my head. This was the first time I saw a my poster saying 100 days in cinema. Those were the times when the concept of films working just on weekend shows wasn’t there.


Q: Going back in time, do you think Iqbal is the most memorable film you have been a part of?

Shreyas Talpade: It will definitely be on my priority list, considering it was my first film in Bollywood, definitely it will have a special place in my heart. But there have been others also like the whole Golmaal franchise, Om Shanti Om, then Welcome to Sajjanpur, which people really didn’t appreciate. But they still know me because of Iqbal more than any other movie.

Whenever it comes on TV, I still get a message saying, ‘Saw Iqbal for the 20th time today and enjoyed it’. So yeah, it is a special feeling. It is relevant and inspiring, Everyone who has seen the film tell me that Aashayein is very inspiring, whenever we have a dull moment we listen to Aashayein or watch Iqbal to get the motivation back. Thanks to Salim-Sulaiman, the magic they created.

Q: What challenges did you face while playing the character of a deaf and mute boy in Iqbal?

Shreyas Talpade: I remember talking to a couple of my friends when I got the film. They asked me what my role is, I told them I am playing a deaf and a mute boy. They asked me if I have a heroine. I said no. They asked me if I had dialogues, if the film had songs or dance numbers, and so on. I said no. They wondered, ‘Dude why are you even doing this film?’. I said, it is a great role, a fantastic character. They suggested I drop the role because in their eyes I was a dummy. So that was the first challenge. Your loved ones take you on a different tangent. From that day I decided that I won’t talk to anyone about the film. Then of course, learning sign language was a challenge, making sure I bowled properly was another challenge. I was a medium pacer bowler till that point in time. I had to learn base bowling, so my run up had to be proper, bowling had to be proper, my actions had to be proper.

A scene from Iqbal.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)
Nagesh asked me to replicate Kapil paji. Getting that in place was a challenge. Getting friendly with the cows was also a big a challenge, we would go to tabelas, Nagesh would make me sit there making sure that I get friendly with the cows and the buffaloes there. When one would be friendly with me, then I would select that cow for the shoot. Then the next day, we went to another tabela and selected one cow from there. I went to three-four tableas, selected buffaloes and cows from there and I also took them on walks. There were a lot of such small bits that I had to practice to hit the skin of that character.

When I got selected for the character, Nagesh asked me to fly to Hyderabad to practice my role. I asked him if I could fly a little later, because I was getting married soon. He suddenly flipped and said, ‘how can you get married? Cancel your wedding!”. Of course, I couldn’t cancel my wedding, so he gave me a deadline of January 1st. On December 31st I got married and went to Hyderabad the very next day to shoot for Iqbal. It was an emotional challenge, but the film worked and the effort paid off.


Q: You were lucky to have had the chance to work with Naseerudin Shah in your very first film. What was your equation with him?

Shreyas Talpade: He is a wonderful actor. There is so much to learn from him. Jaise kehte hain ki suraj ko hum kya roshni dikhayenge... he has mastered his craft. Definitely when I came to know he is playing the role of my coach, I couldn’t believe it.

There was a time when Nagesh told me, ‘See Naseerudin ji is a little moody. If you feel there is any problem, feel free to come to me and we’ll see what we can do about it’. Then Naseerudin ji came and we started working and getting to know each other. The same night Naseerudin ji came and said, ‘Nagesh is a little moody. So if you have any problem, feel free to come to me and we’ll see what to do about it’.

I said ‘okay’, and of course, I didn't tell either of them. But for me it was absolutely wonderful. Naseerudin ji gave me a lot of books to read, we played scrabble, and we went out for dinners after the shoot. We had a great time. I ended up learning so much from him. Like I said, he is a person who has mastered his craft and just by observing him you get to learn so many things.


Q: You have tried your hand at acting, direction and production. Which has been your best experience so far?

Shreyas Talpade: Acting is my first love, so I have always enjoyed it, as long as the role is good. I completely give in my 100 percent. There are a couple of films I have done either for friends or for money, and I wasn’t into those completely. But even there I have tried to have my moments.

With direction it’s like you are the captain of the ship and you decide where the ship goes. All the aspects are your final kicks, like the punchlines, the casting, writing, editing, shooting, mixing, and then of course, the final result. Nothing can be bigger than directing. Each one has its pros and cons. I am much happier that at least I gave it a shot. Now I don’t judge the director as I know he/she must have gone through a lot of obstacles.

Production was something I started because of Subhash Ghai. He promted me and my wife Deepti to give it a shot. My first production was in 2007. At that time Subash ji said that he wants to do a Marathi movie and asked Deepti and me to take responsibility of it. That is when I first jumped into production and I fell in love with it. Till that point I was an outsider, of course I did the work and came back, but when I produced a movie I got more of a fatherly feeling. The film becomes your baby and it has to be taken care of. At the same time, it has to come out well. So, I decided to continue with production and that is why I produced Poster Boyz in Marathi. Then I did a TV series in Marathi, and then remade Poster Boys in Hindi.


Q: You recently had a spat with Kamaal R Khan on Twitter. Looking back, do you think your reaction was justified or would letting go have been a better idea?

Shreyas Talpade: It was a very spontaneous kind of reaction. I realized later that aap agar keechad me pathar daloge toh keechad aap par bhi udega. But by the time I realized, the fight had gone viral. He got personal, that agitated me. I should have thought ‘woh keechad hi hai, uska kuch nahin hone wala’. I do not take any bullshit without any reason, that is the way I am. I didn’t want to get involved any further, so I just blocked him. After that what happened I don’t know. He is not worth it, going forward he doesn’t exists for me. But a lot of my friends want to bash him up so, just a little warning for him. But I think he should just shut up, because at some time there will be someone who will do more than a verbal spat and I hope I am not that someone.

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Topics:  Iqbal   Naseeruddin Shah   nagesh kukunoor 

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