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Anniversary special: How Shreyas Talpade got married during the making of Iqbal

The actor got nostalgic about his Hindi film debut which completes 11 years since its release. 

Keyur Seta

In 2005, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal became the surprise hit of the year. As the filmmaker had proved his mettle by then, the rich content of the film didn’t come as a surprise. But given the offbeat topic and the lack of big stars, very few would have expected it to become a commercial success, more so since it was released alongside the multi-star comic caper, No Entry.

Today, on the 11th anniversary of Iqbal, Shreyas Talpade, the lead actor, shares some interesting and funny incidents revolving around the film that changed his life in an exclusive chat with Cinestaan.com. 

It has been 11 years since Iqbal released. Time just flew.
That’s true. (takes a pause) Is it 11 years? (thinks hard) Correct, 11 years. 

What does the film mean to you?
Without a doubt, the film means the world to me; it means everything. Iqbal has played a large role in whatever I am today. Although I had done theatre, Marathi films and TV, it was Iqbal that gave me a global recognition. Thanks to the makers — Subhash ji (Subhash Ghai), Nagesh Kukunoor and Rahul Puri (MD at Mukta Arts). They are instrumental in getting me where I am. So, the film is extremely special for me. Even today, the film and my role are being talked about. Even after 11 years you are remembered for that part. When it plays on TV even today, people message me that they are watching Iqbal for the 20th or 30th time. Some kids who had seen the film then said that they also wish to get into cricket and won’t give up. It’s an inspirational film. 

Someone told me that in one of the international private banks, they show Iqbal once a year as part of their motivational training programme for their employees. So, the film has not just impacted my life. That’s the best thing about films. You do something and you are not aware about it; you just do your job. But once it releases, it just goes to another level. I am happy that I got a chance to be a part of something so sensational and iconic. 

How did you get the film?
A friend of mine told me that Nagesh Kukunoor was making a film and whether I would like to audition for a small role in it. I agreed. He asked me to call Yatin Karyekar, who played my father. He also said that it is a small role. I was a fan of Nagesh. I had seen his Hyderabad Blues, Rockford, Bollywood Calling, Teen Deewarein and almost all his films and liked them. I thought that it’s a great opportunity and it’s completely fine if it is small role. They liked my audition and called me for another round. Then I was asked to block two months for the shoot. I asked, why do you need me for two months for a small role? They said, who told you it’s a small role? It’s a lead role. I was completely taken by surprise. 

They then took my bowling action audition. There was a coach who gave us instructions. Lastly, me and another guy got shortlisted. Nagesh wondered whom to choose. So, a voting took place in his office among the direction and production team. But both of us got equal votes. Finally, Nagesh voted in my favour and that’s how I got the film. 

Tell us some more interesting incidents revolving around the film. 
I was getting married at that point of time. Nagesh didn’t know about it. I got selected on 25 December. Nagesh asked me to reach Hyderabad the next day. He said we will start training and soon start shooting. I asked whether he can give me a day off on the 31st. He asked, why? I said, because I am getting married. He said, 'what do you mean? You can’t get married now'. He asked me to postpone, but I said it was too late now. Coming from a middle-class family, it would be a shock for my family. I assured him I will be back the next day. He finally okayed. But he said we won’t talk about your marriage till the film releases. He decided to hold the practise in Mumbai till the 31st and the next day I went to Hyderabad. 

What training did you undergo for the role since your character is mute in the film?
They sent me DVDs of sign language. I also took proper training in sign language and in bowling. I also had to train myself with buffaloes as my character had to be friendly with them. I used to sit with them for hours. I used to read my script over there and take them for a walk. I also used to bathe them. 

You were very young then and the film had some fine artists like Naseeruddin Shah and Girish Karnad. You must have got to learn a lot from them. 
When you have such seasoned actors, you just need to observe them. There is a saying that the best riyaaz for any actor starts when he opens his eyes in the morning and ends when he closes his eyes at night. During that time, you should keep observing everything around you and take in as much as you can. I got some great tips from these legends. And of course, Nagesh was there to guide me at every step.

Your film Wah Taj will be releasing soon. What is the film about?
Wah Taj is the story of a common man. He is a farmer from Maharashtra. He goes to Agra and announces that the land on which the Taj Mahal is built belongs to his family. He says he wants his land back and the Taj Mahal should be removed from there. It’s a satire. We later get to know who exactly he is and why he is doing all this.