Interview Hindi

Making people laugh is a high: Actor Tiku Talsania – Birthday special

On his 64th birthday (he was born on 7 June 1954), Tiku Talsania speaks about his life and career and explains why he prefers to be light-hearted even in real life.

Keyur Seta

Commercial Hindi cinema, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, was mostly 'hero'-orientated. These films would have long stopped attracting audiences if not for the versatility of the supporting cast.

One name that has ruled the roost as an endearing supporting actor for over three decades is Tiku Talsania. The veteran has displayed his talent and timing in more than 200 films, including Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin (1991), Andaz Apna Apna (1994), Raja Hindustani (1996), Devdas (2002) and Partner (2007). 

On the eve of his 64th birthday (he was born on 7 June 1954), Talsania spoke to us about his life, career and explained why he prefers to be humorous and light-hearted even in real life. Excerpts.

How did your acting journey began?

It all began when I was in the fourth standard when I used to act in inter-school drama competitions, for which I won a lot of accolades and prizes. I later joined a Gujarati theatre group with Pravin Joshi. Then there was no looking back.

How did you enter films? Did you have to struggle a lot earlier?

I was just at the right place at the right time. Kundan Shah saw me in one of my Gujarati plays, Kishmish. He liked my performance a lot. So, he called me for Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi [a popular sitcom on Doordarshan in the mid-1980s]. It became very big at that time. From there I got into films.

Was it a conscious decision to do a lot of comic roles? Or did it just happen?

It just happened. It’s not that I have not done tragic roles. But to make people laugh and give them that kind of happiness is a high. It puts you on a different plane. We Indians are very emotional. We cry at the drop of a hat. If a person sitting beside us is crying, we start crying too, thinking he might have faced some tragedy.

In Andaz Apna Apna

People are not aware of their civic duties. As soon as you take out your car, your stress begins. A person might show his hand and cross [the road] thinking he has the right to cross. Then the autorickshaw driver will force you to go to the left or right. And the motorcycle guy always has to move ahead fast. Everybody is in a rush to reach their destinations. They keep challenging you and your blood pressure keeps rising till the time you reach your destination.

Civic sense is non-existent. So, in such a condition, if you make people laugh and make them realize what wrong they are doing, it becomes fun. You feel you have done something for the society.

When we see you on screen, it seems comedy comes naturally to you. Is that true, or is it challenging?

It’s not challenging as such. I like to live the line. Acting for me is like living the line. I look at it both ways. I am a very positive person. I don’t like any negativity. I feel if you think right and positive, things will happen. They won’t if you keep with the negativity.

Life is very short. You never know when your bulb is going to fuse. It is better that you enjoy these moments rather than bickering. Laughter is the best medicine. It’s said that laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.

Do people consider you humorous even in real life?

They do. I don’t have a frown on my face. I have a smile always. And it doesn’t cost anything to smile at the person sitting with you or passing by you. It gives you more impetus and makes you feel nice. It also reduces my stress level. Why carry baggage in life? Where will you take it? And why dump it on others? 

Have you developed this humorous and light-hearted attitude because of your roles or vice-versa?

I have always been a happy-go-lucky man. I have lived my life to the fullest and I still want to go places. I never get tense about anything and I don’t give tension.

Talsania with Karisma Kapoor and Kader Khan in Judwaa (1997)

I have noticed that spiritually inclined people show such happy traits. Are you very spiritual?

Yes, I am. I perform puja after waking up. I have a temple with all gods and goddesses. I also believe in Jesus Christ and Mother Mary. Basically god is one. It has just been planted in our minds otherwise. And the fear of god should not be there. You should have love for him. One should perform puja only if possible. Don’t do it out of fear thinking that your day will turn out to be bad if you don’t do it. Just see how progressive life becomes. Meditation is progression rather than regression.

One of your most appreciated films is Andaz Apna Apna (1994). But it didn’t do too well when it was released.

That is because people found it to be a very dumb film. But later on it became such a cult film. Even my son has downloaded a copy of Andaz Apna Apna. If he is going through a bout of depression, he watches the film. He enjoys it. I think all youngsters have a copy of that film on their laptops or computers. 

You must have been disappointed when the film didn’t do well. 

For me it is like a job. Once the job is done, you go ahead and look for another job. You don’t go back and dwell upon it by being sad and wondering what went wrong. If it deserves it, it will naturally do well. The success or downfall of a film depends also on naseeb [fate], I feel. As an actor, you just have to move ahead. You can't just stop there and keep wondering. I just do my job. I don’t look at my goals. If you have a mountain to climb, they say you should never look at the top; you just keep on climbing. 

Your character in Andaz Apna Apna makes a funny sound through the film. Was it your improvisation?

It’s an improvisation from the self. The director can only tell you what to do in the scene. He won’t ask you to make such sounds (laughs). This is all self-made. I think I react to the situation as it comes. I have my own special effects (laughs). 

Talsania with Shah Rukh Khan in One Two Ka Four (2001)

Television content has changed drastically from the time you did Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi.

The change has come through technology. It has become so brilliant right now as it has become digital. Earlier it was on VHS, where tapes were in danger of getting folded. We used to shoot one 22-minute episode in five to six days. The editor used to take three days to cut and paste it together. Today one episode is shot in a day and edited soon and ready for telecast the next day. 

You have acted in comedy television serials. Have you deliberately kept away from those saas-bahu sagas?

No, I would love to do them also if I get a chance. I have not got any chance to do any saas-bahu serial. I would talk sense to the director or anybody that rather than making it regressive, make it positive. The negative mindset we have developed is because of the mass media. We only think about what is not good.

I was once having tea in a Punjabi restaurant in New Jersey where a man came and started complaining that in Ekta Kapoor’s serials the bahu [daughter-in-law] is seen sleeping with heavy clothes, jewellery and make-up. I asked him, ‘What problem do you have with it?’ He said his wife had started doing the same (laughs). I told him he should either disconnect his cable TV or watch some other content.

Now, of course, it is changing. People get what they deserve. If they like watching Bigg Boss, they will get Bigg Boss. The trouble in the neighbour’s house is always inviting because it makes you feel that your life isn’t as bad. I don’t like it, but people do.

We are living a stringent life. People have this misconception that they have a lot of time and they can enjoy life later. But sometimes the carpet is pulled from under your feet and you are no more! 

In today’s times, character actors are getting more opportunities and prominent roles in films. Do you ever feel it might have been better if you had started off in today’s times?

No, I don’t feel this way. I am ready to start afresh even today (laughs). I have never thought that I have reached my destination and enjoyed everything. Even now, every new film is a new beginning for me. I am still growing. I never felt that I have climbed the mountain. 

But you are not very active on the big screen now.

One only does what one is offered. The entire genre has changed now. It is no longer the case where you call an actor for just two scenes. The script has become the hero, rather than the hero being the hero. This is the good that has happened in cinema. I feel this will lead to some good roles and I will do them. Right now television is doing good, so I am doing it. Rather than doing senseless films, it is better to wait for sensible ones. No point in jumping into any damn thing. 

How do you spend your birthday?

It’s just another day (laughs). I like to celebrate every day. I dwell in a lot many other things. Apart from being an actor, I am a biker. I also do paragliding. I used to be a good shooter also. I earlier had a gun. And I also like photography. I like seeing the brighter side of life rather than the dull side.