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“The audience for Marathi films is restricted mainly to Maharashtra”

After debuting in Marathi films, Shreyas Talpade made quite a mark in Hindi cinema too. Wearing the producer’s mantle behind the scenes, the actor is all set to release his second Marathi venture Poshter Boyz, on August 1. Here’s the actor sharing his experiences behind the film

You will be donning the producer’s hat for you film Poshter Boyz. But you have dabbled in production before.

That’s right but this is my first solo production venture. The first film I produced was Sanai Chougade in 2008, with Mukta Arts. I am grateful to Subhashji (Ghai) for showing us the way. My wife Deepti had attended the Maharashtra State Awards function for Marathi films, where Subhashji was chief guest. He went up on stage and announced that Mukta Arts would be producing a Marathi film. After his speech, he walked off the stage and sat with my wife and asked her if she had heard the announcement about Mukta Arts producing a Marathi film. He said, ‘Yes, it’s a very nice thing that you’re doing, Subhashji.’ And he went, ‘I am not doing it, you and Shreyas have to put the film in place.’

At that time, I was shooting for his production, Bombay to Bangkok. He called me and said, ‘We we are producing something in Marathi.’ By ‘we’, I thought he meant Mukta Arts. When I came back, he asked me if I knew of a good Marathi director. I took a friend to meet him and he told me, ‘Now you have to put the project together.’ I was not ready for that but he had faith in me and pushed me into doing it.

How different was the world of production from acting?

I had no idea there was a different world out there in production. Right from pre-production, writing casting, shooting, post-production… and I started enjoying the process. But there were many news reports and articles that began surfacing about how I was going to move over to production full time. People started asking me all sorts of questions. Was I going to star in the films that I produced or was I only going to do Marathi films and take a break from Hindi films? That was something I had not expected.

The film did really well, and I enjoyed making it but I thought I would take a break. After that, I got back to my acting assignments. Later, I got together with a friend to produce something and we had a few creative differences and I opted out of that project. He was of the impression that we should make a film which was the ‘in’ thing. I told him I was not getting into production just to make money but to make films that I like because it was a fascinating journey for me.

How did Poshter Boyz happen?

The director, Sameer Patil, was a friend and he had come to me with another project on which he was associate director. Unfortunately, I couldn’t produce the film because it was a female-oriented film and I asked him if he had anything else. He mentioned this story, which he had written. It was a true story about these three men who accidentally become poster boys for a government vasectomy campaign. I was completely hooked. He narrated the story and I told him I would love to produce the film.

As a producer, do you mostly want to produce out-of-the-box cinema?

At the end of the day, it has to leave you satisfied. Even as an actor, you start doing a film because you like the story and the concept, the director, and then you keep doing films. After a point, you start looking at the whole thing more as a project than as a film. You are always thinking about things like, yeh dost ki film hai yeh kar leni chahiye, or this producer is a friend so I should do it. Whether you are completely convinced of it or not becomes secondary. And that’s why, if your mind and heart are not into it, obviously the films are not going to work. That’s what happens with most of us, when you start questioning why you are in the industry.

After I did Iqbal, there were a couple of directors who are big names today, who had approached me and I didn’t like the roles they were offering me and I politely refused. Then Sajid Khan called and said, ‘I am in deep trouble. Try and help me out with Housefull 2.’ Or some other producer called me and I thought the banner was good, so let me do the film. That’s where you start going wrong. And then comes a point where you feel, this is it. You think I started because I loved films, and they give me creative satisfaction. So if these other factors are going to be more important, I had better not do films.

That’s why I stopped doing TV. I used to do Marathi daily soaps and, at one point of time, I went to the sets and asked my director what time we would wrap up. He said around 10. My next question was how many scenes would be doing? He said around 15-odd scenes, and I began bargaining with him, that let’s not do only 10-11 scenes. That’s when I realised what was wrong with me. I thought if I am not enjoying myself, I might as well quit. So I quit TV and was at home for a year. And then I began doing Marathi films.

A similar thing happened with Hindi films, where I realised that if I am not enjoying it, I might as well take a break.

Why didn’t you act in the film?

I deliberately chose not to act in it because I wanted to focus on production. At one point, when we were casting, Sameer was hell bent on me playing the younger guy. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do justice to any of the roles if I was also producer. I guess as an outsider, you have a more objective view of the whole project. Now I am glad I didn’t act in it because then I wouldn’t have really focused on either acting or production. Since I have understood the craft of production, I might act in my next production venture.

Was it a purely commercial decision to do an item number in the film? For it to get a wider reach?

Yes, that is one reason. We thought the video would come in handy to market the film on TV. But what really happened was we only had two songs in the film. And when we were editing the film, we realised we didn’t have a title track! So we composed a track, which would be an end credit video. And then Sameer said, ‘Abhi video mein toh kaam kar le, mere baap!’ (Laughs)

Why was the release date of the film postponed from July 4 to August 1?

That was thanks to Lai Bhaari… when they suddenly announced they would release it on July 11. We had announced July 4 as the release date back in January, when we started shooting and it was in consultation with those guys. They were planning to start rolling in December so they said that May 1 was a great day and they would release on that day. One of the producers of the film is a good friend of mine, so I double-checked with them. I asked them if they were sure about releasing on May 1 and they confirmed that. I thought it would be nice to let them have a couple of months as it was Ritesh’s (Deshmukh) first Marathi film, Nishikant Kamath’s direction and Ajay Atul’s music.

So I decided July 4 was a decent date for us, as they would be done with a good run and so we went ahead. Then, in April, it struck me that they hadn’t yet announced their release date even though it was only a month ahead. That’s when we learnt that they had postponed it to September due to the elections and everything else. We were still OK with that. Suddenly, one fine day, I learnt that they were releasing their film on July 4. I called up my distributors and they told me don’t worry, Lai Bhaari would release in September. Again, one day, we got a call from our distributors who told us that they had locked July 11. I was, like, what the heck are they doing? Marathi films typically need at least a couple of weeks so that-word-of-mouth is strong. It’s not like Hindi films but we are getting there.

So the second week is technically the week for us and I told them that during crucial week, you will have to be full on with your publicity. Zee is backing the film so there will be that extra backing in terms of production spends etc. But I thought if we come to that, then I will also give it my best shot but then both of us will have to bear the losses and no one will benefit. But my team felt there was no point clashing. We had worked on the film for a year and there was no point fighting over this. Eventually, only our film would suffer. We had all slaved over the film and I had invested my own money in it. So let not an ego hassle harm both films. Woh log nahi maante hain toh hum log push kar dete hain film ko. So, eventually, we were the wiser of the two!

It must have added to your costs?

It definitely did because it is a loss to your interest component with the salaries you are paying etc. But the loss would probably not be as big as it would have been had we released on July 4. So we will bear that kind of loss and put it in our production budget. But certain seniors in the industry suggested that if they were not listening, I should postpone the release. If they are not ethical, I should postpone the release date.

Like the Hindi film industry, the release window has become so important also for the Marathi industry. Do you also have to take into account which Hindi films are releasing during that week?

A film like Kick would affect the business of a Marathi film but not many others. Only last year, Duniyadari released just a week before Chennai Express, and they wanted to corner maximum screens yet Duniyadari was running pretty strong. Raj Thackeray intervened and made sure that Duiniyadari was allotted adequate screens, so there was room to co-exist. There was an audience which wanted to see Duniyadari as much as they wanted to see Chennai Express. But if there is another Marathi film which is hugely awaited, the two films would definitely clash. As it is, the audience for Marathi films is restricted mainly to Maharashtra, so there is no point dividing them further.

You are also doing Baji, the first Marathi superhero film.

We have shot almost 40 per cent of the film and the rest will be shot in October. It will release next year. I am looking forward to it very much, mostly because of the director Nikhil Mahajan. He is a crazy genius, a little whacked out but he is a name to look forward to. It’s just a matter of time before you see him directing a good Hindi film.

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