Nagesh Kukunoor’s blue-eyed boy has found another admirer in Shyam Benegal. Shreyas Talpade may have earned plenty of critical acclaim in his brief career but this was the opportunity he was waiting for, of playing the protagonist in a Shyam Bengal film.
That he is excited to play Mahadev in Welcome to Sajjanpur is only part of the story. Benegal may be making a comedy for the first time, but Shreyas has two back-to-back comedies releasing in the next two months. Even so, what excites him is Benegal’s way of interpreting modern India through a comedy.
“That makes all the difference. A comedy by Shyam Benegal is unlike other comedies. Even if it’s a comedy, every character is very meaningful,” says Shreyas. “His films are known to deal with social issues. This film follows the same path but in a subtle way. There’s no preaching, nor is it slapstick. We have a habit of looking at comedies as slapstick but that notion is about to change.”
Shreyas’ role of Mahadev in Welcome to Sajjanpur is one he readily relates to, given that he has played a rural Indian in films like Iqbal and Dor. “Mahadev is the only literate person in the village. He wants to write a novel but ends up writing letters for others. At times he also manipulates them. So he is a grey character,” he says.
Shreyas remains indebted to Kukunoor’s films in his hour of triumph. “Every time he comes to me with a role I know it’s going to be different. The thing about Nagesh is that he is one of the few directors who doesn’t repeat genres,” he says.
As his career expands, offers are pouring in for Shreyas, such as comedies like Golmaal Returns and Paying Guest and the horror film Click.
Sadly, though, his film with MF Husain on the painter’s life has been shelved. “They never got back to me after the initial casting,” he says.