Actors, also father and daughter, Tiku and Shikha Talsania, joke as they pose for the mid-day photographer at their Malad East residence. “Make me look good, okay? She has make-up on, I don’t,” Tiku delivers a wisecrack, when Shikha suggests they show off their tattoos. “No, no,” he brushes her off with a hint of embarrassment.
“He was the first to get one — it’s of Shiva. We all just followed,” Shika continues.
Soon, the two are tired of posing. “But this is the nature of showbiz,” Tiku, 60, says. He would know. The veteran gained fame as the blustering editor in Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin (1991) and followed it up with stellar performances in Andaz Apna Apna, Raja Hindustani and more recently, Devdas and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobara.
Actor Tiku Talsania and daughter Shikha share a simple mantra to survive Bollywood — don’t take it seriously. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
But it was in 1986 that he first faced the Hindi film camera. It was for Govinda-starrer Duty. Since then, he has acted in over 200 films and television shows. When he is missing from Bollywood, he is going strong on the Gujarati film and theatre circuit. Tiku shares that he has just wrapped up shooting for a romantic film with another Hindi cinema veteran, Aruna Irani. The film is called Kai Karne Yaar (Do something, yaar).
Shikha, 30, made her first appearance as Ranbir Kapoor’s friend in Wake Up Sid (2009). Next came Meera Nair’s Midnight’s Children and My Friend Pinto. In between, she kept herself busy with theatre, and was recently seen on stage in Ladies Sangeet. Her next, Veere Di Wedding, holds promise to earn her mileage, since it stars Sonam Kapoor.
For Tiku, acting was a natural choice. He couldn’t study to save his life. From a family of doctors from Mumbai Central, he saw his “sisters suffer with all the studying”.
Shikha quickly adds, “But even though they are all doctors, they are also actors. It’s one big nautanki.”
Pursuing theatre in college gradually led him to the professional stage. And it’s here that Tiku met his wife Dipti, also an actress.
“Did you know that I have also played serious roles, including that of a villian?” he suddenly asks. “But the comic thing worked best…” The man is full of stories, and our favourite is about Aamir Khan, the perfectionist. “So in Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, there is a scene when Aamir comes to my office and talks of the story he is doing on Pooja Bhatt’s character. I give him a wad of notes and say, ‘we will meet soon’. A few days before the release of the film, I was summoned by Mahesh Bhatt [the director], and something told me they wanted to cut the scene. There, Aamir sat me down and said, ‘I don’t take money from anyone during the movie, not even from Anupam Kher’s character for saving his daughter. So I can’t take it from you, right? It doesn’t fit the character’. We then shot the scene all over again because Aamir was making sense,” he remembers.
The industry was different then than the one Shikha and her generation work in. “In our times, the life of the character artiste was different. We didn’t get paid on time. All the money went to the leads! And everything followed a formula. The hero does this, the villain does that. In a way, it let character artistes do roles that leads wouldn’t imagine doing. Now that Shikha is acting, I see that things are changing. The script is the hero, right?” he says looking at her. Shikha smiles, “Getting paid is still a problem. But yes, now, there are more roles for actors like me. After Wake Up Sid, I got offered only ‘fat girl’ roles. There were scripts that had me as the ‘she will even eat dog biscuits’ character. Rejection is an everyday thing, whatever size you are, but I think it’s now more about, do you fit the role?”
Unlike her father, who chose acting to escape academics, Shikha knew early that she wanted to perform. She had spent her childhood backstage. “Watching my parents has been educational — I have picked up the technique of timing from them. When dad does an emotional scene, his face scrunches in a particular way. I have practised that in front of the mirror for hours. And mom has a way of raising her eyebrows to portray a myriad emotions.”
Tiku smiles as he listens to her, and then says, “I have always asked her not to take anything seriously, and always remember to have fun. If you enjoy what you are doing, everything will be fine. That’s the way to deal with any sort of professional situation.” Ask him if he was hesitant when Shikha decided to work in Bollywood, especially with the premium it puts on the way a person looks, and he laughs, “Not at all. I think you need to find your place. I have worked here for a few decades and have never dealt with the conniving filmy type.” Shikha chimes in, “I think people here are as good or bad as anywhere else. My parents have taught me to keep my head down and keep moving.”
They are back to posing now; him hugging her as he calls her “badmash”, and her mock-acting while she takes his blessings.
Serious — what’s that?