Taapsee Pannu: ‘I'm expected to be unconventional’
Taapsee Pannu could score with her unusual professional trajectory in films and business in the long run
Taapsee Pannu is thriving as an actor, a wedding planner and owner of a Badminton League team
Taapsee Pannu has channelled her tomboyish, elfin personality into roles that defy stereotypes
The actress has impressed all with her new film Badla
Taapsee Pannu is on home turf in Delhi when we meet. “Whenever I land in Delhi, I feel at home. Even when I am working here, it’s a laidback feeling,” confesses Pannu, who has now made Mumbai her second home.
Things seem to be going right for her, as an actor, a promoter of a wedding planning company and the owner of a Premier Badminton League team, the Pune Seven Aces.
The journey has been eventful. She’s had her share of impediments, which range from not getting a flat because of being single (and an actress) to being dropped from films in favour of industry kids to the inevitable box-office failures.
Although she transitioned six years ago from South-Indian to Hindi films with David Dhawan’s remake of the comedy Chashme Baddoor, she has defied all expectations by not casting herself in the mould of the Bollywood PYT.
In fact, she has channelled her tomboyish, elfin personality into roles that defy stereotypes. With films like Baby and Naam Shabana, she blossomed into an offbeat action heroine.
She candidly confesses not being enthused about action roles initially. “I am not fond of action movies. I detest violence. I went ahead with Baby because I had asked Neeraj (Pandey) Sir for the role. Before Baby, I had not slapped a man in my entire life and for the film I had to learn martial arts! I was sure if I pulled this off, people would remember me. The fact that I am a sporty person made the martial art convincing. The love I got for Baby and Naam Shabana was incredible — people keep asking when I’ll do my next action film. When I get to outdo what I’ve already done, only then I will do it.”
Pannu broke away from stereotype again with Pink, as a victim of molestation. The National Award-winning film became a statement in sensitising society towards sexual crimes against women.
Last year, she covered new ground playing a Punjabi girl in Anurag Kashyap’s romance, Manmarziyaan, and essayed a Hindu daughter-in-law of a Muslim family in Mulk, who fights their case when the whole family is ostracised after one of their own is involved in terrorism. Pannu exuded poise, marking herself as an actress to watch out for with these roles.
The fact was confirmed when superstar Shah Rukh Khan conveyed to Pannu that he had been hearing good things about her work. He went on to produce Badla with Pannu, remake of the Spanish thriller Contratiempo.
Despite making a mark, Pannu hasn’t got the industry falling over themselves to sign her. “I end up messaging a lot of people. But, if I say let’s work together, their response would be, ‘Not very sure because the role’s already blocked for somebody else’. Or, ‘it’s for the producer to decide’. There is still a blockage somewhere. I don’t know if I can crack that because I’m not a part of any clan,” she says.
Talking about her latest hit, Badla, she reveals: “I had been trying to work with Sujoy Ghosh since four years, but it wasn’t falling in place. Finally, Badla happened in a strange way. I was approached with the script first, and the director and my co-actor was yet to be decided. Then I called up Sujoy and suggested this thriller with a female protagonist could be our project together. He was not sure. About five months later, though, I come to know Mr Bachchan was on board and so was Sujoy!”
Fun fact: in Badla, Pannu essays a role written as a male part in the original film. “When I read the script, I said, ‘are you okay swapping roles?’ The producer agreed,” she recalls.
Pannu describes herself as being instinctive and her gut-feel about Badla was right. The film is a hit and the tide seems to be turning. Says filmmaker Nikkhil Advani: “She’s an interesting actor who has paved the way for herself. With Pink, Mulk and Badla, she has carved a niche, and she seems misplaced in a film like Judwaa 2. I’d be delighted to work with her.”
Her journey in the industry has certainly become a little easier, even if by small measures. She’s now poised to take the next big leap because nothing bolsters one’s career in the movies more than a commercial spike. “At least, now people know who I am. If I text a director I get a response saying, ‘I love your work, let’s see what we can work on together’,” she says.
An engineer by training, Pannu won’t rest on her laurels. She is competitive in a healthy way, never grudging the deserving their success. “When I watched Gully Boy, I was amazed by Ranveer’s performance. I texted him. I felt he’s outwitted me in terms of his performance, and wondered if I could do as well?” she muses.
She has the Anurag Kashyap-produced Saand Ki Aankh coming up, besides Mission Mangal co-starring Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan, and possibly another Sujoy Ghosh film.
Perched on a settee in the hotel room, chewing an apple, she ruminates: “I’m on the lookout for what I have not done before, because that’s exciting. The audience has started expecting unconventional roles from me, and I am fine with that. If they stereotype me as an actor who only does strong women characters, I am fine with that, too.”