Taapsee Pannu on Mission Mangal: More audiences come to theatres when there's a male star involved
Taapsee Pannu says the audience may blame the fact that Akshay Kumar is being displayed more prominently in the Mission Mangal poster but won't give the film good opening if he's not there.
Taapsee Pannu delivered a hit last year in Anubhav Sinha's Mulk, and has knocked it out of the park in Sujoy Ghosh's revenge saga Badla, a blockbuster, alongside Pink co-star Amitabh Bachchan, earlier this year. Despite carrying films like Mulk, Badla and more recently, Ashwin Saravanan's bilingual thriller Game Over on her shoulders, Taapsee does not consider herself a star yet.
"By definition, a 'star' means someone who can ensure a certain consistent opening at the box office. Sure, the fans are changing day by day. Bande badal rahe hain. They may be getting more aggressive on Twitter. But the definition of star remains the same," says Taapsee, who feels she has still not arrived yet. "When I meet the media, they make me feel like a star. But it's their job to observe cinema. My first day figures ground me, and prove that in the mind of an audience member, I'm still not a star. These people have a lot of work to do. The day they take time out for my film, I think that is the day I'll call myself a star. I'm waiting desperately for that day. That's why I'm doing three films a year (laughs)," says Taapsee.
Taapsee is aware that unlike certain conventional male stars, she can not be bigger than the film she is in. "Stardom cannot save every film. Only the opening weekend depends on your star power. The day I start feeling that I'm bigger than the film, my career is over. I want people to come watch a film because I'm in it only because they feel like since I'm there, the film will be good. I want them to appreciate my choices, and what I've done with them. I don't want them to appreciate me as a person. If you like Taapsee Pannu so much, why don't you take a picture from any of my interviews, and guard it all the time," adds Taapsee, her in-your-face humour intact.
Given her trajectory of films, she confesses she feels immensely inspired from her Baby and Naam Shabana co-star Akshay Kumar. "His dedication and commitment is [at] another level. He always used to tell me, 'Do more films'. Now that I'm doing so many of them, he asks me why I didn't have dates for Mission Mangal," says Taapsee, referring to Jagan Shakti's space film, that depicts Indian Space and Research Institute (ISRO)'s successful Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan. The film has Akshay in the lead, and sees Taapsee share screen space with four other actresses, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Nithya Menon, and her Pink co-star Kirti Kulhari. "When I have kids, I'll proudly boast of this film when I talk about my filmography."
She also hopes by the time her kids are of that age, the status of feminism is much better in India, especially in the largely sexist Hindi film industry. "I'm glad that people noticed that Akshay Kumar's face was displayed more prominently in the first look poster. I'm glad. But I'm asking them, 'What are you doing about it?'. As an actress, I'm choosing good films in which I play the lead part. But as the audience, are you giving me the same opening figure as an Akshay Kumar? For decades, the audience has blamed the producers, and vice-versa. So it's nobody's fault in particular. But somewhere, change needs to start. I hope to bring about that change," says Taapsee.
However, till that time, she is very sure she wants to play by the industry's rules. "If you combine all our box office openings (the five lead actresses in Mission Mangal) with that of Akshay Kumar, his will still be more. Even if we are not in the film, the box office would have barely made a difference. Since it's an Akshay Kumar film, it would've still opened at a huge number. It's sad but it's the reality," says Taapsee.
Among the female stars, Taapsee believes the 'stars' include Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone, and even Kangana Ranaut, to an extent. Since she brought up the name, it was only natural to ask her how she reacted to Kangana's spokesperson and sister Rangoli Chandel's remark on Twitter that Taapsee is a "sasti copy" of Kangana. Taapsee takes the question head on, and says, "Did you see me react to her on Twitter? Those who don't even matter in my scheme of things, why should I react to them? It matters to them, clearly. If she has called me a 'sasti copy' of Kangana, I don't mind that since I'm at least the copy of a very good actress. Kangana said Rangoli said so because I opined that Kangana needs a double filter when she talks. But see, curly hair and honest opinions are not her patent. I still believe she needs a double filter. But I didn't mean it in a derogatory way. It was clearly perceived that way. It's not my problem. My sister also tells me that I need a filter. So it was just a comment. Anyway, I refrain from reacting to these comments. I have a lot of productive work to do. But han, convent school ki toh main bhi padhi hui nahi hu (even I have not studied from a convent school)!."
Taapsee will soon collaborate with both Anubhav Sinha and Anurag Kashyap after Mulk and Manmarziyaan respectively. "If you notice my career, I've worked with most of my directors twice. That's because I enjoy working with them. They're very collaborative. They answer all the questions about my character and the story I pose to them. Sujoy (Ghosh) and I might collaborate again. We don't know yet on what, but we will."
Taapsee is excited to work with Anubhav Sinha again since the two are working on an untitled film, which Taapsee says is how a married woman deals with a number of situations and relations, from "a rare female perspective". With Anurag, she is doing an untitled supernatural thriller, that will go on floors in November, and release in Summer 2020. "When he wished me on my birthday, I kept asking him whether the rest of the cast or the DoP (Director of Photography) has been finalised. He just replied, 'I know my job', and said, 'Tujhe apna birthday nahi manana kya (Don't you have to celebrate your birthday)?."
Clearly, Taapsee is a driven individual. She wants to be a star. Well, in our minds, she already is one.
All images from Twitter.
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