After Saandh Ki Aankh, I hope Diwali and all other big release dates are taken by women: Taapsee Pannu
Taapsee Pannu says that her reference point for her role in Saand Ki Aankh was her mother
Taapsee Pannu feels jubilant at the reactions her Diwali release, Saand Ki Aankh is getting. For someone who had doubts of even completing the film, the actress says that now she is feeling better by the day. Front-lined by two actresses, Saand Ki Aankh attempts to bring alive the remarkable life story of two 60-plus village women — Chandro and Prakashi Tomar, who became the oldest female sharpshooters in the world. "I am happy that I completed the film because every day was one day at a time. It was too much for my mind to think that how will it get released. The film is now out, it is looking good and people are loving it, so each day is getting better and better," says Taapsee, after the film was unveiled at the 21st edition of the Jio MAMI film festival as its closing film a few days back.
“From the script level it was commercial mainstream but those typical ingredients of commercial cinema was not visible because neither does it have glamour, nor any hero, nor an extravagant budget, so those conventional parameters were not seen earlier. But once the trailer and film were out, people realised that the film had those seeti-taali marne wali feeling and those 48 frames mein low angle shots. But earlier it was felt that it would be some small niche film. It was always a small budget film and it is not that suddenly the budget went up but looking at the content, it is now felt that the scale of the film is much bigger,” she adds.
Throwing light on prepping for the role, Taapsee says that she and her co-star Bhumi Pednekar had a prep period of roughly two to two-and-a-half months and the film was shot in a span of 50 days. “I am more of a spontaneous actor and I don’t prep each and every line but yes, when I was put into the character I learnt shooting. I wore those clothes and walked around, did the house chores to know how my body language should be. As actors, we become keen observers of people around so we did a lot of that and once you put me in that get-up, obviously the whole body language slowly started changing and so did the dialect. And in that village atmosphere, your breathing pattern also starts changing. So you slowly transform and start behaving like them. It was aar ya paar wali situation. Either you will go all the way through and make history, or you will be mocked, so just go and have fun because there won’t be any middle way out of this,” says Taapsee.
Interestingly, the actress says that her reference point was her mother. “I just psyched myself out into believing that I am playing my mother. I put myself in her shoes and performed the way she would have in those scenes. I had my mother for two to three weeks on the set but otherwise I never call my parents, they hate to be on film sets,” she laughs.
By taking up the Diwali date and releasing alongside a mainstream masala multi-starrer film (Housefull 4) Taapsee hopes Saand Ki Aankh will change Bollywood’s conventional attitude towards films headlined by female actors. “I hope this Diwali things are going to change for female actors where they will come together for films which don't really have a male supporting it. I also hope Diwali and all these other big dates will be taken up by females after Saand Ki Aankh. The problem is that we have become habituated to leftovers as women. I have myself done films which are what one may call women-centric, so when we decide the release date and the calendar opens up, we first figure out which are the dates on which a big hero film is coming and what dates are left in between and this is actually how the release date is chosen for female-centric films,” she says.
She continues, “But for the first time filmmakers have been so gutsy, that they decided to play on the front foot and took up the challenge. Someone will have to take the first step. Even if this was another actress’s movie, I would have till prayed and hoped that it works so that the filmmakers in the future get the courage to do that. I really hope for that sake this film works because for how long will we keep having those leftover dates. Why can’t we also come on a big date? If we want to believe in equality then let’s give the same opportunity and after that, if people don’t like the film then please abuse us because you all have spent your money on the ticket and given your time. But if we don’t get the chance then it would become unequal and unfair, right?”
While it is an uphill task these days for the filmmakers to get two heroes on board, Taapsee and Bhumi have happily shared the screen space for a film they were confident of, right from the beginning. “Many actresses refused the film and we wondered how and why they could refuse. Me and Bhumi felt it was a jackpot and grabbed it after listening to the story,” says Taapsee, further adding, “Bhumi and I really enjoyed working with each other and we enjoyed the promotions as well. So I don’t understand the logic why two actors can’t work together. If we don’t prove anything else we have almost proved that two actresses can work happily together. There is no need to become the best of friends but giving respect and admiring each other is sufficient to work peacefully,” she says.
Taapsee made a mark in Bollywood with some critically acclaimed films like Baby, Pink, Naam Shabana , and most recently Badla and Game Over among others but it was Saand Ki Aankh that has been her most difficult film so far. “It took a physical and mental toll on me. It is the most challenging role of my career so far,” she says, furthering, “But all the films that I am doing I am going a bit mad after each one of those because how much ever I try, a bit of the character stays with me. We shoot for 40 to 50 days non-stop for 10 to 12 hours each day and if you psyche yourself out (to believe) that you are this person and you have this problem. Then how can someone be normal? It will have some effect on you. That is the prize you pay as an actor,” she says.
However, her choice of not- so- conventional films, and with many of these working with the audience, more and more unusual subjects are coming her way. “All this is creating a snowball effect. I am getting more and more of such unconventional films and trust me, it’s overwhelming. As of now I have said yes to nine films after listening to about 90 scripts and I don’t know how I will do it. But I won’t let these nine films to go to any other actress. After so much struggle if I am getting some good work then why will I leave them? Now I have reached a phase where I have to decide how will I adjust these nine films in a year or two. I really don’t know. So these changes have come in my life and career before to now. Earlier I would be struggling to get one and make the best out of it but now I am spoilt for choice and options,” says Taapsee.
While there was a lot of buzz around Saand Ki Aankh, so much so that the film was declared tax free in UP and Rajasthan even before its release (and in Delhi post-release), Taapsee strongly believes that the film will gain with the word-of-mouth. “What do we have with us? The word-of-mouth is our only weapon. We don’t have the usual weapon that people have for conventional films. Right from budget to what is said to be the conventional ingredients of big cinema, we didn’t have all that. Our biggest strength and weapon has always been the word-of-mouth and due to which our film has been made tax free. We are playing on the strength of its story,” says Taapsee, who cherishes the moment when she and Bhumi were given a warm hug by veteran actress Shabana Azmi. “The way Shabana ma'am hugged both of us and cried after watching the film, that moment was surreal for me. I pinch myself thinking that it has actually happened,” she signs off sounding excited.
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