With nearly thirty acting credits on her shining resume, Taapsee Pannu has proved her mettle not only in Bollywood but down South also. She started off 2019 with the huge success of Badla, a suspense thriller produced by superstar Shah Rukh Khan. The movie also had thespian Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role, but despite his towering presence, Taapsee did not only manage to hold her ground but also delivered an equally engaging performance.
The talented actress is back in the news again for yet another power-packed performance in the bilingual thriller, Game Over. Originally made in Tamil and Telugu and later dubbed in Hindi, the movie stars the actress as a wheelchair-bound video-game creator who has had a disturbing past and the future does not look very promising either.
A few days before the theatrical release of Game Over, Eastern Eye caught up with Taapsee Pannu in Mumbai for a candid conversation on his role in the film, the reason behind staying away from Tamil movies for so long and, most importantly, whether or not she believes in the supernatural. Excerpts…
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It’s after a gap of four years that you are returning to Tamil cinema.
Yeah, it has been a while. Actually, I did not get any exciting scripts that I would have loved to do in Tamil. Even if some interesting offers came, the makers wanted me to give dates after two months, which was not at all possible for me because my dates were blocked for other projects.
The makers of Game Over only wanted me for the film, so they were okay to wait a little bit. You know what happens here is that when you do a Hindi film, you get committed to it six months in advance. So, if my dates are already locked for the next six months, then how can I give my dates to somebody who is planning to roll his film in two months?
That’s the reason that I end up doing only those films in the South where they are okay to wait for my dates or come to me six months before they want to start the film. Then I can accommodate my dates easily. That, unfortunately, did not happen in the past few years.
I also wait for those South Indian films where I feel my role is as strong as my characters in films here. Suddenly, I cannot start doing different types of films there. They should be in sync with the kind of films that I am doing here.
What persuaded you to say yes to Game Over?
Right after reading the script of Game Over, I dialled the number of the producer and told him that I was doing this film. My mind was blown after reading the script. What a script it is! After reading the script, the first thought that came to my mind was that I had never read or seen anything like that.
See, I don’t watch many Hollywood films. I mostly watch Hindi films and, at times, Tamil and Telugu films. So, I have never seen a concept like this before, in any film. A film like this might have happened in Hollywood, but I don’t think that someone has attempted this kind of a concept here in India before. I felt this was a brilliant film to do in multiple languages.
After reading the script of the film, I did not feel that it’s only a Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh specific story. It did not give me the feel of any particular region; it felt very universal. It had a very universal language. So, I felt this would be a great film to do in bilingual.
Do you love psychological thrillers?
Yes, I do. Though we don’t make many psychological films here, I like them. Whenever you crawl out of the theatre after watching any such film, you don’t feel like blinking your eyelids. My film Badla (2019 – though it was not a psychological thriller – it does play with your psychology in one way or the other. It was a murder mystery, but it does play with your mind.
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Would you like to share any eerie experience from your childhood?
I am afraid of ghosts. I don’t have any spooky experience to share, but I do believe that if there is God, there will be the Devil. If there is good, there will be evil. If you believe in God, you will also have to accept that negative energy also exists. I don’t watch horror films and I don’t challenge the presence of ghosts. If they are there, that’s great. But let them stay away from me (smiles).
Do you believe that after the huge success of Baahubali: The Beginning (2015) and Baahubali: The Conclusion (2017), the trend of multilingual films have gained momentum in the Indian film industry?
Even before the Baahubali franchise, many films of Rajinikanth used to release in Hindi. So, the trend is not new. Now the vision of South films has become pan-India. However, people still feel that only big South Indian films can leave an impact on the Hindi market. But my film Game Over is different. It’s not a conventional, big-starrer film, but is a high concept film. So, if this film, by God’s grace works, then definitely, I feel, there are a lot of other people who would want to release their picture in Hindi, even if it’s a dubbed version but high on concept. That would be really great, I feel, for Indian cinema.
In Game Over, you play a wheelchair-bound girl. How did you prepare for the role?
I did not have to practise at all honestly, and deliberately so because the director felt that she is a regular girl who happens to go through this accident in the film which makes her sit in the wheelchair in the 60 percent of the movie. Quite in the beginning the accident happens and then she is immobile and she is in the wheelchair.
I did not have to practise or anything because it should look that the person who is not used to a wheelchair is in a wheelchair now. So, it helped that way.
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Was it stressful working on Game Over?
Yeah, I become a psycho woman with every film. I am seriously saying this. My mental fabric changes with every film because of these roles. Between shots, I used to play ludo. Between shooting schedules, if I would get an off, I would make sure I was not alone. I was playing that character for 12 hours every day. So, to live in that space and feel that you are a trauma victim was not easy. The feeling that you are crippled now and you have to fight an invader with these limitations in mind for 35 days was immense.
There was no schedule break. It took a mental toll. So, I had to go to watch frivolous comedies. I used to watch Gossip Girls in between. I used to watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I watched so many small, stupid, and no-brainer kinds of things. I wanted to stay normal. The moment the movie finished, within two days, I was out of the country. For 5-6 days I went out with no connection to work whatsoever. I detoxed my mind and then came back.
What do you do on a day when you don’t have any shoots?
I get up around 6:30 in the morning, whether I am working or not. Then I go to the gym for an hour or play squash. Then I eat my breakfast and discuss with my sister what to do now. If I have some work with my badminton team, I do that. My sister handles wedding planning work. If she needs some help or wants me to come for a meeting, I go with her. Otherwise, I go to watch a film with my sister. Then I hang out with my friends who are not from the industry and then I sleep by 10 pm.
How do you define a star? Do you believe that you are the one?
For me, the definition of a star is that when my film releases, the audience should blindly go to theatres, thinking that if Taapsee is there, it must be a good film. They should not wait for the reviews to come and the word of mouth to come into play. Without paying any heed to all these things when the audience shows its trust in you, then you are a star. Your star value is gauged by the opening numbers of your films. The day my films start getting good opening numbers, I will believe that I am a star.
Game Over is running in cinemas closest to you.