IN 2019, Taapsee Pannu rocked the box office with three big performances in back-to-back hits Badla, Mission Mangal and Saand Ki Aankh.
She looks set to continue her winning streak in 2020 as well with an interesting variety of roles starting with her muchtalked about film Thappad, helmed by acclaimed filmmaker Anubhav Sinha.
Thappad is a social drama, which revolves around a self-respecting woman who decides to file for divorce when her husband slaps her publicly. The movie’s trailer has received a great response from various corners, and all eyes will be on the film when it releases on February 28.
Eastern Eye caught up with Taapsee in Mumbai to talk about her insatiable appetite for good scripts, how Thappad came about and the process of detaching herself from challenging characters that she often portrays.
Taapsee, you are busy doing back-to-back films these days. Where do you get the energy and dedication from?
That is because a lot of good scripts are coming to me, and I am greedy for them. I don’t let them go away. Yes, I make sure that I don’t let good scripts slip away from my hands, even if it means doing six films a year (smiles). Because of that greed and hunger, I am able to do backto-back films.
You said you are greedy for good scripts. Have you ever snatched a project from some – body else just because you liked its script a lot?
Not really. But there was one script that I so wanted to do. I even told the makers I wanted to be a part of it. They agreed and said they would come back to me once the final draft is ready. But they did not. They went to some other actress, but the script got rejected. Then they approached someone else and that person al – so said no to it. So, basically, they went to a lot of people with the script, but never came to me.
What happened next?
One day, the makers told me they had finalised someone for the film. I said okay. But things did not work out and the project got stuck again. Then they came to me. That was the only film I des – perately wanted to do, but it was just not coming to me easily. But as good luck would have it, after doing the rounds for some time, it finally landed on my lap. I always had this intuition that only I should be doing it, and it’s (forth – coming film) Haseena Dilruba.
There was a time when you used to approach filmmakers for work, but the tables have turned. Today, filmmakers are queuing up before your doors. What does it feel like?
Yes, they do come to me with offers, but I still approach filmmakers at times.
I have not stopped that. All the films that I currently have on my platter, none of them is similar to each other. It’s because of that. If someone comes to me and asks me if I would allow someone else to do any of the film that I have in my hand, I won’t. I just cannot let someone else do them.
As you keep doing back-toback films with diverse roles, how much time does it take for you to switch between starkly different characters and is there a process you follow to detach yourself from each one?
Now, it just takes a week. Earlier it used to be a problem. After doing films like Pink and Naam Shabana, I felt I was unable to cast away the hangover of those hard-hitting characters easily, but now I know the trick. I just pack my bag, go out and travel for at least a week. Either I go alone or, at times, with my sister. I completely disconnect myself from work. For that entire week, there won’t be any discussion about work. Then, after a week, I come back and start working on my next project. So, I have cracked that formula over these years.
We heard that the basic idea of your upcoming film Thappad germinated in your mind, is that true?
No, the idea is of Anubhav (Sinha) sir only. I had once told him that I wanted to do a film on domestic violence. He said that he had a story idea, which he would develop and come to meet me again. This discussion happened during the promotion of our film Mulk. Then he got busy with Article 15 and once it was over, he came to me and handed over the script of Thappad. He said, ‘read it and let me know if you want to do it.’ I, of course, wanted to do the film.
Tell us about the film?
In this film, he has not talked only about domestic violence. He has used domestic violence as a trigger. He has tried to show that when it happens for the first time how it goes on to open the Pandora’s box of so many other issues and problems. So, just domestic violence is not at the centre of this film. It is just a trigger. This film questions a lot more than just that. It’s his creativity that he has added so many layers to the story. I always wanted to be a part of such a film.
Have you ever faced a similar situation in real life?
Don’t ask me more than what I am sharing with you. Whatever I have seen and experienced in life, personally, I am telling you from experience that this issue is very close to my life.
What message do you want to send across with Thappad?
No, there is no message in the film. It is a girl’s story. There are eight women of different age groups in the film, from the age of 13 to the age of Ratna Pathak Shah and Tanvi Azmi. Every woman has a graph in the story. What is common among all of them is that everyone’s story is linked to my character’s story. As you must have seen in the trailer, this incident happens with me in public. How my reaction to that incident affects their lives and what advice they give me is what you see in the film. As it is not a courtroom drama, there is no verbal attack and counterattack. You will just see Amrita’s story from beginning to end and how she deals with the situation.
Do you feel typecast after doing a series of films challenging the patriarchal structure of the social space that we live in?
I do films that have strong men also. I don’t want to do wannabe films. If that is my image, I am extremely happy with it. I don’t want people to comment that I do films, which promise something else, but offer something completely different.
What do you mean?
First of all, the fact that I have a certain image is a big thing for me. Thousands of girls come and go, how many of them reach the point where they have an image? I am happy that I have an image. People will at least remember me for something if I am not here tomorrow. I am happy with my image; I don’t see any issue with it. If I am being stereotyped for doing solid, strong characters that talk about valid issues, and you take those characters home with you after coming out of theatres, I am happy. This is what I want.
Do you consider yourself a star now?
(Laughs) I am being honest; every Friday changes every actor’s fortune. Every Friday tells us our real value in the market. If we try to fly high in the sky, the next Friday will drag us down. There is nothing like star, star. Our audience shows us our real position every Friday.
Last year, you delivered several successful films in Bollywood, but your bilingual film Game Over did not meet expectations. What went wrong?
It did work well. They gave me an award in the Best Actress category. See, a regional film always has a limited scope when it releases in Hindi. In the Hindi market, it does not get a wider release. Game Over was released in just 300 screens in Hindi, I guess. How much money will it make from screenings in those 300 theatres? The film was making money down South. Moreover, it was a dubbed film. What collections do you expect from a dubbed movie? But let me tell you one thing, that film gave at least a year’s longevity to my career down South. So, in case I do not do any film there for a year, the audience will not forget me. They will remember me for Game Over. I want to do more of such films down South.
How long will you be single?
Till the time I don’t decide that I am ready to have a kid.