The talented actor talks about her middle-class upbringing, mistakes, latest movie Thappad and her dream of being the first Indian superhero.
She earned the moniker ‘Godess of flop heroes’ as she worked with many flop heroes in South Indian movies, but in the span of 10 years, Taapsee Pannu has established herself as a formidable force in Bollywood. She can bring nuance to every role. The girl from Delhi has touched many souls with her honest opinions and undying love for cinema. In her words, she has learnt from her mistakes and has started making better choices, which draws in the audience, especially women.
You have no godfather in Bollywood, yet you have carved a niche for yourself.
I thank my audience. They think I am one of them. I am from an average Indian household. I have had a regular upbringing. I have seen middle-class life so I can portray those emotions convincingly.
You pick roles that are different from mainstream cinema. Do you feel apprehensive about your choices?
I would be scared if I were to do the same cliché roles. Today, the audience gets bored very fast. If I am doing films that 50 other actresses are doing then why will they watch me? I want people to come with curiosity and see something new in my film. That’s my sole aim.
How do you pick and choose your projects?
Very simple: My criterion for choosing a film is ‘will I spend my money and time watching that film?’ If I have seen something before, then I don’t have to see it again, especially if I have to pay (Rs 500) that isn’t coming back. So if I can do that for a film, I will take up that project.
Tell us about your character in your upcoming film Thappad.
My character (Amrita) has an arranged marriage. She gives up her career and devotes herself to her family. But when her husband slaps her in public, she feels that she is being taken for granted. That one slap makes her question her idea of a devoted wife. She turns into a different person, not a bitter person.
Do you think women are conditioned to be secondary in the family, and dismiss incidents like slaps and general abuse?
Yes, but they should take action against unjust things. What action they take is their personal choice. When your respect is at stake, you have to react. When you raise your hand on your partner, it means you are disrespecting the person. You are using physical power to shut the other person down. And where there is no respect, there is no love.
We saw a director in the past (Sandeep Reddy Vanga of Kabir Singh) claiming that partners should have the liberty to slap each other out of love. Your view?
We are human beings, not remote controls, where you will say thapki maroge thik ho jaega, (tap and it’ll be fine). We have learnt this logic since childhood — you hit a child saying, ‘if you don’t do it right, I’ll slap you’. The child thinks that if a mother can hit me to make things right then it is okay to hit in a relationship as well. So if your mother and father can slap, then you can hit your wife out of love too. But that’s not love at all.
Do you think it is difficult for a woman in Bollywood to lead a film to success?
I don’t think there are many movies led by female leads that have touched the golden mark. For years, we have male-driven cinema, so suddenly you can’t see things moving upside down. But give it some time and slowly it will change. Five years ago, there were two female-led films in a year and now there are two-three films in a month. It is such a big change.
You are one of the few actors who have essayed the role of a sportsperson in your movies.
I love sports and it loves me back. Not many people are doing it, so I am getting all of them. I am a huge fan of sports stars. I am awestruck by sport stars than movie stars. I have loved sports since childhood. I love doing sports films.
Are you scared of being typecast for doing several movies of a similar genre?
I don’t think so. All my films have been different from each other. Films based on sports are still in minority. I have a lot of mix and match of films.
What is your preparation process for any role?
It depends. For Thappad, I was already neck full with emotions, which I wanted to express. With Rashmi Rocket, I had to endure training so I have a month-long training schedule. I am training every day — I have to train in the gym and on track for athletics. When I say yes to a film, I am already mentally processing it.
Is there any dream role that you’d like to play?
Avengers. I am telling this to the Universe that I want to be an Avenger. I am a huge Avenger fan. I want to be an Indian superhero in Avengers.