Interview | Taapsee Pannu: I’d love to do a dark film like Gone Girl – Fresh from the success of Judwaa 2, Taapsee Pannu is glowing. Having lost oodles of weight, she is looking svelte, charming and confident. Not only has she established herself as an actress of substance but she is also straddling hard-core commercial films and different cinema. While she delivered power-packed performances in Pink and Naam Shabana, she added the glam quotient to a masala entertainer like Judwaa 2. Even her upcoming movies are a mixed bag — she is balancing a romantic comedy, Dil Juunglee, with a social thriller, Mulk, which is based on real incidents and Manmarziyan, an intense romantic drama. In a candid chat, Taapsee looks back at her journey in Bollywood and opens up about her struggle and choices.
You made your debut five years ago with Chashme Baddoor, but it is only in the last one-and-a-half years that you have got recognition in Bollywood. What took you so long?
It’s difficult to make your presence felt with a film like Chashme Baddoor that is an out-an-out comedy mainly because it’s a common genre. There are so many girls out there who are trying to make an entry with big commercial comedy films. I’m neither the most drop dead gorgeous looking girl, nor am I a diva. All I can say is that I’ll help the layperson, who is buying a ticket, feel that I’m one among them. That’s my USP. I’m not that larger-than-life looking character, so it’s difficult for people to imagine me doing a film like Judwaa 2 immediately after Chashme Baddoor. It took a while for me to establish myself, for the audience to like me and for makers to feel that, ‘Okay, here is someone people would like to see, it will be interesting to put her in those shoes and see how they react.’
Now that the audience loves me, I’m trying to experiment and see in what all shapes and sizes do they like me (laughs).
You are the only actress to have played a small role in a film, Baby, which led to an entire movie revolving around your character in Naam Shabana…
Yes, I’m very lucky to do Baby in which I had a 10-minute role that ended up with me getting the title role in another movie. It wasn’t planned. With Akshay Kumar, Neeraj Pandey supporting it and Manoj Bajpayee playing an important role in Naam Shabana, who would have thought that within three years, I would get a project like that! Then I got to work in Pink where initially people thought it would be an Amitabh Bachchan film. I’m lucky to get such a beautiful role to essay. The only credit I give myself is having made sure that I used the opportunity to my best. I didn’t let it pass or take it lightly. I exploited the opportunity to deliver my best. A lot of directors if you have noticed have repeated me.
How did you exploit the opportunity to your best?
Beggars cannot be choosers. When I did Baby I was told, Akshay ke film mein vaise hi kisi aur ko koi dekhta nahi hain aur 10 minutes ke role mein kya dekhenge? I was not even paired opposite Akshay. It was very convenient to not realise my presence (in the film), but that’s what worked in my favour because people didn’t expect me to do what I did. Whenever I have done something people didn’t expect me to do, it has worked for me. The same thing happened with Pink. They didn’t expect me to have an equal role as Mr Bachchan’s but were shocked to see me have one. Then they never thought I would do a Judwaa 2 after this. It’s fun when I change gears. I do one Pink and Dil Junglee, a Naam Shabana and Judwaa 2. If I do one genre back-to-back, it will get boring.
What prompted you to take up a film like Judwaa 2 after being hailed as an actress of substance?
There were a couple of things. Firstly, I was sick and tired of hearing that you look really beautiful in real. I was like, ‘Do I look ugly on screen?’ I guess just because I don’t do glamourised roles like a lot of other actresses, people don’t realise that there is beauty in simplicity as well. My take was if you think that’s not beautiful, let me show you this side as well. I tried to showcase that glamourised aspect of me which they think is beauty. I had done this exact same thing for years in South cinema, so it was just revisiting where I started. Secondly, my audience didn’t make Pink or Shabana a Rs 100 crore film. The idea for an actor to grow is to get more and more audience. This is my way to get viewers to see me, like me and come to watch my other movies also. If Pink and Shabana were Rs 100-crore films, I would have done only that type of cinema. But because the audience is still waking up and warming to that kind of films, I need to do something like Judwaa 2 every year.
But it wouldn’t be challenging for you…
No, as I said I have done it in my South films, but the challenge for me here was to look as hot as or at least be worthy of standing in the same frame next to Jacqueline (Fernandez) who has the hottest body in the industry. That for me was the toughest part!
Which is the one role you would you like to essay that people don’t expect from you?
I would love to do a dark character. I think people don’t see me as one, but that’s something I want to do. Gone Girl is an ideal reference.