Taapsee Pannu’s sudden break from the South, being quite a conscious decision seems to have paid her rich dividends. A 20-minute solid screen presence with Akshay Kumar followed by one of the most successful releases this year, Kanchana 2 and she appears to have finally realised her true identity. In a candid chat, she talks about being approachable in Mumbai circles, hanging around in parties, the shelf-life of an actress and the reasons behind many of her fortunate and unfortunate choices in the past. She is no more into running around for projects and is only concerned about selecting the best, she’s offered and is sure of having a life beyond movies. Here’s more into all of that.
Lot of people are showering me with compliments, saying I’m looking good and have changed. I guess Mumbai received me very well and made me a happier person in the last few years and that’s probably showing. I have made a choice over big money and the industry has physically and mentally chiselled me. In Baby, people suddenly saw a different side of a woman and it got me attention. Post Baby, lot of things changed. What a two and a half hour movie couldn’t do, a twenty-minute role has done wonders to me. Today I get a lot of calls from substantial filmmakers and top slot directors who talk to me and say they loved me in Baby and are looking at fitting me in their films. I’ve noticed that there has been a greater female following after this. All those who thought I was just another South import who just dances and sings have changed their mind. I still soundly believe people wouldn’t have taken notice of me if I hadn’t done Chashmee Budoor first. The fact that they saw that side of me first, the commercial heroine, helped. They wouldn’t have got a bigger shock if they had seen me in Baby first. I wanted to get into a commercial league where I can get into masses first and then once they know about me I feel it gets easy for me to prove my worth and that I can act.
Her role in Baby was small, did it bother her?
This was not a role that people were dying to do. When they got to know, I was doing it they said, I had comments that no one gets to do much in a Neeraj Pandey or an Akshay Kumar film. When I got to know that this girl is the only one who will get to do the action part apart from Akshay, I knew this part had stuff. I knew that twenty minutes is enough to prove myself. When my dad was sitting amidst a whole lot of people in the theatre, he said there was a lady sitting on the edge and saying ‘yeh tho gayi’. I got so many whistles and claps, the stuff you are used to seeing that for hero introductions and sexy scenes but this reception is quite an accomplishment.
Baby got me a lot of commercials, before which I had only Wild Stone and helped me sign up for Ever Youth, Honda etc. I only hope I sign more films than endorsements. Honda came to me immediately after Baby and they said they saw a mixture of independent, confident, young and fun-loving girl in me. Till now only Akshay was endorsing Honda and the first time they have taken a girl.
On Ganga 3:
It was an immensely satisfying project in which I invested 2 years. It is a big thing. We have a short span in the industry and I was worried about the delay as Lawrence fell ill twice. I had to do my Hindi film and come back. I remember telling Lawrence ‘let us leave this film’. He would be so sure of the product and had total confidence in me. I took more than a month to say yes to the film even after l got the script and liked it so much. I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off and he said he would make me do it. That worked wonders for me.
On maintaining a low profile in Mumbai:
I can’t attend parties being an early riser and can’t stay up in the night. I am not a social drinker and averse to loud music. I go to one or two parties to show my face for 15 mints and leave. It is more of a social obligation and I believe it does help building relationships. There are a lot of talented ones but eventually one gets the edge over the other because of these relationships you strike here. I have a different career track and choose to pick my happiness, my satisfaction than anything else. If I choose to do best with whatever I have, it keeps me going. I believed that those 20 minutes gave me a lot of publicity. Bollywood gives you a role based on talent and if it is run of the mill role where anyone can fit, then these personal relationships come in handy. If there is a role that leaves an impact, they make you go through a rigorous process for selecting the girl to play that role. That is why people like me can survive with patience and not rush into too many films.
I have my priorities clear:
I made a conscious effort to keep myself grounded and will have to climb the same steps that I used to climb up. I did not want to make a fool of myself and my life gets disconnected when I am done for the day. For some people, movies is everything and everyone knows few years down the lane, all this has to end. If your entire life becomes movies and you don’t have a personal life, it becomes quite difficult. It is very tempting to meet people to hang around with them, to be around and be talked about. But I always hold myself and think of a longer run. I don’t want any strings attached, once I am done, I am done. Nothing can pull me back here.
On projects down South:
In Telugu and Tamil industries, as people know me well, I don’t have to market myself here. It is better to work with people who genuinely want me, rather than I pushing myself to just be visible. I have now become more patient. Even the number of films I am taking up has drastically reduced. I am waiting for right roles and scripts. I have stopped running around projects now. Earlier I would run around like a mad girl and have no idea what was good and what wasn’t. I came from a background where I didn’t know anything about movies. I never had time to sit and think about where I want to go and how to go about it. I once had 7 releases in one year and then I had to shake myself and realise, there is no point doing films without leaving an impact. Before my first film released, I signed 3 films already.