Taapsee Pannu doesn’t come seem phased by having to sit through back to back interviews, nor for that matter, her back to back successes and universal acclaim for her recent releases. She is in many ways the actress of the hour, after leading last year’s landmark Pink, followed by the recent The Ghazi Attack and Running Shaadi, not to mention the upcoming Naam Shabana – a spin-off to Neeraj Pandey’s 2015 Baby. To have an entire film made based on her one cameo in is but an indication of the impact the actress can have.
In conversation with Magic Of Bollywood, Pannu is as charged up as ever and entirely unafraid to speak her mind about everything from the media to her experiences in the film industry. She spoke to us about the upcoming Naam Shabana, the lack of respect given to Southern film industries, and the role of the media in addressing nepotism.
This really seems to be your year. Naam Shabana is your third release of the year so far, plus you have the upcoming Judwaa 2 and these are all starkly different films. Do you feel like this is your year?
Yeah, I do have a comparatively more number of films releasing this year, but I don’t think this is my year necessarily. It’s probably one year that’ll allow me to appeal to a wider audience because some people enjoy comedy, others enjoy action, others like drama and hopefully all of those groups will have some film or other of mine to see and hopefully they’ll finally believe that I’ve arrived.
Before your Bollywood debut in 2013 with Chashme Baddoor, you’d already had a pretty prolific and expansive career in the South with about 15 odd films to your name by that point. But in Bollywood you’re still perceived as a newcomer. Why do you think that is?
I really don’t know, I guess it’s because we are very limited in our thinking in a lot of ways and we don’t seem to go beyond what we see in one language. It is strange because sometimes I’m pegged not just as a newcomer but before Pink I was also called a ‘struggler’, despite coming from an industry where I’m already an A-lister. So it was kind of an awkward situation where in one part of the country you’ve taken off and in another part you are just disregarded as a struggler. But hopefully now all that will change because nothing speaks as loudly as success. As they say, success has many fathers and now after all this. they’ll look back and admire all of that but before nobody really cared about all the films I had done
Do you feel like it’s easier for outsiders to make it in the industry today than it was when you joined?
I joined 3 years back so not much has changed. I mean obviously everything is gradually getting better with every passing year. But for the record it’s not just about getting a ‘good break’. People talk a lot about nepotism vs outsiders and every time I get asked these questions by the media I tell them it is you people who have the responsibility. If you give the outsider as much importance as the star kid who’s done the same or number of films or less, then that difference wouldn’t exist. The media needs to keep us on the same pedestal as they do with star kids.
In terms of your upcoming projects, Judwaa 2 in particular, appears to be a significant departure from your other choices as an out and out commercial film. What was your motivation for choosing to do that film?
That was exactly my aim. I wanted to destroy the expectation of what people might predict me doing. It’s nice to just switch gears, because I don’t want to just be doing the one sort of film because if you do films of the same sort of genre back to back, then that doesn’t hit as hard anymore. And it’s also fun for the audience to come and see what I might be capable of doing next. So that’s why I want to keep switching things up. I mean I still have age on my side which allows me to experiment quite a lot so why not?
You seem to be involved in so many things, being a qualified engineer then moving onto modelling and acting, with a prominent career across film industries and most recently starting your own wedding planning business. How do you manage to balance all the various things your involved in?
First of all I’m a hyperactive person, I always have been. I’ve always been involved in a number of things right from my childhood. As Mossad rightly says – women become better spies because their multitaskers – so that one aspect of playing a spy in Naam Shabana definitely resonated with me. I love doing a lot of things because if I invest all of my energies in one place only, I don’t think I’d grow as a person. I think my qualification as an engineer, or my wedding planning business and a lot of other things that I do with my life are all equally important and they need to coexist, only then I can grow. Because for me, life isn’t just about being an actor and I’m very clear about that, so I need to grow as a person also and all of those things together will help me do that.
What advice would you give aspiring actors looking to enter the film industry?
I’d just say keep a plan B ready because acting for me was never plan A B or even Z, I had other plans which didn’t work out. So for anyone who’s really interested to come into this industry, always have a backup plan ready and be very realistic. I know you have to push and push and keep going for years, but then again don’t invest your time and energy into something that isn’t giving you good results, life is worth much more.