Unconventional Wisdom - Taapsee Pannu

After entering filmdom by chance – owing to a few modelling assignments she took up during college – Taapsee Pannu has grown by leaps and bounds in both popularity and talent. Her acting skills have been on display in many film industries, but her most recognised work is in Tollywood, Kollywood and, now, Bollywood! A few highlights from our recent chat with her…

Your Telugu film Anando Brahma is set to release this month. What kind of role do you play and what are your expectations from the film?
In this film I play a regular role; there’s nothing special or edgy about it, but it’s the concept of the film that is unique. Although it is a commercial film, its take on comedy is different. I hope the audience likes the film and has a huge laugh.

After playing serious characters in films like Pink, The Ghazi Attack, and Baby, was it a conscious decision to work in comedy?
Anando Brahma is an out-and-out comedy. After playing such serious characters I wanted a change, and hence I took up the offer. You won’t see me perform much in the film because it’s a comparatively easy character, but the concept is out-of-the-box. So yes, it was a conscious decision.

We haven’t seen you in any southern film after your Bollywood success. Do you plan to settle in Hindi filmdom now?
I’ve never planned anything in my career because even becoming an actor wasn’t a planned move. I went to southern cinema because I got better options there. But when I got a Bollywood offer, and that too for a role as challenging as in Pink,

I grabbed it. I always go with the flow; none of my moves are calculative. I only got unconventional roles in Bollywood, and fortunately it worked for me.In southern cinema the language is a limitation for me. Although directors might think of me for a serious role, other actresses who know the language better will have an advantage. Having said that, as and when I get something challenging, I will take it, no matter what the language. I want to try different things, out-of-the-box concepts that I haven’t done before.

I really want the battle between south and Hindi cinema to end. People always compare the industries, but the truth is it’s only the language that is different; the efforts and way of working are the same everywhere. I’m proud of the fact that I started with the south; it gave me the right platform to grow and hone my skill.

What are your upcoming projects?
I’m currently in talks with makers of a few Hindi films, the announcement of which will be made soon.

What is your favourite genre?
I love to watch comedy and thrillers, but I love working in action films. Another genre I want to try is science-fiction, something like X-Men.

We hear you’re quite the sporty kind. Will we get to see you playing the role of a sportsperson in a biopic?
I would love to be part of a biopic and yes, I’ve always been the sporty kind. I have tried my hand at various sports, so I hope I get to play a character whose sport I know and can pull off.

Any preference of a sportsperson you’d like to play?
Sania Mirza.

You’re also a dancer with formal training in Kathak, Bharatanatyam, and Western dance. Tell us more about that.
I learnt classical dance when I was in school and Western while in college. In fact, after going to Shiamak Davar’s dance classes for a long time, my friends and I started a dance group while in college, but it was discontinued soon after.

While I was working in Tollywood in Hyderabad too, I used to go to for the Shiamak dance classes, and people often used to find it amusing to see me dance in a group class. But the truth is, I like to dance in a group; there’s no fun in solo dance classes. Unfortunately now, due to my tight schedule, I can’t afford to be part of any group class.

What’s your favourite dance form?
I love Kathak; I think it’s one of the most amazing dance forms in the world.

What profession would you have been in if not for this?
I would have done my MBA and got into the marketing field.

How was it to work in India’s first submarine film?
The producers of The Ghazi Attack are my good friends, and so is Rana. I’ve worked with him (Rana) in three different languages: Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu, and it’s been great each time.
Like I said earlier, I want to be part of unconventional cinema. And although it was a small role in The Ghazi Attack, it was great. It was the first bilingual film in which I actually had to say every line in two different languages. It was funny because I was one of the only few crew members who was comfortable in both languages.

And to work alongside Amitabh Bachchan?
Among the top points on my checklist was acting with Amitabh Bachchan, and I’m glad I got to tick that off with a film like Pink, in which I had an equal role as such a legend. His aura was beyond the set. His energy is amazing, and if you can transform the energy of his performance into your work, you can do wonders. And that’s what happened to me...he was so good that I had the strength to perform as well as him. I owe my success in the film to him.

Your recent comment on director Raghavendra Rao’s portrayal of heroines has escalated tremendously. What’s your take on that?
I’ve kept quiet until now, but that’s because initially I was angry, and then sad. Now I’m amused by the situation. I’ve already spoken with Raghavendra Rao sir and his son, both of whom I’m still pretty close to, and cleared the air. They too, just like me, were quite surprised at the way things escalated. The problem here is that a bunch of people want to make an issue out of everything, because of lack of entertainment in their lives. The only person I was mocking throughout the interview in which the statement was made, was myself. I only spoke facts and laughed about it. I was mocking myself when I said that a legend who has launched actresses like Sridevi and Jaya Prada through sensual scenes in which there was a close up of their midriff, introduced me with a scene in which a coconut was thrown at my belly. Probably because my midriff wasn’t as flat or as alluring as theirs! But the journalists simply misconstrued it and blew it out of proportion. My question to these journalists is, who did I disrespect and how? It was a funny statement...and not something that I said behind Raghavendra sir’s back. I’ve made this joke to him previously too, and he has taken it in good stride.

The statement became such a big deal that everyone wanted to ban me and my upcoming films. These days every small issue results in a claim for a ban of a film or an artiste! We should call our nation Banistan (laughs). Every time I read an article that has my comments, it is misinterpreted. My advice to these people is to first understand my comment before giving it a different meaning. Having said that, I want this buzz to keep spreading; they’re giving me free publicity right now (laughs)!      -- as told to Niharika