Meet Bollywood's newest starlet Taapsee Pannu
Breaking into Bollywood remains a dream for most Indian actresses but for Taapsee Pannu, her moment is now and she is revelling in every minute. The 29 year-old Engineer-student-turned model has starred in 20 movies over the last five years, making a name for herself in the South Indian film industry.
Next month she continues to build on her career by starring in the new Amitabh Bachchan movie Pink, which deals with the sensitive subject of sexual harassment. We caught up with the chirpy, happy and infectiously positive actress Taapsee when she was in London recently to find out more about her forthcoming movie role.
How hard was it for you to break into Bollywood when you're not born into the fraternity?
It was very hard. Especially for someone like me who doesn’t socialise or go to parties but prefers to sleep and rise early! I am seen as someone not worth hanging out with as I don't I have any relatives or other connections in Bollywood. My family don’t even go out to theatres to watch movies, they just see them when they are on television. Making connections in Bollywood is not easy, there has been a lot of luck involved.
Bollywood has been having a wave of content driven films
Yes, the audience is getting more intelligent. If your film is good, it will receive accolades. But you have to strike a balance with the commercial aspects. I am no longer new in cinema, so I have to strike a balance between the purely commercial glamour doll girl roles and the ones in a film with a strong social message. I always try to strike a balance between commercial and hard hitting scripts in my choice of film. The audience needs to get their money’s worth and at the end of the day, it’s about the business. If the film doesn’t make money, then it will not lead to anything more.
Why did you decide to take the role in Pink?
I was called by Shoojit Sircar (Director of Vicky Donor and Piku) to hear the script for this film. I was told that it’s based in Delhi and I would play this typical Delhi girl and the story is around what happens to her and two other girls. As I had to play someone who is close to myself (having been raised as a typical Delhi girl), I chose to do it. This was probably the easiest and most difficult role to play; easy because I have to play myself, a Delhi girl, and difficult because I had to play the character of a girl who has gone through a sexual assault/harassment.
How did you prepare for your character?
I used to play the track Till it happens to you by Lady Gaga on loop every day on sets to put me into the frame of this character. I had to sit on set and psyche myself up that this has happened to me. Doing this for two months affected me mentally and by the end of the film, I started feeling vulnerable and over sensitive to a lot of things. In the film, I play a very strong girl. A lot happens to her, but she has the balls to go to court and talk about it. It’s a message that you have to deal with situations that are thrown at you.
How was it working with Mr. Bachchan?
The man has an aura on set. I have grown up with his films so when I worked with him, it just felt too good to be true.
Were you nervous?
Definitely. For my first shot with him, I had to just lie on the bed and sleep. But I reached on set at least two hours before the call time which was weird given that I had no make-up and hair to do. When the shot started, I just couldn’t sleep patiently, I was so excited and anxious that my eyes kept flickering. The producer, Mr. Shoojit Sircar had to calm me to get the shot right.
How was it working with the Director, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury?
He is very innocent and believes in light emotions, he gives you the full freedom to perform. For our acting workshops, he used to share all kinds of courtroom dramas and get us to prepare but on set, he gave us the full liberty to improvise and perform. The film has been shot with sync sound and we had six cameras to capture our emotions enacting out 10-12 pages of script in one single take.
Did you take inspiration from anywhere for this film?
I was told to just be myself but absorb the character and perform. The film subject and message will trigger a lot of debates which we are looking forward to. There might be controversial situations where people agree with us or don’t but we still want to talk and discuss about it. I even felt so shaken up by a trailer. When I saw it, even I was taken aback.
Interview Rajesh Nair
Pink, starring Taapsee Pannu and Amitabh Bachchan is released on September 16th 2016