From playing the most loved character Rumi in 'Manmarziyaan', Swapna in 'Game Over', Naina in 'Badla' and now Kritika in 'Mission Mangal' and later Prakashi Tomar in 'Saand Ki Aankh', Taapsee Pannu has proved her mettle in Bollywood right from the word 'Go'. In an exclusive interview with Republic TV, the actress opened up on her rollercoaster journey in the glamour industry, box office performance of ‘Manmarziyaan’, being replaced due to a lack of lineage, being snubbed at award shows, handling trolls and more.
Watch the video above.
Meanwhile, here are the excerpts from the exclusive interview -
One solid performance after the other, how has the journey been so far?
It feels nice when it is appreciated, and when it is not in a few cases, I start thinking 'what did I do wrong'. But then so far, atleast I am happy that people are acknowldeging my choices. I should say instead of fan base, I would prefer an audience base who trust me, believe that if I am there in the film then it is worth the time and money. People are slowly understanding that and that makes me happy.
Mission Mangal comes at a time when there's unprecedented Indian interest in space. What's the reason behind your interest in the film?
First being, when I heard the script, I felt so proud. As an Indian, it is a happy moment. Second being, I have chosen my films thinking the day I retire, when I have my family, want to show such films to my kids... something that I am proud and happy about. And last reason being, I really wanted to share the screen space with such an amazing cast. It's a rare thing to happen and I didn't want to lose out on this opportunity.
Mission Mangal has a big ensemble cast. What do you prefer - star-led undertakings or these big group ensembles?
I won't give you a cliche answer like for me only the story matters. Ofcourse that is every actor's first preference. I don't want that perception to go down with the audience that I will only do films in which I am the lead because during Soorma, I faced the same question and I told them that time, 'You people are getting spoilt'. It's okay to be a part of a good film also sometimes provided your role is such that when audience walks out of the theatre, they should remember me. That's my only criteria. I want people to remember me and that is why I chose such an ensemble cast like this in Mission Mangal.
What started as an 'experiment' is now your life! Having acted in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films... do you consider that you have made a case for people who don't have an industry background to feel they can make it in Bollywood?
Absolutely! It's not as bad as they feel. It's tougher. It's a testing journey. It is a longer route to success when you are from outside. When I was getting into it, my parents were worried because of the perception that is made about the film industry. Any industry has got its good and bad points. Unfortunately, we are in front of the camera and people pay to watch you... so that is why this job is glorified. And the negatives are glorified too. It is in your hands to say NO.
Is it safe to say that you have found a firm foothold?
It is not a profession where you feel safe and secure honestly. If you want to then you have chosen a wrong profession. You don't get a fixed paycheque at the end of the month. Future depends on Friday. If it is a good friday, you have a few good months to look forward to. If it is a bad one, then you see a question mark in everything. It shakes you up. If someone says failure doesn't shake you up, then it didn't matter to them that much.
When were you shaken up like that last?
I get shaken up quite often honestly. For example, Manmarziyaan. I expected the film to do even more than what it did. People around me loved the film... and when I talk about people, it's normal audience base. I am not really surrounded by industry people so. I had a big aspirational number and when it didn't touch, I was shaken up. But then I realised, some films have a different audience. Love stories are such, you either connect or don't. There's no middle ground in that.
When I lose a film, films that I really want to do and I don't get them or I lose them for some reason... it shakes me up. There were multiple instances where someone took away a film because I don't have big lineage to show that I am so-n-so's daughter/family.
Unprofessionalism in industry...
Yes, it has happened that I have got to know from the media that I am not a part of a film whereas in my head I had blocked the dates for. It has happened that after narrations, films have been taken away from me because they can't put in more budget for a female protaganist. Inspite of the 'Badla's success, I have gone through rejections because the budget can't be assigned for a female lead but it got shifted to a male lead.
Do you keep grudges?
I follow one big rule - Hate the sin and not the sinner. I have done that everytime I have voiced my opinion. Even when the entire unprofessionalism thing happened, I called out the practice. I still meet the producers, I have met them after that too. They have been nice to me. I hate the fact this practice happens — films are taken away because I don't belong to a family or budget is pulled down because I am a female. I want to call out these practices.
Even after Badla's success, they won't credit me, they will acknowledge me. The movie had a big star like Amitabh Bachchan, so they can always say that it was a success because of that. I will continue proving that a film can win on the basis of a female lead. I will try again and will keep trying so that one fine day, I don't have to hear 'because you are a female, we can't have the budget'.
You've not professed to belong to any particular 'camp' in Bollywood, as they say, though your equation with Anurag Kashyap and Shoojit Sircar has never been hidden. Tell us about your real friends in this industry, and what 'friendship' means in Bollywood
I've been on really very good terms with all the directors — shoojit da, david sir, anurag, anubhav sir, sujoy. David Sir calls me more often than anyone else just to check on me whether I am fine. I am like a bacha for him because he was my first director. I don't think they belong to any camp, so that's why people are not able to put me in any camp.
I sit and chill with them without any agenda. I have friends, and these are my friends. All of them have come from diverse backgrounds and I think that has connected. And honesty. This is my own little camp. If these guys are all in one camp, then let me tell me it's quite an 'elite camp'.
With two big movies coming up — Saand Ki Aankh & Mission Mangal — which are poles apart in terms of the roles you'll play, how difficult is it to go from one to another?
It's very difficult. It does sound funny, it's true. It is a cost that we pay to be an actor. Most of my films have been highly demanding in terms of characters. It does change something in mind. Mission Mangal not so much. It's an ensemble cast. It is a relatively lighter film in terms of character sketch, but it makes you feel deeply about your country. Be it 'Badla', 'Game Over' or 'Saand Ki Aankh'... all these films drain me a lot and they change me. I have become much more moody person than I used to be before. My mind becomes confused. The switch has happened so many times that I don't know how will I react to certain situations. I have felt that. From mood swings, to my clothes, my way of talking -- everything changes. When 'Manmarziyaan' happened, I became a rather agressive person in reality. It does change me after every intense film.
How do you cope up with this?
There's no escape from it. Yes, if it gets too much or affects the people around me, I am open to therapy. But as of now, things haven't gone really that far. It has been under control. I go for a holiday. I totally disconnect from work and detox of mind happens. I don't really hang around with industry people so I come back to a life where films are not a part of that life.
What is your take on biopics being played by actors who don't look like the person they are playing?
I don't think it is always possible to get actors who look exactly like the person who you are portraying. Did you make people what the character went through, that's important. A lot of people say that I look like Carolina Marine. If a biopic gets made on her in Spain, they won't take me just because I look like her. It doesn't work that way!
You recently joked about not being invited to the big Bollywood coffee table chat shows... You have a lot of amazing movies in your kitty. What's your take on this?
Honestly, it wasn't meant to show 'Why didn't you invite me'. My name was mentioned on the set for that set... and I still don't qualify... I just love to take jibes at certain situations. I don't really deeply think before writing this. But in reality, it's a certain show of certain director/producer and they don't think I am fit enough to be a part of the show. It doesn't bother me. If they invite me, I would love to go. Who has made a show a benchmark how good an actor is!
Of late, you've been quite combative on social media, whether you're answering back fans, or replying to other people from the industry. What's your take on trolls? Do you get a lot of it? Does it ever get to you?
Most of them are very spontaneous! When I read something which tempts me to write something in return. I only proof read it because I don't want to hit anyone below the belt. I make sure my language is proper because I don't want it to be nasty and cheap. If they have the right to criticise me, so do I. We live in the same country and exercise the same rights.
Shifting to a little lighter note,
Define your personal space
It exists. I love my job but I do have a life beyond films. I have cut and pack-up in life. I go back home where no movie conversations happen. I want to grow as a human being also. I have voluntarily kept it like that.
Avengers. Want to be a super-hero.
Pick up a sport. I play Squash.
I have given up on them. If I get papped, great. As it is we dress up way too much for releases, interviews etc. Atleast at the airport, I wa
I am not married as yet. If I have to have companionship, I can be with someone without marrying them too. Marriages are not the strongest relationships in this day and age. Having said that, I want to have kids. I want a family.
YRF or Dharma?
I have not gotten one as yet
Snubbed at award shows?
I am too used to it now. I will be pleasantly surprised if they entertain me now. I was heartbroken 2 years back when the snub during 'Pink' happened. Shoojit Da had told me that time... 'Tu kapde silwale award shows pe jaane ke liye'. But I wasn't nominated. I have taken a pledge — every year I will give them a performance which is worth mentioning, every year they will snub me. My audience will talk for me. It in a way started last year when Manmarziyaan happened and I wasn't nominated. Rumi was one of the most loved characters of my career. I didn't get any award for being Rumi. I wasn't surprised at all but I was surprised to see the articles written about me. That is the real victory for me. Who does that!
I will never give up on the industry where I started. So, I do one south film every year for sure.
Being an entrepreneur and an actress? The balance...
Wedding planning company is easier. My sister manages that for me. I only take the major decisions. And Badminton team because I love sports. I am proud to own a team. Sport stars are the real heroes, so what if I couldn't become one, so I have a team.
I am not saying No to that. But give me something which is much more than what I am getting in films. Only then it is worth to venture into OTT platform.
Binging on which shows?
Big Little Lies! Saw 'Made In Heaven' last in Hindi.
After Mission Mangal, I am starting a Tamil film. It's an action thriller. I am doing Anubhav Sinha's film. Then a supernatural thriller with Anurag Kashyap.
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