Taapsee Pannu Exclusive Interview: “I Choose My Scripts From The Audience’s Point Of View”

Mohnish Singh |Jun 30, 2019

Known for taking up challenging characters, Taapsee Pannu has established herself as one of the most sought-after actresses in Indian cinema. In an interview with STARBIZ, the actress talks about choosing her roles, favourite love stories and much more.

No other actress has proved her versatility over the past five years as much as Taapsee Pannu. She can bring your heart to mouth with her staggering performance in a social drama like Pink (2016) as convincingly as she can win your heart with her endearing but yet inexplicably complex act in a romantic film like Manmarziyan (2018).

After a moderately successful 2018, Taapsee Pannu started off 2019 with the massive success of suspense thriller, Badla. Co-starring thespian Amitabh Bachchan, the Shah Rukh Khan-produced affair emerged as a big money spinner at the cash counter.

The actress then impressed the audience with an incredible performance in Tamil-Telugu bilingual thriller, Game Over, which is still running in several cinemas across the country.

Taapsee Pannu
Image source: BizAsia

Recently, STARBIZ correspondent Mohnish Singh met Taapsee Pannu in a popular Mumbai hotel and talked to her about an array of things - from her process of choosing scripts and making it so big on her own to the historical figure that she would love to play and the remake she would love to topline onscreen. Excerpts...

Taapsee, it is the time for content-driven cinema today where star power seems to have taken a backseat. What do you have to say about it?

It is the best time to be an actor, especially for girls. I think that now the trailer of the film is the hero or we can say the concept of the film is the real hero. Of course, star power is there; it cannot be totally avoided because that guarantees a good opening. But content will give sustenance.

In today’s time, you can make a blockbuster with good content. And if star power also comes into play during the opening of the film, then it is the icing on the cake. So, I think, both co-exist in today’s time. It will be great to see who overtakes. I believe even stars would like if the content overtakes star power because then it becomes easy to experiment. Everyone would focus on content if content cinema works.

Taapsee Pannu

You play very challenging roles in most of your films. How do you choose them?

I think they choose me. I like challenges and hence I choose challenging roles because then you are excited every day to go to work. If I get everything without making any efforts for it, then what is the point? If I feel I can sleep-walk a role, then what is the thrill? Many people believe that if it is a very different, eccentric character that nobody else can do, Taapsee Pannu is the go-to person. So, I think, people approach me after pondering everything in advance.

When I hear a script, I imagine it as an audience because I spend my hard-earned ₹ 300-400 on buying a ticket. I think, “Will I spend my precious 3 hours on this film to go on a dedicated time?” Time can never come back, money can. Time once gone is wasted. “Will I spend my time and money on this film or not?” If I think I can, then I will sign that film. If I am confident that my audience will also show the same confidence and go to watch the film, then I will do that film. Sometimes I can go wrong, sometimes I am right. That is my way of choosing scripts. I choose my scripts from the audience’s point of view.

The second thing is, “Will I enjoy working every day on the set? Or is it boring either because of the people working on the set or because of the role that I am doing? Is it boring or exciting? If I am doing something challenging and new, it is exciting for me?” I will be like, “What am I going to do today?” If it is boring, then I already know what I am going to do every day; these four emotions and come back. That’s not exciting for me.

You have never worked with Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, but still, you are a star in your own right.

I had realized this in the very beginning of my career that getting films with these men wasn’t easy or would take time because neither I had any recommendation nor I claimed to be a glamorous diva that had this fairy-like personality. After some time, I thought that instead of waiting for big films with big actors, it was better to create my own path. If you are good, the audience will appreciate you and your work sooner or later. Never give up. Even if it is a small film, keep doing them. By and by, bigger films would follow. I had no options to choose from, honestly. I never got those kinds of films in the first place. So, I cannot say that I chose not to do them. That is a blessing in disguise, I think.

So I started doing films which were coming my way. I thought if they would do well, well in good. If they failed, I had several other things to fall back on. I am an engineer. I was about to do my MBA. I thought, “Even if I decide to choose another profession right now, I can do that.”

I am enjoying what I do. I am getting good films and good response from the audience, that is why I am here. The day I stop enjoying and my films stop getting the kind of response that they receive today, that day, I will pack my bags and explore something else.

Taapsee Pannu Exclusive Interview

What is the mantra of your growth and success? You have achieved so much without any godfather or star boyfriend.

First of all, I waited patiently. I did the kinds of films that I wanted to do. I never thought that I should befriend somebody so that I may get good pictures or, for that matter, I should join this camp, so I will get good films. I always believed in myself because I never wanted somebody to help me and someday pull his support and make me fall. Whatever I have achieved, I have achieved it on my own without depending on anybody else.

Secondly, as I said, I always had this thought at the back of my mind that if films did not do well, then I would do something else. I have never been desperate. I will always work on my terms and conditions. So that confidence in myself helped me a lot over all these years.

Had you ever thought that Badla (2019) would turn out to be such a huge hit?

No, I had never thought it would be such a big hit. But I was very confident that it would be a hit film. Everybody does a film because he or she believes it will work. So I knew it would be a hit. I had thought it would earn somewhere around ₹ 30-40 crores. The huge success of Badla has given the confidence not just to us who are associated with the film but also to others, because now people are like that if Badla can work so well, then any other interesting concept can work. People will try different things now. Let’s hope these types of films work because only then our cinema’s standard will grow.

Would you like to headline the remake of any romantic film?

I don’t want to remake a love story. Given a chance, I will do Manmarziya again and again. It is one of the best love stories that I have seen or read, for that matter. People might disagree, but this is my opinion.

What were your most favorite love stories while growing up?

While growing up, I did not watch many love stories. I just remember one film that I loved a lot. I had seen it in the theatre. I don’t know whether or not you know about it but it is called Love Jones (1997). I had randomly gone to see it. I had first seen its trailer and found it very interesting, so thought to go and watch it. It was not any blockbuster film. I had time, so I went into the theatre and watched it.

After watching the film, I was so impressed with it. It is just a pure love story and there is nothing like comedy entertainment. I really enjoyed watching that movie. It stayed in my head because it came out of nowhere. Besides that, Veer-Zara (2004) is my favorite. While growing up, we all have seen Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). That is some kind of a classic.

Would you like to play any historical figure in any biopic?

I would love to play Indira Gandhi. It is not like that I agree with all of her decisions, but it is indeed a powerful character to play. The way she completed her tenure and things which she did in her tenure, like the Emergency and all of that, it is an actor’s dream to portray a character like that.

Taapsee Pannu Exclusive Interview

Do you have any plans to enter the web-space?

I keep getting a lot of offers but, so far, I have not found anything which I feel that mainstream cinema cannot offer me. If I get something really exciting, then I will definitely do it.

Do you instantly say yes to a script or you take some time before agreeing to do it?

I instantly say yes to scripts. Right after the narration, I will tell whether or not I am doing it. Maximum, I take 48 hours. Within that time, I read the entire script and inform the makers of my decision. I believe it is always your first instinct that is right. Otherwise, it is like convincing yourself.

You have done two horror-comedies down South. Would you like to explore the same genre in Bollywood?

Of course, I would love to do horror-comedies in Bollywood, but the script should be at par with what I have done there in the South. My film Kanchana 2 (2015) and Anando Brahma (2017) were huge hits in the South. Anando Brahma is telecast on television as Kanchana 3. I did that film on a backend deal because the makers did not have money to make it. I said to them, “Make the film because it is my gut feeling that it will be a hit. Once it becomes a hit, I will take my cut from the business.”

Have you ever taken a pay cut for a Hindi film?

Yes, I have done that. For Mulk (2018), I charged only 50% of what my fee is. In fact, everybody else working on the film also took only 50% of their remuneration.

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