Words Sudhakar Jha

Photography Dabboo Ratnani
Art Direction Jatin Joshi
Styling Sana Jaisingh & Navya Chanana
Hair Team Kromakay
Makeup Saniya Shahdadpuri
Location Dabboo Ratnani Studio

“But hasn’t this idea been done and dusted?” And just like that our grand ideas of showcasing women empowerment through the eyes of a woman who wasn’t deterred by detractors had been thrown into the bin. That’s Taapsee Pannu for you. Unconventional, unpredictable and utterly refreshing. Like bright sunshine on a dull cold winter day. What followed at Dabboo Ratnani’s studio in Mumbai was a complete repackaging of the complicated theme that we had chosen for the photo shoot, and this story.

Across time and geographies women have always been equalled to flowers. Beautiful and delicate, fragrant and fragile, it was the most appropriate lens through which patriarchy could see a woman. Like the flower she was to be protected and nurtured. If that’s how the world saw it, Taapsee of course saw things differently. “Yes, flowers have been associated with women for a long time and this being the women’s day special, it’s a very good feeling to do something different. And what’s interesting is that even though women are compared to flowers as being delicate and fragile, the flower has its own beauty and vibe which can be demonstrated as strong and impregnable.” Truly, if change is in the air, then Taapsee is the very personification of it…

What are the new and interesting things happening with you these days?

I think everything in my life these days is exciting and interesting. Even though as actors we are only supposed to be actors, but it is much more than that. It’s about meeting new people on a day to day basis. It’s about working on new subjects. It’s about getting into a new character according to the role given to you. So every day is new to me. With my foray into sports, with the Premier Badminton League and wedding planning company as well, my day is as new as it can get. All in all, everything is interesting and happening in my life.

You are collaborating with Amitabh Bachchan once again. Tell us more about your next project, Badla…

It’s the second movie that we are doing together and I had an amazing time once again. The story is very different from Pink, which was on a social issue. This one is a murder thriller. One thing that has stayed the same is that he is my lawyer in the movie. My character is not that of a victim of an assault or someone who is standing against the society. In Badla, I play a very strong-headed businesswoman who is trapped in a murder case and how she redeems herself with the help of the lawyer. Working with Amitabh sir is a delight and our equation has just grown.

From a software engineer to one of the most sought-after actresses, how did this transition happen?

It was never planned to be really honest. If it was planned then I would never have been an actor in the first place. I would have been working in a marketing department of a multinational company, because that was what was really planned for me. But as they say, life is what happens when you are busy making plans. And thus it happened. I tried to benefit from every opportunity that I got. Be it the modelling opportunities that I got during the college days to earn some extra pocket money to trying out my luck in the South Indian movie industry after my college days, which was more for the sake of experimenting and trying to see how does it feel to be working in a film. And all of this happened while I was preparing for my CAT exams. In between I got roles in Hindi movies and now here I am sitting and chatting with you all. I just try to make lemonades out of all the lemons life has to throw at me.

Out of all your movie roles, which one has been the most challenging? And which one defines you most?

I think doing challenging roles is what keeps me hanging. It’s not exciting anymore if I don’t get to do challenging roles. It started off with Baby, which I thought would be really challenging, because in my real life, I have never even slapped a person. But I was kicking ass in the movie as an agent. From there on, the challenge just continued with every role that I was offered. Be it with Pink, or as a trained secret agent in Naam Shabana or be it a lawyer in Mulk and a hockey player in Soorma, or a crazy character in Manmarziyaan, they have all been challenging. And truth be told, I was not at all a crazy person like my character in Manmarziyaan who does things without thinking much. Badla is again a kind of role that I haven’t done before. I haven’t gotten any non-challenging role in my acting career often and these roles have started to become a lot of fun to do.

To an extent, Meenal from Pink will be closest to me. Except that the molestation case hasn’t happened, Meenal resonates with me the most. And I would say that Rumi from Manmarziyaan who lives her life on her own terms.

You are known for taking up unconventional roles, does it pressurise you in terms of maintaining your performance with every film?

It does, because the expectations rise with each movie. And that’s rightfully so, as there are expectations from me to perform and breeze through a role. And that’s what pushes me harder. I like that pressure and it benefits me.

We saw your interest in sports when you bought the 7 Aces team in Premier Badminton League. How would you like to define your passion for the sports?

Oh, I loved badminton as a kid and used to watch all the tournaments and still watch international Masters tournaments that happen across the globe. I know many players personally and some by just watching them over the years. As far as the PBL is concerned, I followed it for three years before finally buying a team. I bought the Pune team and the city being the birthplace of badminton in India, it became really special and the love for sports has turned serious. I feel a sense of responsibility now as this sport deserves more attention than it gets. And I feel it’s on me in some way or the other to get badminton its due. And since I’m a fan myself, the passion.

Born and brought up in Delhi, what were your favourite hangout spots?

Ah, I am a street-food eating person. I’m a road-side small-shop bargaining, regular Delhi girl. If you would have seen me during my college days, then I would be hanging out in Sarojini Nagar market, Lajpat Nagar market, Janpath, Greater Kailash and all those popular spots of the city.

Is there a childhood memory that still makes you cringe?

There are quite a few weird and scary habits that I used to have. I am a very outdoor-sy person and back in those days, I used to go to the railways tracks to play. It was just for the fun of it, but they were pretty scary and I used to get a lot of scolding too. Going to unknown roads and lanes for thrill was also something that I used to do. Just taking my bicycle and biking on empty unknown lanes was fun, but God knows what would have happened had I strayed far away from home!

How would Taapsee Pannu spend a day off?

I would like to sleep for more than 10 hours. I usually sleep for about eight, but if it’s an off day, my target would be much higher. Also, I like to play squash so that would also be in the agenda. I can probably watch a latest movie that I could not watch.

Most awkward/ embarrassing thing you’ve done on sets?

Umm… Let me think. I just behave the same way that I used to behave 10 years ago. And that might be awkward for many of them on the sets to see.

One thing you love about acting?

That I can live so many lives in just one life! At different points in my life, I wanted to be an RJ, a scientist, a lawyer and different things. And now I can be all of them and more by doing movies!

And the one thing you don’t…

I think the pressure of attending certain events, and there are some which I’m not sure about, but do it out of obligation. That’s something I don’t like.

What is your go-to outfit on a lazy day?

I generally like dressing up! Though it doesn’t have to be in a fancy way, but dressing up is something that I like. So, it depends on my mood and also the last movie I have done. I get so engrossed with my characters that I end up dressing like them on normal days too.

If an angel grants you a lifetime supply of a beverage of your choice, what would it be?

I can survive only with water as a beverage. I am not addicted to tea or coffee. And I am a teetotaller so no alcohol as well. Water works perfect for me!

What Netflix/Amazon Prime series are you hooked on to these days?

Not really! I try not to start watching a show as I know how it can affect you, and consume all your time. I have done that once with a series, and binge-watched for three days, having no life other than that series.

What are you like when you get really mad? Do you break things or sulk for days?

No, I don’t do either. I feel that I should not burn my blood over someone else who has messed things up! I am extremely sarcastic and mean to them. I am not physically aggressive, so saying mean things to them and then not talking at all is my way to show anger.

What’s your idea of comfort food?

Given a chance, I would love to eat street foods of Delhi every day in my life. From chhole bhature to gol gappe and aloo tikki, I love all of them

One place you would love to explore on your own?

I am a total beach bum. Going to different beaches around the world is what I love. So if I could get a few days on my own, I would love to explore the beaches in different parts of the world.