Taapsee Pannu on juggling careers in Bollywood and down South and how she’s breaking stereotypes by just being herself
Yogesh Pawar (DNA; January 21, 2017)

Model-turned-actress Taapsee Pannu, who won much critical acclaim for Pink, may not have scored anything this year, awards-wise. But the South sensation is not letting that get in the way of her enthusiasm for her upcoming release RunningShaadi.com. She has four releases lined up this year. Here, she tells us about her several screen outings in Bollywood, her fewer outings in the South, her patriotic streak and more...

RunningShaadi.com’s a lighter film than your last one, Pink.
Yes it is lighter and something I did before Pink. In fact, I got Pink because of RunningShaadi.com. Shoojitda’s the producer for both films. He only met me briefly during preps and a really short interaction when he came to the set. It was only later when he saw the footage for RunningShaadi.com that he asked me to come see him for Pink.

Are you loud and typically Punjabi like your character Nimmi in RSC?
I don’t know where this stereotype of the loud Punjabi comes from. I’m a hardcore sardarni and I can tell you, by God, no one talks loudly in that typical style in my house. This caricature of the giggly, angry, loud Punjabi girl is extremely done to death (sic). Both Minal Arora of Pink and Nimmi are Punjabis and both have a bit of the real-life me in them. You can see that they are anything but typical.Y ou can see that they are anything but typical.

In The Ghazi Attack you’re working with a debutante director, Sankalp Reddy.
Unlike my other films where I get to do quite a lot, The Ghazi Attack’s only a special appearance. Sankalp’s a really young guy, but the extent to which he researched and prepared for the subject left me impressed. Actually, it was only through the special appearance that they could introduce a girl’s character in what is otherwise an all-male story. Since women are not officially allowed to serve on a submarine in the Indian Navy, they could not have woman officer, so I am playing a Bangladeshi refugee who gets saved by the Indian Navy. And I think the allure of being part of India’s first submarine film, worked for me.

Was nationalism/patriotism a factor while agreeing to be part of The Ghazi Attack which looks at the destruction of a Pak submarine during the 1971 war?
I’m totally the patriotic type. Reciting the national anthem makes me cry. Since I’m not playing an officer, my character doesn’t get to be very patriotic in the film.

Do you think polarizations over Pakistan make this an opportune time for The Ghazi Attack?
Trust me, this film, even if it comes out anytime, will work with Indians everywhere. After all, this is the 1971 war when we put Pakistan in its place. So, it would’ve worked irrespective of where Indo-Pak relations are.

You’re training with French stuntman Cyril Raffaelli and have picked up mixed martial arts, Kudo and Krav Maga for Naam Shabana.
I don’t know how I have a knack for getting into sh*t like this. The moment someone points out it is a first-of-its-kind film, I get all excited and say yes. Only later I when training begins does it hit me, what have I got myself into. No two fights in the film are same and I had to train in all the styles that my character uses. The actual shoot was quite easy but the training, to put it mildly, was quite painful.

Has shooting for Judwaa 2 begun?
No. Both Varun Dhawan and me have our hands full now. Till Naam Shabana releases in March, I won’t be able to take on anything, Varun too is going to be be busy with Badrinath Ki Dulhania. It is only after that, that shooting for Judwaa 2 will begin. Again Varun will begin shooting his part first, I’ll only join the team in London a week after Naam Shabana releases.

What do you make of the bold image that came to be attached to your work in Southern films?
In the South, to remain an A-lister actress, you have to to be ultra-glamorous. And that can mean bold roles. That is the only way you get paired opposite the A-List heroes. But this is not homogenously true about all of the South. In Telugu, my characters are all ultra-glam, western and bold, but in Tamil thanks to my first film Aadukalam opposite Dhanush, which won six awards at the 58th National Film Awards, audiences don’t see me as all that glamorous.

Now that you’re busy with Hindi, will you continue to work in the South?
Because I’m now doing a lot more work in Hindi, Southern filmmakers come to me only if there’s a character/role they feel only I can do. In fact, for the film I’m going to begin shooting in Telugu now, the filmmaker waited for a year for my dates for this reason. At a time when actresses are replaced just like that, I was very touched he waited for me. Such faith brings more pressure on me to perform better.

You’ve said that you don’t think it can work out between an actor and an actress. Is that a veiled message to co-stars to keep a safe distance?
(Cracks up) I don’t think anyone’s tried to get too close. Most co-stars say I give off a very buddy vibe, so its unlikely anything can happen between us. I’m very clear that there can be only one star in the relationship and that has to be me.