“I Watched Horrifying Videos of Women Being Violated to Get Angry Enough for Pink”
Sundae-sweet, and genuine enough to warrant an authenticity certificate, there’s a ferocity to Taapsee Pannu that only the camera is privy to. And, of course, anyone that labels her an ‘up-and-comer’...
The first thing Taapsee does as she opens the door of her hotel room, is unfurl her sinewy arms for a hug. Then, after being pulled into the room by her 24- karat smile and fresh-from-an-event hair, she immediately picks up the phone and describes—in tedious detail to room service on the other end—this cake that’s been haunting her dreams the last few days. “It’s this coffee-chocolate thing—the one that looks really good? Could you bring me that, please?” she explains, that exultant grin firmly harnessed onto her lips, and then silently mouths, “You have to share it with me!” All the signs point to the fact that won’t need our pre-prepared dossier of questions to prod her with, because this is going to be less an interview, and more an easy chat. We don’t have to launch an inquest into how she keeps fit or how her average day pans out, because she’s quite the volcano of self-volunteered info. “Cake is my Kryptonite,” she smiles, telling us, “I don’t even eat gluten—but cake gets by. I let myself eat a piece a week. Two, if I’ve been good,” she laughs, sheepishly. While she’s got a strong antipathy to the gym, exercise is pretty high on her priority list.
“I’m a squash girl, baby! Why, this very morning I drove all the way out to Gurgaon to play,” she laughs, calling herself a bit of a squash evangelist because, “I’m always selling it to people. I play every single day at 2pm”. She breaks down her day pre and post squash—her mornings, always languid and filled with “tea, almonds, and walnuts,” and post it there’s her 2pm game, “lunch, meetings and work. I’d start work much earlier, but people think even 11am is too early to meet!” Just as we’re about to segue into work, the doorbell rings, and that almost apocryphally delicious cake is at the threshold. With uncontained glee, she signs for it, and slices it into impartial halves, benevolently holding one out. We let her savour a spoonful (and make a face à la Meg Ryan’s at the restaurant in When Harry Met Sally) before we dive in where we left off— her work. “It’s interesting,” she muses, “how I’m touted as this up-and-coming star because I’ve finally made a mark in Bollywood. It doesn’t count if you have a
veritable body of work in another Indian film industry (or two, Tamil and Telegu, in my case) because if you’re a Hindi-film novice, you’re a novice, period.” She claims it’s why she staved off award ceremonies for a while. “I never knew anyone at those things, and I was innately terrified that people would think I was this cheap social-climber. I’d rather not be there and be missed, than be there and not be wanted.” Her stance on award shows runs deeper than simply her societal standing at them. “I’m not a big believer in the authenticity of awards,” she shrugs, and it’s refreshing that her POV didn’t do a sour-grapes flip when she
won the Golden Rose Award for her powerful performance in Pink. “In the ‘Rising Star’ category,” she adds, a touch of sardonicism lacing her tone. But, even after getting the industry’s big pat-on-the-back, she declared to the media, ripe from the win on the same day that “awards don’t really matter. It has nothing to do with how well you’ve done. The audience is that barometer. A good films holds an audience. To peg a film’s failure on it being an ‘art-house project’ is just a weak defence,” she scoffs, making her slant on commercial vs art-house cinema vehemently lucid in a single take. “Besides, playing Meenal (her character in Pink) wasn’t arduous in
terms of learning the nuances of a new character. I am 99 percent her. I think that was really why I got the gig in the first place,” she smiles, and in a truly pure, honest-to-goodness moment, she giggles that she’s never actually cleared an audition—ever (a fact my PR rep told me I’d be killed for blurting out before Pink hit theatres). “So, naturally, it helped that my carriage, language, mannerisms—all synced up fluidly with the character—except what she’d been through.” It was channeling that infuriating ordeal that took to task the actor in Taapsee. “I had to build up the frustration and anger of a girl who had been molested. Shoojit [Sarcar] sir prepped me by putting me through a back-breaking boot camp, making me watch video after video of girls going through horrifying incidents of molestation and eve-teasing. It would make my blood boil to the point of making me want to spit physical violence—and I took that knuckle-twitching anger and threw it all up on camera.” She claims it’s the only time she’s legitimately cried on stage. “I don’t cry easily—it’s a challenge most of my directors face.
The Cosmo Quiz
1. A character I’d love to play is a psychotic supervillain.
2. I absolutely refuse to eat red meat.
3. Never have I ever smoked. Not even a drag.
4. You’d be surprised to know that I can’t swim.
5. The perfect Sunday breakfast is an omelette to start, followed by aloo puri and pav bhaji...
6. I grew up reading a lot of textbooks. I was a total nerd.