Interview Hindi

Only want to outdo my last film, says Taapsee Pannu

The Manmarziyaan (2018) actress discusses her latest film Mission Mangal (2019), working with Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan, and why she does not have any complaints about competition in her profession.

Photo: Taapsee Pannu Instagram

Sonal Pandya

After making her debut in Hindi cinema with Chashme Baddoor (2013), Taapsee Pannu has had quite the ride. The actress has since chosen a wide range of characters from Meenal Arora in Pink (2016) to Rumi Bagga in Manmarziyaan (2018).

In last week's Independence Day release Mission Mangal (2019), Pannu is part of an ensemble cast as Kritika Aggarwal, a scientist on the Mars orbiter mission. In a media interaction before the film's release, she described her character as inexperienced but with plenty of zeal for the mission on hand.

“She is very positive that [the mission] will happen,” Pannu shared. “In the movie, you won’t hear from me that it’s impossible.”

Her character is the head of navigation and communication on the Mars project and is married to a soldier played by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. Dressed in a mustard yellow, floral dhoti-sari by Nikasha, Pannu looked every bit the part of an upbeat member of the team.

“[She is] a wife working for the country and [her husband] is also working for the country. But because she is a woman, her relationship to work is different compared to her husband’s. That dynamic will be seen in the film,” she said.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Pannu, who recently turned a year older on 1 August, took up Mission Mangal simply because it was a change of pace for her.

“I do three-four pictures in a year, out of which three are stressful, so one has to be light otherwise I will seriously go mad,” she explained. “I have started having such mood swings that even I don’t know that I’m going to react this way. I’ll snap at something, suddenly I’ll become quiet. There are such side effects of doing roles like I have, and these have started to take effect in me. I don’t want to make it worse. That’s why it’s necessary to do these kinds of films.”

But Pannu insisted that even though her part in the ensemble film is small, the audience would still remember her character.

“I don’t want to spread the emotion that I only do pictures in which I am the hero. I want that the audience should also get used to seeing me, one step back sometimes, but I will make sure you remember me when you walk out of the theatre,” she said.

The actress was not worried working with a first-time filmmaker, Jagan Shakti, but said she admired his courage in undertaking a big-budget multi-starrer as his debut.

“I think he is very experienced, because he has worked with AR Murugadoss and R Balki on a lot of big films, so he is used to working with big actors. But what confidence of that man to take this film as the first film for his direction,” she remarked.

Here, Pannu reunited with actor Akshay Kumar for the third time after Baby (2015) and Naam Shabana (2017). She joked that on Neeraj Pandey’s Baby, she was quieter as she was still a newcomer in the Hindi film industry.

“It was my second film, and I was trying to understand how does it work here. What are the work ethics? Obviously, one is quiet and observes. Now that I understand more, I’m normal now, he [Akshay Kumar] thinks she keeps talking all the time,” she said.  

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Working with four other actresses, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Nithya Menen and Kirti Kulhari, was not at all challenging but felt more like teamwork. Pannu explained that she was more worried in a film like Manmarziyaan (2018) where she had several emotional scenes with a co-star like Vicky Kaushal.

“I thought Vicky Kaushal is an excellent performer, if I’m not on my toes, he’ll eat up the scenes. I used to feel that during the shoot that I have to be on my toes, because it’s between two people. [Mission Mangal] is more like teamwork.”

But Pannu was kicked to work with Vidya, an actress she admires. The two share a warm, jovial relationship as was evidenced when they both interrupted each other’s interviews for some good-natured ribbing.

“She has been someone who, when I started in the industry and saw The Dirty Picture (2011), I realized that a woman can also be a hero in a picture. For me, it was an awakening. This can also happen. This woman gave me the confidence [to do the same]. For me, she has a special position in life,” Pannu gushed about her award-winning co-star.

Like Vidya, Pannu has been part of the change in the Hindi film industry of actresses expanding their careers and finding good content and roles for themselves. The actress hailed those who came before her to lay the path for a new wave of content.

“Considering them also part of this big change, I’m a small part of this big change, but I’m very lucky that I can witness it. Maybe, which I want, the next generation might not see this changing face because by that time, it might have already changed,” she stated.

“Today, I give this statement too that I don’t know till when I’ll be working, till the time I’ll keep getting good roles that excite me, and audiences keep making my films a hit. Now that question mark has come in. Before that I used to say that it won’t be more than five to seven years,” Pannu said of the change.

During Badla (2019) promotions earllier this year. Photo: Shutterbugs Images

The actress acknowledged that now more that ever, every actress is gunning for a good, substantial role in films. When she was asked about competition and insecurity in her profession, Pannu responded, “I don’t understand the race, nor do I want to participate in it. I only want to outdo my last film.

"I do four films a year. I see other’s films, I like them and I feel, okay, I should do better than them. But I don’t have any complaints about competition because I’m receiving such good films, such good scripts and roles that I don’t feel any negative impact of the competition on myself. If because of me, someone else is feeling it, then I don’t know,” she stated.