Tapsee Pannu on target in Saand Ki Aankh

Tapsee Pannu on target in Saand Ki Aankh

By Michael Gomes

Published: Tue 22 Oct 2019, 10:10 AM

Last updated: Wed 30 Oct 2019, 6:13 PM

Despite all the controversies surrounding the film, Taapsee Pannu, who is known to play strong roles in her movies, has  a very solid reason to take up the role of an octogenarian sharpshooter in her latest film Saand Ki Aankh.

"Having two lead females, both with equal weightage is what piqued my interest in the film," said the actress while speaking to City Times ahead of release of the movie in the UAE on October 24.
Based on the true story of two of the oldest sharpshooters in the world - Chandro and Prakashi Tomar from Johri village in Uttar Pradesh. Taapsee plays Prakashi, aka Revolver Dadi, while her co-star Bhumi Pednekar plays Chandro in this biopic.

"I don't really understand why other actors run away from such projects. I know actresses who are not comfortable sharing screen space with another female stars because they want only their character to be in the limelight. I really don't believe in all this. I feel if you are good enough, if you are secure as a human being and as an actor,  you don't have to feel insecure about such things," said Pannu who has delivered commendable performances in movies like Pink and Mission Mangal that featured multiple female actors.

"I've worked in films where I've allowed others to grab the spotlight - be it a hero or another actress. For instance, in Mission Mangal, there were so many of us and Vidya Balan's character was more fleshed out than all the others. But we were all comfortable in our zones and made a mark in our own way. So that's the kind of confidence you need as an actor. You don't have to be the centre of attraction in all your films. That's how I choose my films and will continue doing that," she added.

While Tapsee doesn't believe in hogging screen space, she endeavours to make an impact through her work. "Because sometimes when they (producers) approach me (for a role), they might think that I will not take up a role if I'm not the central character.  That's not true. Every year I do a film in which I'm not the central character. I do it to make everyone aware that I am open to and comfortable doing all (sorts of) roles," Taapsee explained.

There were stories doing the rounds that it was Taapsee who chased debutant director Tushar Hiranandani for Saand Ki Aankh.  "Frankly speaking, I did not know anything about the script.  I didn't even know if he (Tushar) was working on the film. I had heard that Reliance had a script and were interested in making a women-based film. That got me interested and I reached out to them. I have always wanted to do a movie with two leading ladies, with equal calibre," Taapsee said.

"Unlike other movies, where you have one female supporting the other or two women fighting over the leading man, Saand Ki Aankh gives equal status to both characters," she added.

True story
Though the movie is based on a true story, Taapsee did not know much about the Tomars before reading the script. "I had heard about them, but never met them. I had seen them on TV shows like Satyamev Jayate and India's Got Talent, but it was only after reading the script that I really got to know their story."

So what drew her to the role? "The fact that they (Tomars) decided to do what they did (despite their old age and societal restrictions). They had never ever lived for themselves and spent their entire lives working for the family. Before marriage they used to work for their mothers and after marriage, for their husbands. They did not want their daughters and granddaughters to lead this kind of life," she said.

Talking about how she picks her roles, Taapsee said, "Conventionally, I get offered roles where the character has layers and vulnerabilities. But I mostly get roles that go with my personality. Whenever I hear a story with a strong character, I gravitate towards it naturally. I would say it's my personality that pulls me towards such roles."

In Bollywood, generally actresses are reluctant to work in films that feature two females in the lead but in Taapsee's case she was happy to share screen space with Bhumi.

Working with Bhumi
"Bhumi was the main reason I agreed to do Saand Ki Aankh. When I spoke to Tushar, I told him, 'whoever you choose, make sure you get a good actress onboard'. I can't bring out my best unless I have a good actress on the sets who I can react to. They help me perform better and up my game.  I'm happy they chose Bhumi because of the kind of choices she has made in the past. I was excited to work with her and from the time we started filming, we became great friends. We supported each other during our struggles (while shooting for the film). We didn't work like two separate individuals, but bonded together as one unit.

Saand Ki Aankh has had its fair share of controversies. Many protested the casting of two young actresses when there were so many talented senior stars, but Taapsee is not affected by the criticism. "There will always be people who will support you and others who won't. People should not waste their time and energy talking about who should or should not play the lead in the movie. In fact, I took it as a compliment when people showed interest in the movie and wanted to be part of the film. A few people in the industry supported and backed us.

What's next for her?
"I have teamed up again with Anubhav Sinha, my director in Mulk, for a new movie, it's dedicated to women. After that, I am doing a science-fiction thriller with Anurag Kashyap. Then there's Rashmi Rocket, it's not your regular biopic, it's a story about the lives of different athletes woven into one story. That's as much as I can tell you about the story for now. But I must mention that I had to undergo a major physical transformation for my character in this movie. It'll be interesting to see how my body reacts to the changes because I have never ever undergone such an extreme training in my career."
Ironically, the actress does not believe in gyming. "I only play squash to keep fit. It helps my body and mind to remain healthy. I don't really believe in training in gyms like many other stars. I tell everyone, 'you need to get into activities that you can really enjoy.'"

And what keeps Taapsee grounded?
"I enjoy spending time with my family and  friends, who have nothing to do with the film world. I think that helps me stay grounded and gets me back to reality. After doing the social circuit rounds in the film industry, being with family helps me connect to my real self - who I am as real person, who I have been all these years.
Taapsee is also a wedding planner
It is not something that's known widely, but Taapsee is also an entrepreneur and runs a company called The Wedding Factory, an event management firm. "Actually, I started it  (the company) thinking that it will be a good thing for me as it will help me divert my focus from movie business. Sometimes, you need to rejuvenate and connect to other things so that you don't get burnt out by being in one profession. That is why I set up this company. However, it's my sister (Shagun Pannu) who handles the venture. She manages it and does the groundwork as it's not possible for me to be physically present (in the company) all the time. I've invested in it and do take decisions (in company matters), but it's actually my sister who runs the show."

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