I was always the boss of my life, says Taapsee Pannu

Mumbai - The actress talks about her role in sports drama 'Rashmi Rocket', out now on OTT.



By Kaveree Bamzai

Published: Thu 21 Oct 2021, 9:31 AM

Last updated: Thu 21 Oct 2021, 1:24 PM

Taapsee Pannu wears a clip in her hair that says Boss, and she's chuffed that people around her now address her as Producer Madam.

Photos/Supplied
Photos/Supplied

"I was always the boss of my life," she says.

With her production company now added to the mix, she has every intention of telling more unique stories with progressive themes.

And she is doing it at as breathless pace as the fictional Rashmi in Rashmi Rocket.

Having wrapped up Haseen Dillruba earlier this year, she has seen Rashmi Rocket take off, she is shooting Looop Lapeta in Mumbai, and has a raft of upcoming films — from the horror film Blurrr, to Prakash Raj's Tadka, to Anurag Kashyap's Dobaaraa, and Shabhash Mithu, where she plays Mithali Raj, the Test and ODI captain of Indian women’s national cricket team.

"I'm a greedy actor," she says, but not so greedy that she wants to do every story herself with the new production company she has set up, called Outsiders Films with Pranjal Khandhdiya.

"It wasn't only about a profit share. When I take up a project now, I want to package it properly, present it, and position it. I’ve always had a vision of it. But as an actor I felt it was intrusive. Now, I take that call officially," she says.

Taapsee also hopes to help others find work.

What she will produce will be in sync with who she is, as an actor and audience. “We all have enough good work,” she says, adding, “I always keep the project above myself.” That generosity of spirit underlines everything she does. When she looks at her part, she looks at the entire film, notes Thappad and Mulk director Anubhav Sinha.

Much of it is down to her sporting spirit, having played everything from badminton to volleyball to pithu (a game of seven stones played in the Indian subcontinent) during her childhood.

It is also down to her ability to be fulfilled in her individuality.

It is something she shares with the women of Kutch whose body tattoos she borrowed while making Rashmi Rocket. As her mother (played by Supriya Pathak) says to a pregnant Rashmi in the film: "Kutch ki auraten aakhri din tak kaam karti hain (The women of Kutch work till the last minute)."

The women there are extremely empowered, she says, and are the boss of their life and their area, especially after the 2002 earthquake. That’s the background they wanted for Rashmi, to show the pedigree she has. Her own ecosystem gave her confidence, she says.

She was never the underdog. She is the hero from the first scene.

There is something of the hardy Sikh heritage in Taapsee, who is a trained engineer and spent a few years on edges of the modelling and Telugu industries to understand what not to do. And that was to not allow herself to be walked over. Now whether it is talking to Amitabh Bachchan, a favourite co-star, in a refreshingly non-idolatry fashion, or asking a gentleman who is shooting her with his camera phone whether he has taken permission, she stands her ground.

As much as she is a born leader though, Taapsee is also a team player.

Atul Kasbekar, producer of Looop Lapeta, calls her a producer's delight.

"She's smart, she's funny, unfailingly punctual and works at a manic pace. She also has the vision to scope out the potential of a special project and has the guts to take a punt," he says.

That allows her to seamlessly transition from playing the seductress in Haseen Dillruba earlier this year, with a penchant for dropping her saree’s pallu, to a chiselled sprinter in Rashmi Rocket who is accused of having excess testosterone in her body (loosely based on Indian athlete Dutee Chand's life). "I had a different body language for Haseen," says Taapsee. "Here I had to be a very raw, rough talent," she says.

Akarsh Khurana, the director of Rashmi Rocket, says it was a privilege to collaborate with her. "She was very involved right from the beginning, she trained so hard physically and mentally. She'd read every draft of the script, we had feedback sessions, and while she was doing so, she was also clarifying things in her head. So, when we actually got to the shoot, there was no need for any clarification," Khurana says.

Taapsee, 34, has always defied the cultural stereotype, whether it is the coy, submissive heroine in the industry, or the girl who played with the boys when growing up.

"I’ve been told to do more feminine roles, because only then can you become the aspirational heroine, but I have always admired women who have worked on their bodies, who are not naturally thin," she says.

Before the release of the promo, she was trolled for looking like a man when she released photos. “This is the cultural conditioning I am fighting against. Let the woman decide how she wants to look. Let her decide what womanhood means to her,” she adds.

For Taapsee, it means fearlessness. In life and art.

The author is a senior journalist and author, most recently of The Three Khans and the Emergence of New India


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