Taapsee Pannu on playing a visually impaired person for the first time, in thriller 'Blurr' streaming now in UAE

The Bollywood actress spoke about the challenges of the part and why it was difficult to detach herself from the character


Enid Grace Parker

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Published: Tue 20 Dec 2022, 2:48 PM

Last updated: Thu 22 Dec 2022, 4:20 PM

“It was an interesting challenge to throw at myself,” said Bollywood actress Taapsee Pannu of playing a visually impaired woman in her new thriller, Blurr, streaming now on ZEE5 Global.

The versatile star, who made her debut with Telugu romance Jhummandi Naadam in 2010, has never shied away from taking on experimental, offbeat and even controversial films.

And with films like Haseen Dillruba and Dobaaraa grabbing eyeballs in the last two years, her ‘thriller’ repertoire is growing. The latest addition is Blurr, a gripping psychological tale about a woman who is gradually losing her eyesight whilst investigating the mysterious death of her blind twin sister.

Taapsee plays the dual roles of sisters Gayatri and Gautami in Blurr, which is based on critically acclaimed Spanish thriller Julia’s Eyes and written and directed by Ajay Bahl. While Blurr provides plenty of suspense-filled and edge-of-your-seat moments, the film - though a tad overlong - is also an engaging study of human nature. What do we see and what do we miss, even with normal eyesight? How are our perceptions different when we lose our vision? Do we ‘see’ people better?

Taapsee revealed in a Zoom chat that she was drawn towards playing a visually challenged person for the first time in her career.

“I figured out that this is a captivating enough film, which balances out human psyche with a thriller (element); it will be an edge-of-your-seat film, keeping your mind and heart engaged at the same time. And then I thought it will be new to discover how can I can play that (someone with a visual disability). There were a lot of limitations; at the same time that is what made it unique to pull off this role, and a lot of scenes, in Blurr.”

‘I refused to remove the blindfold’

The film dives headlong into the mentally fragile world of a person suffering due to deteriorating eyesight; how difficult were those scenes to play?

“As people rightly know, when one of your senses has been taken away, your other senses get heightened and that’s exactly what happened to me. In the beginning, when I started using lenses or blindfolding myself, the first few hours were a little difficult because you are not used to it. I refused to remove the lenses or blindfold in between takes and shots, unless and until we broke for lunch so I had long hours of being ‘blind’ on set.”

“Then, slowly, the mind settles down into accepting that you are living with it right now. And I realized that not only can I hear better, but once I stopped resisting the fact that I was not liking it, once I had control of that emotion, I started feeling that my mind was getting more focused and balanced, and working better, after turning ‘blind’. So, yes, the first few hours were uncomfortable but after that it was extremely helpful in getting me into the zone, because there is no other way I could have portrayed someone who loses her vision (gradually). Moving around, bumping into things, where you place your hands and feet - it kind of came naturally wrong. There is a different way you play a character who is born blind or has been for years, but someone who has become blind recently still has to come to terms with how they are going to manage their life.”

Taapsee plays a visually impaired woman in 'Blurr'
Taapsee plays a visually impaired woman in 'Blurr'

Thrills and layered characters

Taapsee said the limited characters in the film - which boasts a talented supporting cast (Gulshan Devaiah and Kruttika Desai, among others) - all throw up fascinating and often disturbing layers of human nature.

“There is a very beautiful line describing the two sisters which is narrated in a sort of a voiceover, where I say ‘mother always said that I wanted to see the world and Gautami wanted the world to see her’. This helped me define not just the two sisters individually but also two different kinds of human beings in the world. Everyone (in the film) has a side to pick in terms of ‘are you the one who wants to be seen’ or ‘are you the one who just wants to see’.”

She also felt the line ‘shut your eyes and look at people, you will see them better’ would strike a chord with the audience and offer some food for thought.

Getting out of the zone

Considering the intensity of the role and her personal investment in it, how hard was it to let go, when shooting wrapped?

“It’s not just when shooting wraps, it is also very troublesome when you are going through it. Because there were really hard days, physically and mentally. I did feel very burnt out by the end, and had to take a very conscious call of not getting into strong, intense thrillers after this. Because it really takes a lot out of me. I intentionally moved on to doing some lighter stuff after this for over a year.”

However, Taapsee feels the final product kind of justified all the effort.

“I felt like no matter how hard the days look and how angry you get at so many things when you are at work, when the output is good you kind of brush it all off at the end of the day. This is my learning as an actor from Blurr. No matter how much I cursed myself almost everyday - ‘why do I do this to myself’ - when I saw the output there was a huge sigh of relief and I was happy that I attempted it.”

Taapsee with Gulshan Devaiah in a scene from 'Blurr'
Taapsee with Gulshan Devaiah in a scene from 'Blurr'

Cinema versus OTT

Having established herself in both cinema and OTT, does Taapsee feel there is a huge difference between the two mediums?

“Sudhir Mishra who I recently worked with on a short film in an anthology told me how OTT is all about your ‘mugshots’. ‘Mugshot’ framing; your face, till your shoulders, basically. That’s what speaks on OTT, because there are smaller screens. The actor is at a bigger risk as compared to the big screen because there you have a lot of other things that help you to look good and help hold the audience. Even if it’s a shot where the actor is not giving it his/her all, it can still be balanced by good sound effects, good camera movement, VFX or something of that sort. But on OTT you are actually putting yourself and your talent out for people to judge and decide if you can still hold the frame or not.”

She describes herself as “a theatre going audience, honestly.”

“My focus retention span on OTT is very limited because I just don’t like that pause button to be in my control. I prefer watching things on the big screen where I have to finish and then come out.”

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