‘I Never Tried To Fit Into Boxes Because None Of The Boxes Would Let Me In’


Taapsee Pannu, winner of this year’s Filmfare Best Actress award, speaks about playing the role of a cricket icon and how it has been a constant struggle in the industry.

Taapsee Pannu won this year’s Filmfare Best Actress award for Thappad. Her next is Shabhaash Mithu, a biopic on cricketer Mithali Raj. Taapsee tells Lachmi Deb Roy about playing the role of a cricket icon and how it has been a constant struggle in the industry. Excerpts:

On Shabhaash Mithu: It is about Mithali Raj and her experiences and moments from the time she took a cricket bat in her hand to the World Cup finals. It has been quite an experience to learn a sport that I never played. I was only a cricket spectator. I realised it is so easy to sit at home—watching the action on television in the comfort of your living room—and comment on how one played. On the pitch, it is a different ball game.

Learning The Strokes: I am still learning…it is not practically possible to be anywhere close to Mithali. I am trying my best to at least look convincing. After meeting her, I realised this is going to be a challenge not because she is a legend of her sport, but because our personalities are completely opposite. She is calm, composed and more of an introvert. I am not.

Films With Social Message: I don’t make a conscious effort to choose films driven by social messages. I see them as a story and when I see that it is a story that hasn’t been told before and which impacts my heart and mind, I get driven towards these characters. And that’s how I end up doing more such roles.

The Real Struggle: I debuted in southern movies…Telugu, Tamil. Never struggled to get the first film, but my struggle has always been after that. You are in the industry and if you have made a mark, you need to sustain it. It is only after the first film that your real struggle begins, you have to face criticisms and appreciations equally. It’s difficult to climb up the ladder, make a name so much so that you become the primary choice for a movie.

Out Of The Box: I never tried to fit into boxes because none of the boxes fitted me. Whenever I tried to follow a set formula, like being told by people that this is how you should handle your career, those films never worked for me. I was never offered the atypical roles. So, these boxes never let me in. I had little option but to make my own place. I walked my own path and it ended up becoming unique. I guess all the rejections for the stereotype proved to be a blessing.

Learning On The Job: Never take yourself seriously, but your work seriously. That’s what I will tell all actors who want to make it big. This will help you grow. As an actor you are always open to public scrutiny. Some people will like you, some will not. So, don’t take these things to your heart. Your reason for becoming an actor should be driven not by the perks, but by the fact that you want to go to work every day and enjoy what you are doing.

Carry No Baggage: It’s a persistent struggle to reinvent yourself, stay up-to-date, watch what is happening around you, and stay relevant. Your alertness and hard work should reflect in your films because things change so quickly. If you are not keeping up to the requirements of the industry and the taste of the audience, people will find you irrelevant. A star is someone who the audience believes almost blindly. But an actor is the person who knows the craft and does his/her job, goes back and is very detached with what eventually happens to the film. The star gets people to theatres. That’s the kind of trust I want to have from the audience. But the stability of a star is proportionate to consistency in work.

Being Taapsee: I am a morning person. I do most of the household chores myself…cooking and cleaning. I keep things at the right place and do my own laundry. I don’t have a 24/7 house help. I work out in the morning and then have my breakfast. I like to spend the day with my sister and friends who have nothing to do with the film industry. We sometimes go out for lunch or a movie and sometimes I call them over to my place. I end my day pretty early because I like to begin my day early.