'Box office collections matter to me. If the audience is flocking to theatres, it's a hit': Taapsee Pannu
IF THERE IS somebody who is not tired but happy during the promotions, it is Taapsee Pannu. The 32-year-old actress who hails from Delhi, not only puts forth her opinion without giving a second thought but is also ready to pull your leg if the question is half-baked. During the promotions of her latest film, Mission Mangal, the actress spoke about how she chooses her projects, while also discussing Mission Mangal’s poster controversy and on how only the audience can change this pattern. Excerpts:
Q: How do you go about choosing a film? Do you keep the commercial value of a project in mind?
Taapsee Pannu: Of course! I want my film to become a hit. If it bombs, I can’t help it, but while choosing it, I see myself as an audience and whether I am willing to give three hours of my life, which I will never get back, to this film. There is no strategy except this though. If I feel that I have already seen this kind of film or if it is not engaging enough, I won’t do it. Another thought that I have is whether I would be able to show this film to my children. Then I shouldn’t feel like ‘what did I do?’ I should feel proud of my filmography and Mission Mangal has been done especially for this reason — it should be there in the list of films that I have done.
Q: You have studied engineering. Did it help you in this role? Were others asking you to explain things?
TP: It did help me as I was familiar with the terms and theorems, and I could use them or say them very easily. I didn’t have to ‘mug up’ a lot as that was done years ago already (laughs). And, even if nobody was asking, I was showing off my knowledge and told them things anyway.
Q: Tell us about your role.
TP: I think people might be shocked to see me in this film because I am more like a grahini (homemaker)-scientist. I am a typical homemaker who is also a scientist, I am not at all revolutionary in this film.
Q: What are your thoughts about the controversy around the Mission Mangal poster, which gave prominence to Akshay Kumar’s face?
TP: I was waiting for this question to be raised and I am happy that people raised it. Now, I want to see what these people are doing about it. As an actor, I am doing my bit by doing films that are shouldered upon me and taking the centrestage. As an audience, you are not giving me an equal collection as an Akshay Kumar film. So, who is to be blamed for this? If you would have replaced all five of us actresses from the film, it would have mattered, but very slightly. The script would have remained the same, Akshay Kumar’s film would have still opened to a good number. And, when we are there, the value increases but not so drastically that it will be a gamechanger and this is what an audience has given us. Give us equal numbers in terms of box office opening and our faces will also become bigger on posters.
Q: You recently posted a photo on Instagram about making choices. You wrote, “Making choices .... and picking from choices are two different things. Man does the former, woman... latter. Appreciation for the former and ‘majburi’ (compulsion) for the latter.” What was it about? At what point did you transition from picking from choices to making choices?
TP: I wrote that message while venting out my frustration. I saw a post on social media where someone (a person behind the camera) was appreciating a male actor for the choices they made saying that they had so many options — they could have been a hero but they chose this. But, when it comes to women, then everyone assumes that this is all that she got, or this is all that she can do. Yes, I do appreciate a bunch of men for the choices they made but when it comes to choosing, why are the men always given credit? There are women as well who are trying to choose films, look at Vidya (Balan)! To answer the second part, I think all this power came to me after Pink. It is after that film that people in the industry thought that I can act and that the audience wanted to see me.
Q: Do you get advice from people about what should you do? What was the latest?
TP: I get advice all the time. The recent one was, “You should do a very dhinchak (commercial masala) film now and then you should do a special song in a very big film. And, that’s it.” People have been giving me pieces of advice since forever, but I listen to my father who once taught me that you should listen to everyone and then do what you want to.
Q: When you do intense roles like Aarti in Mulk, Rumi in Manmarziyan, Swapna in Game Over or Naina in Badla, do you take a long time to detach yourself from that character?
TP: A lot of my intense films are driving me nuts. About 70-80 per cent of the detox from these characters happen soon after I wrap up the shooting but about 10-20 per cent stays with me. I can’t point a finger at what happens but I feel a changed person after every intense film of mine... it is driving me a bit cuckoo.
Q: Having done such interesting roles, do you ever feel burdened with the audience’s expectation from you?
TP: Honestly, I have never seen it as a burden. I want my audience to have expectations from me after every film, because I feel that you are truly a star when they expect (something) from you. I take it as a huge compliment. I want my audience to expect (things), they shouldn’t enter the theatre without expectations... I see it as my driving force.
Q: But, do you feel pressurised to do a certain type of film? Or, are you fine with doing a fun film?
TP: I want to do a fun film (laughs). I don’t feel that pressure. Even before I made this image, I was selecting the films the same way that I am selecting them now. So, my criteria for selection hasn’t changed. Organically, I am choosing the same things. My choices will change if I start analysing that ‘I shouldn’t do this and I should do this’. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done Game Over, which I knew wouldn’t make a lot of money but will be liked by whoever watches the movie. I could have taken the liberty of doing a more fancy film, but I felt that I would like to watch this movie and so I did it.
Q: Do you now see yourself as a star? What matters to you more — box office collections or commercial success?
TP: Box office collection. No matter what anybody says, if the audience is coming to the theatres in large numbers, then it is a good film. I will consider myself a star the day my films will open to a big figure.
Q: But, some of these actors whose films record really big collections are bigger than the films. Do you want to be like that?
TP: No, I don’t want to be bigger than a film ever. The day I will think that I am bigger than my film, I will be done, my career will be over. I don’t even want to credit myself that this film is a success because of me. And, I don’t want the audience to come to the theatre to see me, I want them to come to see my choices.
Q: You have been doing about five-six films in a year. Are you inspired by Akshay Kumar?
TP: Yes, I am inspired by Akshay sir. He had told me that you should keep doing work (laughs). But, I am very greedy of good scripts and I can’t let a good script go. I have worked really hard to be in a position where if I say yes to a film then it will happen and now, I don’t want to let them go. I don’t mind overworking if the scripts are good.