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'Outsiders don't get second chances in Bollywood'

By Nishi Tiwari
Last updated on: June 25, 2015 18:38 IST
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'I don’t come across as a newcomer desperate to make it.'

'The day I feel that I don’t have anything interesting to do, I’ll be more than graceful to walk out and do something else.'

Taapsee Pannu on what makes her tick in the film industry.
Unlike many of her contemporaries who dabble in South and Hindi films simultaneously, Taapsee Pannu has gained more than moderate success in her five-year-old acting career.

While she was seen in the critically acclaimed 2011 Telugu film Vastadu Naa Raju, her Tamil debut Aadukalam opposite Dhanush went on to win six National awards.

Left: Taapsee Pannu in Telugu film Mogudu

Her foray in Hindi films has been just as eventful -- the David Dhawan-directed Chashme Buddoor, even though panned by critics, was a box office success.

After receiving acclaim for her brief but significant turn in Akshay Kumar starrer espionage drama Baby, the actress will be seen in a bunch of promising new-age romantic comedies soon.

And to think she never wanted to become an actor!

Born to Sikh parents in New Delhi, 27-year-old Taapsee’s unusual career graph mirrors her refreshing originality in real life too.

When she visited the Rediff offices a few months ago, she was asked if she had a driver for her spanking new BMW.

She told us: “What’s the point of buying an expensive car if I give it to someone else to drive?”

In this interview with Nishi Tiwari/, the actress sheds light on her recent tie-up with P&G’s Shiksha campaign and just how she’s getting along so fabulously as an outsider in Bollywood.

What’s happening on the acting front?

I’m waiting for the release of (produced by Shoojit Sircar).

Once that is released, the same team will go on to work on Agra Ka Dabra. Only the hero changes in the new one -- Ayushmann Khurrana is the lead in Agra Ka Dabra.

What is about?

It’s a small town-based romantic comedy.

You’ve seen plenty of those but what sets apart from the rest is the fact that I’m playing a middle class Sardarni in it, which is pretty close to my real self.

We’re dealing with a lot of interesting daily-life observations in funny ways.

In small towns, love marriages are looked down upon.

So in, the lead pair sets up a website that helps lovers whose family don’t approve of their relationship, to elope.

This is something new and interesting you’ll get to see.

The story is set in Amritsar. Amit Sadh has been cast opposite me as a Bihari.

Image: Taapsee Pannu at a previous edition of Filmfare awards. Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar

In an interview that you gave after the release of Baby, you were quoted as saying that it’s relatively tougher for outsiders to break in Bollywood.

I’ve got my foot in the door but there’s still a long way to go.

The reason I said that was because for an outsider like me, with no filmi background, no support, there is also no studio or production house supporting me.

So people in a situation like this can’t afford even a single wrong step.

One wrong step and you’ll be sent back home and no one will ever give you a second chance. That’s why I say the situation is very difficult for newcomers.

Although nowadays we have become more accepting of newcomers. But it’s still very difficult to bounce back from failures. We have to be extra careful of each and every step we take.

What kind of struggles did you have to go through when you were starting out yourself?

I didn’t really struggle a lot to get in the industry.

First of all, I never wanted to become an actor. It just came my way, things fell in place and everything happened very smoothly.

My debut (2010’s Telugu film Jhummandi Naadam) must have been the most struggle-free debut anyone can have.

I didn’t have to do anything. I didn’t even have to go for auditions for all my first films in the three languages that I have worked in. I just had to do some photoshoots and look tests.

My struggle actually began when my first movies released. By god’s grace, my first movies had left a decent mark and a recall value for me.

What would you say makes you as successful as you are?

I have chosen to do this over a lot of other options. I’m not here because I didn’t have any other professional options.

I have a sense of security, a certain sense of confidence as an individual.

I’m here out of interest. I work because I get interested in certain projects, roles, or a set of people. I don’t work because I have to earn money.

My whole agenda of working is different and that works in my favour because I don’t come across as a newcomer desperate to make it.

The day I feel that I don’t have anything interesting to do, I’ll be more than graceful to walk out and do something else but so far I have had a tremendous run without even gunning for work.

I’m not really a go-getter when it comes to roles.

Since I haven’t really struggled, I don’t know how it is to go and look out for work. So far things have been going well and good work has been coming my way.

After that, I think I have enough potential to do something else as well.

What do you look for before you sign a film?

The things I look for when I get a movie offer is firstly, the director, then the script, followed by my character in it.

Beyond that, I don’t bother about anything.

Sometimes, yes, I’ll care about the production house or the studio backing the movie because I have to be sure that it is going to see the light of day.

I think the director, the captain of the ship, can make a difference if they have a sense of clarity.

Image: Taapsee Pannu with costar Manoj Manchu in her acting debut Jhummandi Naadam

What do you make of the balance that actors try to strike between commercial success and acclaim?

I believe in it because it’s a really good strategy.

It’s only fair that they do a 100-crore movie because it’s only then that they can have an audience that’ll come to watch other kinds of movies.

A lot of people ask me if I’d like to do a female-centric film and I just tell them let me have a market first, I’ll have to work with the big names first, only then the audience will want to watch me in a female-centric film.

That said, of course there are all kinds of commercial movies too these days.

While there are dumbed-down films, the complete no-brainers, but there’s also a Barfi! that has been commercially successful.

Tell us a little bit about Agra Ka Dabra.

It is a fun, Agra-based film, a very Shoojit Sircar kind of romantic comedy. It’s a very close-to-reality film with novel characters.

Tell us a little about your association with the P&G Shiksha campaign.

This is the first time I’ve associated with the P&G’s Shiksha campaign.

We all end up buying their products and it helps them channel the money into the education of underprivileged kids.

So in a way all of us have been associated with it. It’s always nice to use your position for such causes.

If as an actor, we can push these kids towards education, if you have that kind of influence on people’s lives, there’s nothing like it.

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Nishi Tiwari in Mumbai