Clearly enjoying her moment in the sun, Taapsee Pannu holds forth on her career moves and learning from her mistakes. She had that unmistakable spunk in her earlier films like Aadukalam (Tamil) and Gundello Godari (Telugu) but there were also forgettable films like Shadow (Telugu). It took Shoojit Sircar and Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Pink for Taapsee to really come into the limelight and steal hearts in Bollywood! In her conversation with Masala! she talks about Naam Shabana, Akshay Kumar, her upcoming projects, and more.
Could you share your experience for shooting for Naam Shabana?
This came as a very big, pleasant surprise. I had wanted to do a role like this for a long time. Any actress couldn't ask for a better film. It took a lot of hard work from Baby to Naam Shabana. This character, particularly, is nothing like me. So this is something I don't connect to on a personal level at all. I had to learn a lot about this character –the way she speaks, how reads between the lines and so on. A lot of people taught me martial arts. I put in a lot of hard work. The kind of people I had - my director, writer, everyone – I knew I had the best people and if there was any fault, they would be there to save me. I blindly surrendered to them.
Did you take lessons in action from Akshay Kumar?
Not from him directly but from a set of people from Baby. Right from the preparation of Baby till Naam Shabana, under his guidance, people trained me.
What is the best thing about working with an actor like Akshay?
The best thing is when you have an actor like him not just as a co-actor but also as a producer, you know you will be backed all the way. The fear goes away. The fact that he was there in the film made me carefree!
You are enjoying this phase of your career after Pink. How have things changed for you?
Yes, I'm enjoying this phase of my career. I don't think I had a good career earlier… I've done a lot of films down south. After all the ups and downs in my career so far, I've learnt not to let success go to my head, nor to take failure to my heart. You have to give all you’ve got to be appreciated. And yes, the audience has started appreciating my work. Every film is a battle. I have to make sure every rupee a person spends in the theatre to watch a film is worth it. I really don't think it'll be an easy ride from here. It just gets more and more difficult if I start thinking about it. I work hard in every film like it's my first.
Do you still get pre-release jitters?
Yes, I get them before every film! Though it has been a few years since I've been working in this industry, every Wednesday and Thursday is crazy for me. The last of them are very scary. Even after Friday, I'm worried about success and failure!
What was working with Manoj Bajpai like?
Intimidating! Not just Manoj Bajpai but Prithvi Raj too. I get intimidated by people who are really good at their job. The first shot is pretty intimidating when I’m around these really good actors. When I know that I'm in their presence and they're really good at their job, I kind of get this pressure in my head thinking 'am I doing right?' That had me intimidated in the beginning!
Was the prequel to Baby planned earlier?
No, it wasn't. It was the decision of the audience. It was after the reaction to my character in Baby that made the makers think of me in a prequel.
After the success of Pink, do you feel people expect a lot more out of you?
Of course they do. Now, if I do a good film people will like my work. I would be upset if people didn’t expect more out of me! I think that's what you work for. You have an image – a good image – so they have expectations and I'm happy they do!
What was the best thing you learnt from Amitabh Bachchan?
Never to take even a single shot for granted! The amount of effort and hard work that man puts in is great. After the number of films he's done, anyone would just sit, relax and do what he wants to. But the amount of hard work he put in, in each and every shot makes me feel that even if I put in half of that, I'd be happy.
Is there any particular genre of films you now have in mind?
No, with the kind of variety I've already done, I've never aimed at a particular genre. I hope I keep getting a variety of roles. I keep experimenting, that's what works. Further to this, I don't have a particular genre in mind either but I crave to explore – I want to do something which has negative shades!
Could you share the difference between working in Tamil and Hindi cinema?
The difference is of the language – that is the only difference.
Have you made any good friends in Bollywood who help you with your choice of films?
I don't have any friends in the industry. I really want to keep my personal life separate from my professional life. For me pack-up means pack-up. I care for the people who don't really care how big or small a star I am…or how my last Friday was! The people I've worked with have shared a really good bond with me. I have managed to live up to their expectations and done my job well. But, it's not like I go and hang out with them much after work.
What do you have lined up after Naam Shabana?
I think the only film I can talk about after Naam Shabana is Judwaa. There are a couple of other films but I can't talk about them till the release dates are announced.