“I take life as it comes, but I won’t take everything that comes”
By Ankita R Kanabar
(This interview was published in the March 9, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)
(This interview was published in the March 9, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)
One look at Taapsee Pannu, and you know that you probably cannot forget that face. The lady has a different level of vivaciousness, that I notice when I meet her. Her animated face, and high-pitched, modulated voice are testaments to her excitement, for her Hindi cinema debut. After doing some considerably good work, down south, the actress is all set for her stint in Hindi cinema, as she makes her debut with David Dhawan’s ‘Chashme Buddoor’. Having done few films down the south, and bagging a David Dhawan film here, Taapsee still seems like any other normal girl, who is strong, independent, fun-loving, and follows her heart. In a long chat, she talks all about ‘Chashme Buddoor’ and herself.
So, how did acting happen?
Basically, I don’t come from a filmy background. So, nobody was very supportive of me being an actress. Supportive of me as in, nobody really saw me here, because I’ve always been very studious, and a high-scorer, so it was a big shock for my family to know that I want to get into acting. And it happened very gradually, step by step. In college, in my second year, suddenly people put this thing in my mind that you should try something in modeling or something here and there because you look decently good, so I thought I should give it a shot. I went for Channel V, ‘Get Gorgeous’, got selected in the top ten girls from Delhi, got my portfolio made after that, then there were a lot of print ads, few commercials down south, and parallel to all this, I was doing my graduation in B.Tech. So, I’m an engineer, and then it was a totally different thing all together, to shift base from there to here. And I wanted people to know that the reason why I took up acting, is not because I had lack of options, it’s because I chose it. I had an Infosys job. In my third year itself, I got placed. I sat for the interview itself because I wanted to prove to my family and people around that I’m capable of getting a job. It’s just that I don’t see myself doing a 9-5 job. Then I gave my CAT exam and scored an 88 percentile, but decided not to go for B-school, because I’m not someone who’ll settle down for an average thing. I thought I’ll give it next year again. So, I thought, what to do within that time spent. Then I got really good offers from the south. Good directors, good actors, good production houses, which I didn’t get in Hindi at that point of time. Probably, three years from now, Hindi cinema was not as open to newcomers as it is right now. I didn’t see myself modeling for long, for sure, because I’m a person who gets bored very easily, so I have to keep doing different things all the time. So, I did films down the south. After 1-1 ½ years of working there, I got an offer for a Hindi film. Puri Jagannadh wanted to cast me in ‘Buddah Hoga Terra Baap’, but that didn’t happen as I didn’t have dates at that time, it was too immediate for me. Viacom was producing the same film and they were looking for a new girl for ‘Chashme Buddoor’, and Puri sir recommended me, and that’s how, I got into the film.
The original ‘Chashme Buddoor’ is a cult classic, so, comparisons are inevitable…
Comparisons will be made only till the time people walk into the theatre. Once they walk out of the theatre, they won’t even think of comparing it, because it’s all together a different movie if you see. Only the soul of it is the same where there are three guys trying for this one girl and eventually, one of them gets her. The character-sketches are completely different, especially my character. I’m no longer this shy, coy girl that Deepti mam played. I’m today’s gen X girl, whatever you call it. I’m not the one who’ll be waiting for other people to help her. I’m the one who’ll be standing up for myself. And it’s not the guys who’ll make me run around them, it’s me who’ll like drive them out of my area if I want to. It’s a 180-degree shift from what Deepti mam played and that’s probably the reason why I was cast for this film, because they were like, you just come on to the set, and be yourself, that’s what we want you to do. That’s why it was easy for me.
How do you go about it, when you’re offered a particular role?
I’m not a trained actor, so I don’t know what this preparation for acting is, so I don’t know what homework, am I supposed to do. The only thing that I’ve learnt over a period of time is to know, how will you say a particular line and how your character would say that line. There should be different ways. You are not you in the movie, so, you should find a difference between how you would say a line, and how your character should say it. I haven’t come across any role so far, for which I’ve required extensive preparation. This film, I was taken because I had to play myself. I just had to be myself. That was the easiest thing I was asked to do.
We have this quintessential David Dhawan comedy, so how well did you adapt to that? And how was it being directed by someone like him?
His films have on-the-face comedy. This one is not like that. Because, he was working with all-together a different set of people. He was working with youngsters and even if we try to do that kind of comedy, it will not click on us. Because the age group we belong to, people are very subtle and spontaneous. They won’t like on-the-face comedy. That’s not how the generation today is. So, it’s so surprising that a director, who is such a veteran, could like re-invent himself and work with a newcomer like me, and youngsters like the other actors in the film. He recreated the feel of the youth. He’s actually the youngest by heart. It’s his youth that has reflected in the movie. He’s a fun-loving man. He’s so raw and real, that you don’t feel like you’re meeting ‘The David Dhawan’. He’s very real in front of you. He doesn’t have the aura of being ‘The David Dhawan’, he doesn’t make you feel like he is that. Moreover, he didn’t make me feel like I’m a newcomer. He never really told me that you’re supposed to do this scene in this way. He asks you, how you want to go about it and lets you do it your way. If he wants you to do something else, he’ll tell you, but otherwise he just lets you be. Our job is to just make him laugh, nothing else.
Tell us about your equation with your co-stars in the film
Ali (Zafar) is a shy person, he hardly speaks and I’m a total contrast, and that was the funniest thing because in the movie also we play similar characters. His role is of a guy who is very shy and soft spoken and all. I had maximum scenes with him in the film. He’s very sweet. We used to force him to sing to just lighten up the mood or when we were just relaxing. Siddharth, I see him as my senior. He’s been a very encouraging co-actor for me. Whenever I have to do a scene with him, he sees a shot, and if he likes me, he makes sure he comes up to me and tells me that I gave a good shot. Something like that, coming from an actor like him who’s senior to me, is very encouraging. And Divyendu, he hails from the same city as me – Delhi, so that’s the connection we have. I have a good chemistry with Divyendu as well.
So, from here on, is there a plan as to the kind of films you wish to do, in Hindi cinema? Or you like to take things as they come?
I’ve never been a person who plans things, because nothing happens in my life the way I plan otherwise I wouldn’t have been here. But also, I’m not the person who’ll pick up anything and everything. I take life as it comes, but I won’t take everything that comes. I’m already busy enough down south, so it’s not like I have to force myself to take up a Hindi movie, just because it’s a Hindi movie. I waited for the right script to start off in Hindi cinema, I could have started off before only, but I didn’t do that, because I waited for the right thing. So, I have the patience to wait for the right movie. I don’t see myself doing only big superstar movies and all. I’m open to working with younger actors, if the script is really nice. I don’t have reservations as such as long as my script is good enough. I’m busy enough down south so, I don’t have to do a film for the sake of it.
People who’ve worked for both, south, and Hindi cinema feel there’s a difference in the working styles of both the industries. Have you come across any difference?
Being just one film old here, I don’t really spot many differences. But just what I hear, or see around, I can say that down south, we work faster. Here they’re a little laidback and they take it slow. They’ll take it easily. From the time I started shooting for ‘Chashme Buddoor’, till date, I’ve just done one movie in Hindi, and three movies down south. That’s the difference in the amount of work we do there. In terms of the professionalism and all, I didn’t see any difference. Also, because we were all young actors, always prompt and on time. Another difference is that in the south, people treat an artist like God, so if we’re coming and people have to make way for us, they’ll make way as if some God is coming. There would be so apologetic, just because they’re standing in the way. Here it’s nothing like that. People treat each other as equals and there’s nothing wrong in that. Here we are like normal people. There we’re treated like God.
So, the journey of the film must have been a smooth one?
The funny thing is, since I belong to a Punjabi background, my Hindi is a lot like the Punjabi Hindi, and I have that accent. So, when I was shooting for the movie, I didn’t care about how I was sounding, I was more concerned about seeming real. I had dubbed for two of my Telegu movies, so I was like, dubbing in Hindi will be a cakewalk, but the moment I went for dubbing, the first scene itself took like 1-2 hours to dub. I couldn’t just get that normal Hindi accent because I’m so used to talking in the Punjabi style Hindi. I was struggling to speak in normal Hindi. My pronunciations sounded so much Punjabi. And my dubbing engineer was like ‘madam we have to release this film in India, not just in Punjab and Delhi’. That’s one major problem I faced. And, they were like, instead of Seema Raajan, should we change your name in the film to Seema Ranjan? If she’s from a Punjabi background, we could at least justify the accent. (Laughs)They were almost on the verge of giving up and said, ‘this girl can never stop sounding like a Punjabi’. I had to really work hard for the dubbing.
You said your character in ‘Chashme Buddoor’ is like you. So, how are you?
I’m definitely not reserved or shy at all. It’s a difficult task for me to give ‘shying’ expressions on camera even today. Every girl is emotional in her own different way. I might not be emotional on the face, but you won’t know what is going inside me. I get attached to people very fast. That’s one thing that works against me many times. I get attached to and trust people very fast.
What genre do you think is the easiest and the most difficult for you?
Whatever I did in ‘Chashme Buddoor’ was not difficult. Because, I didn’t do a typical comedy role. I just played myself and the situation becomes comic. Doing this was easiest, because I’m playing a girl who’s more real, practical, forthcoming and all that. What becomes difficult for me is to portray a girl who thinks about hundred people before what she wants. That is unreal. Those are the characters that I find difficult portraying. I’m not a trained actor so if I don’t relate to a character, how will I perform it!
Any one director that you really want to work with?
I want to work with all of them. But if you ask me this, the director who comes in my mind is Mani Ratnam. That’s one director who I don’t want to go out of the industry without working with. Even if he makes a film in German or anything, I’ll do that also. But he should make me work in his movie at least once.
When not working, what do you do?
I sleep. I enjoy when I sleep. Or like any other girl, I go out and shop (smiles).