MUMBAI—This woman of substance, as a woman of substance, does not have much to prove. A series of Hindi films, beginning with her debut in “Chashme Buddoor” (2013) under David Dhawan’s direction, and moving on to films with pith like “Baby,” “Pink,” “Naam Shabana” and “The Ghazi Attack” have shown that Taapsee is here to stay. Her roles may have been long or short, but they are always important, if not pivotal.
“When I signed ‘Baby,’ I knew that my role would stand out. In the South (where she has done some 20 films), I have even co-starred with heroines where I had lesser or better roles. I am not insecure as I know my audience will notice me,” she told India-West.
Pragmatically stating that she is yet to be an A-lister in Hindi cinema, Taapsee Pannu said that this struggle was a given and she was ready for it the day she stepped into films. “I have no godfather backing me, so I know that if I have a flop, I might have to start from scratch. I am not even a controversial figure to help me stay in the limelight. That stress will always be there.”
The actress nevertheless said that she is in this happy space where she does not have to do films for the sake of it. “I will sign any film whose script and setup I like irrespective of who else is in it,” she preened, adding “I will continue to do films down South as well.”
Coming to “Judwaa 2,” this is her second film with Dhawan, and his romantic comedies are the only time she had unwound herself and let go. Otherwise, her Hindi roles have been oh-so-serious and intense. “People have this set notion that such serious, intense and brooding roles are challenging, but comedy is indeed serious business, and it is not easy to make people laugh,” she said.
“We have to be effortless. Frankly, I feel comedy comes easy to me though because I am quite a goofy person myself!” she added with a laugh.
Accepting the interesting fact that both her David Dhawan films have been remakes, she says that her role in “Judwaa 2” is not at all like Rambha’s in the 1997 original. “I am not shy, but a very 2017 girl who takes the lead, unlike the girl in that film,” she asserted. “In 20 years, it is girls who have changed best and most. I am a college girl, smart, not at all overdramatic, just like a girl next door.”
But there is a big asterisked Conditions Apply to the girl-next-door here, she said. “My only stress this time was that I had to look like a million bucks in every frame, as I had to match up to the hottest male, Varun Dhawan, and the hottest female, Jacqueline Fernandez! I worked really hard at that, even taking a six-month gym membership for the first time in my life! For ‘Naam Shabana’ I did a 2.5-hour workout to improve my core strength. Here too, I took the same time to tone myself up to look good! Thank God it’s over!” she smiled mischievously.
Would she be willing to do a web short or web series, because she likes doing different roles? “See, it’s like this,” she answered. “People explore that place to work at something out of the box, which is not very common in regular cinema. I have no reason to do so at all, as I am getting very unsafe films here, let me tell you! The day I need to, maybe I will do something like that.”
Why is her name differently written as both Taapsee and Taapsee Pannu? Does she leave that choice to the filmmakers? “I don’t know, yaar!” she said with a pout. “Both the names are uncommon, so maybe they cannot get past one difficult name! Maybe there are space constraints for ‘Pannu.’ I don’t bother about this. Let them write whatever they want. There’s only one Taapsee in films, so that’s fine!”
And how was it working with Salman Khan? “That was my quietest day on sets. I was speechless, just ogling at him! I expected him to be a star, to have an aura, to be effortless – and he was!”