I am not suited for brainless masala movies: Tapsee Pannu

Photo: Tejinder Singh Khamkha

Bollywood diva Tapsee Pannu has once again proved that she is one of the most bankable female stars in the country. This time, with her spectacular performance in the movie Rashmi Rocket that was released on an OTT platform. And she says that she is not suited for brainless masala movies and also for intense movies that requires the audience to break their brains. Rather, she believes that she stand between these two, mostly doing movies that the audience love and enjoy.

The movie Rashmi Rocket has sprinted into the hearts of the audience. The movie portrays the gritty tale of Rashmi, the female athlete who is banned from sports due to high levels of male hormones like testosterone in her body. 

The film which boldly exposes the gender bias and corruption in sports is garnering positive reviews from both the audience and the critics alike. Tapsee delivered a power packed performance as Rashmi, working hard to build stamina and transforming her body to look like a real athlete. The actress who charmed the South Indian audience with a handful of super hit movies before proving her mettle in Bollywood speaks to Manorama from the sets of her movie Sabash Mithu, another sports drama in which she essays the role of legendary Indian cricketer Mithali Raj. Tapsee says that her role in Rashmi Rocket was the most challenging in her career. 

“Rashmi Rocket is more special than my other films. I was sure that I had to work hard for this movie when I heard the story. I haven’t strived this hard for the perfection of a character. I had to completely change my body for playing Rashmi. I had spent almost a year for athletics training and workout. I began training in 2020 January and continued until the filming got completed in 2021 January. To remain fit, I used to run up the stairs of the forty storey building in which I was staying. I practiced in the gym and on tracks on alternate days. I would reach the track at 6 am and practice till 8 am. I made sure that I completed the 100, 200 and 400 meters race in time. Meanwhile, I was shooting for other projects too. So, I had to reach the location by 9 am and spent the whole day shooting. My body needed rest as I was practicing hard. So, I tried to sleep at least by 10 pm. Rashmi Rocket had not only transformed my body but had changed my daily routine too,” says Tapsee.

How did you land the lead role in this movie?

It was Tamil filmmaker Nandaperiyaswamy who told me the story of this movie. We had met at Chennai. He met me as he wanted to do it in Tamil. However, after hearing the story I felt that the plot has a pan Indian flavor. I thought that it could be done on a larger canvas too. I told this to my friend Pranjal Khandi who also owns a production house. He too agreed with me that the film has a pan Indian appeal. Moreover, he promised to cooperate in the production too. It was his words that gave me the confidence to proceed with this project.

Taapsee in Rashmi Rocket

Even though you are garnering praises for your performance, you are being subjected to severe body shaming and trolling on the social media after the release of Rashmi Rocket?

Rashmi Rocket is an athlete who looks a bit masculine. There are many comments on the social media saying that I look like a man. I have worked really hard to attain that shape and look. So, those insults are actually like appreciations for me. These comments prove that I have played that role in all its authenticity and perfection.

Your roles in Thappad, Pink, Haseen Dilruba and Naam Shabana were amazing. How do you manage to choose unique roles?

I approach a character as an audience and not as an actress. I would say ‘yes’ to a project only if the movie and the character excites me. After hearing a story, the first thing I would consider is whether I would spend money and go to the theatre to watch this movie. I am always drawn to unique themes that we haven’t seen, known or experienced until now. If the story and the character are really special, then I wouldn’t think too much about other factors. Whether it is a commercial film or an art house movie doesn’t influence my choices. 

Female artists are nowhere near attaining equality in the workspaces, says Tapsee. Photo: Tejinder Singh Khamkha

Do you deliberately choose women centric roles and movies?

Not at all. However, most of the roles that come my way are like that. So, I can only choose from those. The incredible success of such movies brings more women centric roles for me. I believe that I am not suited for brainless masala movies and also for intense movies that requires the audience to break their brains to grasp it. I stand between these two, mostly doing movies that the audience love and enjoy. I make sure to maintain this balance when I choose movies. 

You are stepping into producing too? 

I have started my own production house with the confidence that I have gained by studying the nuances of the movie industry from close quarters. My friend Pranjal Khandi is a partner. Blur, the first movie produced by Outsiders Films will be released next year.

Rashmi Rocket boldly exposes the gender bias and corruption in sports

Are there any hurdles in front of Indian actresses?

There are lots of hurdles. Female artists are nowhere near attaining equality in the workspaces. For instance, the entire budget of a female centric movie would be equal to or less than the remuneration of a leading male hero. The female actresses are paid way less than their male counterparts. Not just that, the remuneration of other actors who act in such female centric movies and the entire production cost too is minimal. 

It’s been almost a decade since you acted in Doubles. Why didn’t you act in another Malayalam movie?

I really like Malayalam. I enjoy watching Malayalam movies too. However, the main hurdle against accepting offers from Malayalam is my lack of command over the language. I am someone who started in Tamil and Telugu movies and then reached Hindi. I realized that our proficiency in language significantly influences our performance, only when I began doing movies in my mother tongue Hindi. My current decision is to not act in a language that I am not fluent in, as I don’t wish to ruin a film. 

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