Taapsee Pannu faced the film camera for the first time in Aadukalam (2011).
Taapsee Pannu is creating her niche with films like Pink, Naam Shabana, Mulk, Badla, Game Over, Saand Ki Aankh and the latest Thappad. Picking content-driven films and strong characters, Taapsee has emerged as one of the most bankable female stars of Hindi cinema.
But Taapsee never planned to acquire such a stature in films. The model-turned-actor says she just stumbled into the profession, eventually making her acting debut in 2010, when she signed two films together – Aadukalam (Tamil) and Jhummandi Naadam (Telugu). Taapsee did nearly a dozen projects down south including Mr Perfect, Arambam and Mogudu, before turning to Bollywood with Chashme Baddoor (2013).
Taapsee Pannu, who has movies like Shabaash Mithu, Rashmi Rocket, Haseen Dillruba and Looop Lapeta in her kitty, reveals how she stumbled into acting. She says though Jhummandi Naadam (2010) hit screens first, it was for Aadukalam (2011) that she first faced the film camera.
Here's what she shared:
1. What was your first on camera acting project? How did the project come to you?
I was doing modelling in Delhi just for the sake of pocket money. So all these casting directors in the south had my pictures. So they called me up, and I went there to do auditions. Even for auditions there, they just used to click pictures and see if the person fits in the look or not. I was very clear about the fact that I don’t know acting and I don’t know the language. They said we will teach you. So there were two films that I signed simultaneously – one Telugu and one Tamil. Telugu film was called Jhummandi Naadam. It was directed by Raghavendra Rao. He’s the guy who introduced Sridevi ma’am and all. He’s known for launching heroines, and it was his 105th directorial. The other film which I signed was a Tamil film opposite Dhanush. It was called Aadukalam, directed by Vetrimaaran. That film went on to win six National Awards in 2011. When I signed it, since I had no idea about films, I just signed it based on my Google research of the people who were involved with the project. So I signed it simultaneously, but the first set that I went to shoot was Aadukalam. My first film that released was the Telugu one because that got finished earlier.
Vetrimaaran directorial Aadukalam starred Dhanush and Taapsee Pannu.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
On the first day, I was shooting in this slum kind of an area of Madurai. That was also my first time ever in south India, and I went there alone. I didn’t have any family member or anyone accompanying me. It was a totally different world because people didn’t speak the same language. The food was different. The job was different. What I was doing on the set was something I had never done before. So I did feel like sheep in the big city that day. On the first day, I just had two lines out of which one was Tamil and one was in English because I played an Anglo-Indian girl in the film. And that was my first time mouthing a language I don’t know. Obviously, I was nervous and conscious of everything possible.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
I had to shoot with Dhanush and another senior actor (VIS Jayapalan) who played a very important part in the film. Both these actors eventually won a National Award for the film, and I didn’t. (laughs) So I am just aiming for that only, one fine day it’ll happen! But anyway, I shared the same space and then said those lines. The good part was the director was so smart that he knew that this is not my thing. So he put me in a scene where I am supposed to be clueless. And the way I said the line also was like, “mujhe kuch pata nahi hai, but main just bol rahi hoon! (I don’t know anything, but I’m just speaking for the sake of it!) I just said the line with that kind of expression. It was fine in the first take itself because I had to be so conscious and not so easy and comfortable in that space. And that worked because the director was smart enough to put me in that scene for the first time.
4. Who were your co-stars? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
I majorly shot with Dhanush. Only very few shots with other actors. I had actors playing my family members who were real Anglo-Indian people from that area where we were shooting. I was in touch with the lady who played my grandma. I had a few scenes with her. She is no more alive, but I am still in touch with her family. Then I am still in touch with Dhanush. Other actors, I don’t really meet or know. I had very brief interaction with them because most of the times I was concentrating on my lines. I was so conscious of the fact that I don’t know the language, so I was over learning my lines out of the fear that I will forget.
5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what's that one thing you'd like to change or do better?
Now it’ll be a totally different ballgame. Now even if I want to, I will not be able to recreate what I did. I don’t know how I will do it now, but it definitely will not be what it was.
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6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
Nothing because I never wanted to become an actor. Even when I was doing my initial films, I was not very sure how long I am going to do this. I was doing it for the sake of experimenting with my life. It was only when my films in both languages became hits is when I thought maybe destiny has this in store for me. That’s when I gave it a full-fledged thought of doing it in a proper, planned way.
I used to see all kinds of films. I’ll see thrillers. I’ll see those frivolous comedies also. I’ll see rom-coms. During my school days, since my parents never took me to a theater, I didn’t develop this habit of watching films in theaters. I used to just watch whatever was coming on TV for lunch or dinner. It was only in college that all the friends used to decide to watch a film. It was not like “whatever has released on this Friday, we have to watch it.” It was more like we are going out together and let’s go watch that.