Bring on the roles!

Bring on the roles!

Bring on the roles!
When I establish myself in Bollywood, the first thing I’ll do is buy a house for myself here,” a sprightly debutante had told me in 2013, as she awaited the release of her first Bollywood movie, David Dhawan’s remake of Chashme Baddoor. Fresh from her success in the Tamil and Telugu film industries, and testing waters in Mumbai, Taapsee’s was the voice of a girl who was supremely confident.

It’s been four years since that conversation and Taapsee Pannu has not just tasted success, but also made a mark for herself as an actor who is doing daringly different roles. And yes, she has bought that pad promised to herself! “Yes, yes!” she laughs, “I can say I’m fairly well-settled in Bollywood now.” With Pink and Baby behind her, that would be an understatement. This actor owned 2016 with her roles in the two widely acclaimed films.

Double treat
Recently, two of her films released on the same day — Running Shaadi and The Ghazi Attack. “It seems like I’ve been working round the clock in the past one year only, but I have been working every day since Chashme Baddoor. Shoojit Sircar had signed me up for Running Shaadi then, and even The Ghazi Attack has been in the making for a while now. It’s sheer coincidence that the release of two films got pushed and they got out on the same Friday!” says Taapsee.

While she has the lead role in Running Shaadi, which has been greeted with a neutral response from the audience, her marginal role in The Ghazi Attack has managed to wow its watchers.

Taapsee confesses she couldn’t get the diva roles in Bollywood. “Somehow I just didn’t bag the glamorous ones. There was no one queuing up to sign me for acting all pretty and desirable. So I really had no option but to try out new things. I went all out. ‘If you don’t like this, then how about this? Or this?’ — that’s how I approached my audience. I’m just so happy they like me in different avatars!” says the actor.

In fact, her 20-minute role in Neeraj Pandey’s film Baby left such an impact on the audience that it compelled the filmmakers to make a prequel titled Naam Shabana, with her character as the protagonist. Now that is a first for Bollywood. “Shabana was supposed to be one of the characters in Baby. It was never planned that she would get more screen space, but the way the audience reacted triggered Naam Shabana. I genuinely felt I have earned that role. Neeraj told me that he just had to give me that space because people wanted to see me as Shabana,” she says.

Naam Shabana (also to be dubbed in Tamil and Telugu) is directed by Shivam Nair and stars Taapsee as Shabana Khan, while Akshay Kumar is Ajay Singh Rajput. Taapsee has undergone intense martial arts training for her role as Shabana. “It was Krav Maga and Aikido all the way. Whatever was needed to pull it off well,” she says, adding that she was a tad nervous about her film. “I became jittery because I realised that for the first time ever, I was shouldering the responsibility of this film. I moved to Naam Shabana two days after Pink released, and the reviews started flowing in. I turned to Shital (Bhatia) and Neeraj (both producers of the film) to relieve my tension and they were pretty cool about it. They turned around and said, ‘Hey! Great to see other people agree that you are a good find!’ I kind of settled down after that reassurance,” she smiles.

Prepping well
In the middle of all these hard-hitting roles came David Dhawan’s offer for the sequel to Judwaa. Taapsee says her immediate response was an energetic yes. “If I keep doing only action-packed or serious films, it will dilute their impact. I’m very happy to shift gears and do a different role. And also super happy to look all pretty and flutter those eyelashes in Judwaa 2! I will get to dance too!” There’s more of the romcom variety coming her way. Taapsee will also be seen in Prakash Raj’s film Tadka, based on the Malayalam superhit Salt N’ Pepper, and debutant film director Aleya Sen Sharma’s Makhna, opposite Saquib Saleem. But next up: Naam Shabana.