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‘I am not delusional’: Taapsee Pannu on ‘Manmarziyaan’ and making a mark in Bollywood on her own terms

‘I am not delusional’: Taapsee Pannu on ‘Manmarziyaan’ and making a mark in Bollywood on her own terms – Taapsee Pannu’s Bollywood career trajectory in the last two years has been pretty good. From playing a damsel in distress in Running Shaadi, Judwaa 2 and Dil Juunglee to impressing the audience with her acting chops in in Pink as well as Mulk and shouldering a film all by herself (Naam Shabana), she’s come a long way. Today, she has created a niche for herself by working on her own terms. She laughs it off saying, “My life, my rules — that’s a simple thing I follow.”

This is my first meeting with the heroine and there’s a sense of confidence in her demeanour. She doesn’t shy away from speaking the truth. Over the next 20 minutes, Taapsee tells us what she’s insecure about, her sole reason to pick Manmarziyaan and more. Excerpts.

You’ve managed to create your space in the last few years…

When people tell me that I’ve created my own space, it makes me feel happy (smiles). Because in Mumbai, anyway, there is little space for people. So, if I could make some for myself in this big world of Hindi cinema, why wouldn’t I be happy?

Do you feel more settled here now?

If you’re asking me in terms of security, then no. And it shouldn’t come in as well. If I feel secure, I’ll get too relaxed. Then, I won’t be on my toes. You won’t get to see me in those films that have helped me create that space for me. I’m still awkward and not sure of whether a film will work or not. I get those jitters before every release and I’m not sure about getting more films in future. I’ve insecurities, that’s why I’m doing the kind of stuff that I’m doing.

You’re from Delhi. But is there a sense of belonging towards Mumbai now?

I’m a hardcore Delhi girl and I didn’t travel to other cities, even for a few days, till my college was over. I was in Hyderabad for two-three years and then I came here. So no, I don’t feel that I belong here.

I’ll always be a Delhi girl at heart, but I’ve started telling myself that I’m at work. So at times, when I’m not working, I might not be too comfortable staying here. It’s then I travel back to Delhi or go on vacations.

Your success story gives confidence to other youngsters who are aspiring to make a career in showbiz but don’t have godfathers…

I wish and pray it does. See, it’s not easy. Every day you will face things which might make you cry and will put you down. There are thousands of people coming to Mumbai each day trying to make it big in life. But everyone doesn’t end up as Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan, right? So there should always be a back-up plan in place because this isn’t the be-all and end-all of life. If things are sorted, there won’t be any desperation to make it big. If it doesn’t work, you can do something else. If that’s the attitude, you’re halfway through. For the remaining half, you need to believe that you know what’s right for yourself more than anyone else. If you’re ready to go through the grind, then only plan this.

What was your back-up plan then?

Acting has been coincidental for me. I wanted to become an actress only after my first film Jhummandi Naadam (2010) released. I just took it as a timepass outing thinking I might learn something new. I had a Plan A — I’m an engineer and landed a job with Infosys, which I didn’t take up. I wanted to do my MBA back then, get into marketing and then eventually become the CEO of some company. It was a conventional plan. I like the creative side of business.

That comes in handy when you’re promoting your films…

Yes, that helps. Initially, I was trying to get a hang of how things happen here. How do you tell people and sell your films to them? Now, when I sit across a table and give my ideas, people tell me that I’ve become quite intelligent (smiles). I know what kind of projects I should take up for the audience to invest their time in me. I can’t be like — mujhe script acchi lagi, main toh ghus gayi. Aise nahin hota hai. It’s about who you are working with and if the content of the film is something that viewers will want to see at this point and time. Is it relevant to today’s times? I want to do films that trigger that nerve in my audience. So now, I’m getting more involved with the process.

Stardom, too, comes with an expiry date. Has that thought ever crossed your mind?

Yes, I’m not delusional. I know all this will end and I want it to end also someday. I have only one life — I want to do so many other things — so whenever it happens, it should happen gracefully. That’s all I’m praying for. The ladder I’m climbing up right now is the same one I’ll climb down. The plan is not to act till the last breath of my life. Till the time I have fun and I’m enjoying the kind of films coming my way and the audience is accepting the content I’m creating, I’ll do it. The day I feel that stops and I have to drag myself to work, I’ll call it quits. That’s it. I didn’t enter the industry for passion, money or fame.

What drew you towards Manmarziyaan?

When Kanika Dhillon, the film’s writer, narrated the script to me, I felt there was no challenge in portraying this character (Rumi). I’m a black or white person in real life, there’s no grey. But this character is confused and indecisive. So, I couldn’t relate to her. When you see the film, you will realise which part I’m talking about. During the narration of that particular portion, I got a little put off. As Taapsee, I couldn’t buy it and wasn’t too convinced. Then, she said something which was the reason I took up the film. She told me, ‘Had it not been for that patch, it would have been a cakewalk for you.’ Suddenly, it became a challenge for me to convince others about something I myself wasn’t entirely agreeing to. That became the selling point for me. Also, Aanand L Rai and Anurag Kashyap were involved in the project, so who else to take that leap of faith with? Let’s see if the audience buys it now (smiles).

The trailer reminds us of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. What do you think?

Honestly, as a love story, nobody can boast claiming that ours is a different love story. I’m not selling you the film’s storyline. I’m not telling people this is a story they have never seen before. No! You would have seen yeh ya kuch aur milake, kuch na kuch dekha hi hoga sab ne. I’m selling the feeling that the film leaves you with — the way you’re going to be rooting for the character, in spite of knowing the story. You’ll know the ending and you’ll still enjoy everything the character does.

‘I am not delusional’: Taapsee Pannu on ‘Manmarziyaan’ and making a mark in Bollywood on her own terms