Taapsee Pannu has been basking in glory with her back-to-back hits, and rich and varied filmography in the last few years with films like Mulk, Manmarziyaan, Badla, Saand Ki Aankh, Thappad and most recently Haseen Dillruba to name a few. One of the most prolific actresses, Pannu will have five releases this year provided, "my films don't eat up into each other's space", and she laughs heartily. In the upcoming multilingual fantasy-comedy Annabelle Sethupathi, Pannu plays a queen from colonial times who returns as a ghost in the present day, to haunt the palace her husband had built for her.
"I have played a dual role, it was fun and challenging at the same time. I play a British descent girl Annabelle in one role because the film is based in 1948 around the Independence era and I also play this present day girl Rudra who is a local thug, a con artist. These are two diametrically different characters with different looks and behaviour but it is not like I am playing a twin role. I never had to be in the same frame in both the looks so no technical glitch is possible but it is a reincarnation of sorts. I enjoyed it, and again it is an actor's high," said the actress.
On returning to South with Annabelle Sethupathi
A few years back, Pannu, who began her journey with films down South over a decade ago, had started refusing Tamil and Telugu films when she realised that she was doing the 'prop' kinds of roles just to be visible in the market alongside big heroes. Obviously, that risk paid off but then what made her say 'Yes' to Annabelle Sethupathi? "I said 'yes' to this film despite not being a fan of this genre but I have done two of my most successful films in the South in this genre. Every time I did those films I wanted to say 'No' but I ended up saying 'Yes' after hearing the script. I find this genre too over-the-top for me but those scripts made me change my decisions and both the films have been huge hits," she says.
She further explains, "I had started saying 'No' to films in the South sometime before 2016 because at that time I didn't have good control on my craft. I was still learning how to go about in the industry. I have learnt not what to do from my mistakes. What hit me hard was when I was written off by the media as someone who is a stroke of bad luck to the industry. That is what made me take that hard decision of saying 'No' to films where I don't matter which was a good decision or else I would have probably never changed my path and would have continued doing those films."
"So when Deepak (Sundarrajan, Director) approached me, I told him this was not the genre I wanted to do and that I have done it enough but he insisted I hear it once. I heard it and again it made me think. It is something that is so beautifully written. Unfortunately, theatres are not open otherwise it would have been a perfect family entertainer. I haven't done something like this in Bollywood. If this film was written in Hindi I would have still done it. The director told me that he didn't want to do the film with anyone else and it is very heart-warming to hear, 'It is you or nobody'. He had to wait for over a year for my dates but he did. I still stand by the film. And then I found out that Vijay (Sethupathi) said 'yes' to doing a part, which was strange because you don't really come across heroes who are ready to do parts in a film that is titled after the woman's character," says the actress.
On films in her pipeline
With a tight slate of back-to-back films, Pannu says she's getting to choose from 'more diverse roles, scripts and genres'.
Her slate includes Rashmi Rocket (a sports drama), Looop Lapeta (comedy-thriller), Dobaaraa, a supernatural science fiction, then her own production Blurr which is a thriller, and Shabaash Mithu, a biopic on cricketer Mithali Raj. "These are the films that I have shot, or I am shooting for. I will have to space out, so let's see how much I am able to fit in this year otherwise there will be a spill-over next year. I feel like I am running alone competing with my own timing," she laughs, further adding, "These are all different genre films and all are taxing, both mentally and physically and that drains me out. Every set that I go to there is at least one set where I say to myself " 'What was I thinking when I signed this film?' I put myself in these tricky roles and situations where there is more than I can handle. I really will have to draw a small line somewhere before I go nuts (laughs). But I am glad that I have become a first choice for a lot of films and there are certain genres where people have started saying this is Taapsee kind of film.
It is very nice to hear when you can create a niche and genre of your own which is very rare to have. People often tell me, 'Aren't you scared of getting typecast?' But I tell them this is one kind of typecasting that I would want to have."
Due to Covid-induced lockdown, Pannu says, it became extremely difficult and stressful for her to complete all her assignments especially since she had to maintain certain physicality for the sports film that she was doing. "I was ready to get into shape for Rashmi Rocket for which I was required to do a lot of hard work. I was working on it for three months and suddenly everything was shut and it was difficult to maintain and get back that kind of a body. Also, all my buffer dates and gaps that I had kept between my films started getting eaten up and I literally had to jump from one film to the other and there was no breather which took a toll on me. It was very taxing because I had to finish five films between the first and second lockdown. Annabelle¦was the first film that I shot for when things eased up. I shot this film in September 2020 when very few states had opened up, Rajasthan being one of them. That is why we went to Jaipur and shot this film in one go, in one location and came back," said Pannu.
On launching her production house
Pannu, recently, took a step forward in her career by launching her production house, 'Outsider Films'. Justifying the name, she says, "Because I want people to start seeing this term in a positive light and I want to proudly own this space of being an outsider." On her new stint, "I have turned producer not just to profit share but to actually take hard calls on the packaging of the film. I cannot make those calls as an actor because there are limitations, or it could lead to calling a truce and disagreements as not everyone likes suggestions."
Lastly, when asked if there was any role that would excite her, she signs off saying, "If I am able to get into Avengers¦that is one role, one genre...and the day the entry opens up for an Indian to be cast in it, I am definitely auditioning for it, and if I am selected then I think I have done it all."