You can't miss Taapsee these days. Be it magazine covers, photoshoots, social media and films - Taapsee is everywhere.
From being known for her glamorous roles in Tollywood, she’s emerged as one of the most interesting talents in Bollywood today, thanks to the success of films like Baby and Pink.
Taapsee understands the impact that her two Hindi films have had on her career and the change in people's perception towards her. She is now in a position where she can have a good laugh about how people, who once tagged her as an 'unlucky' actor, have begun praising her 'remarkable' talent.
"I don't get as many hate tweets now, even if my films don't do that well at the box-office. I think people finally understood that, even when I was doing ultra-glamorous roles, I chose only from what was offered to me," Taapsee laughs. "Now people are slowly starting to judge me beyond my screen presence."
Despite acting alongside Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan, and associating with Neeraj Pandey and Shoojit Sircar, Taapsee has often stated that she still feels like an outsider in Bollywood.
Ask her what it would take to change all that, she says, "I don't know what it takes to be an insider. I'm an outsider in all possible ways. None of my family members has a connection to the film industry. I didn't start my career with a big star's film; I wasn't launched by a big studio and I didn't have a three or five film deal. For that matter, I didn't win a single award for my debut film. More importantly, I'm not even dating a star (laughs). So, the only way I can make people stand up and take notice of me is to deliver one hard-hitting performance after another. With films like Baby, Pink and now Naam Shabana, you don't have a choice any more. You better notice me now (laughs)."
Life after Pink
Image courtesy: Facebook/ Taapsee Pannu; With President Pranabh Mukherjee.
Last month, the actor was in the news when she was invited by Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India, for a dinner at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, along with the rest of the cast from Pink.
Recently, Taapsee was on cloud nine that she's going to be part of a new initiative - Picture Time - which will bring digital cinema close to people in rural areas, and is going to be implemented by the Chattisgarh state government soon.
"I won't be surprised if this initiative becomes a country-wide phenomenon. I really liked the idea behind the initiative to enable people in remote areas get a chance to watch films through a mobile theatre. Not every small village and town in the country has access to cinema halls like what Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have," Taapsee avers.
Of late, she has been touring across the country to promote her upcoming film Naam Shabana, which has her playing a spy.
"I don't think Naam Shabana was on the cards before Baby released, but soon after that, I got a call from Neeraj Pandey who told me that they were keen on exploring the backstory of my character in Baby. And thus, Naam Shabana was born. I had done just two films till then and it was a big deal for me to have gotten a chance to play the title role so early in my career," Taapsee recalls.
"It was an extremely intense experience. I had dabbled with martial arts for my role in Baby and I had to continue doing all that as part of preparation for Naam Shabana. And I also read a lot about what goes into making of a spy, where do these people come from, what are their motivations and reasons to choose this path, and more importantly, how are female spies selected. My character isn't based on a true incident, but I would say that lives of several female spies were taken as reference points,” she adds.
That people have been taking her more seriously, especially after Pink, is quite evident. But has she too begun taking herself more seriously?
"To be honest, I'm kind of feeling that pressure right now. The reason I say this is because I'm trying to really understand what works at box-office and what is expected out of me. Now, it's not just about being a good actor. It's also about an image that's going to be tagged to me. I'm happy that media and audience have started relating to me beyond my films. That's why it's an added responsibility. My aim is to reach to a position where people begin to believe in me so much that they'll go watch a film just because I'm part of it. That's what I'm working towards," Taapsee confesses.
On being Taapsee
Image courtesy: Screenshot from Pink
It's not just about her choices when it comes to films, Taapsee has also become a leading voice for more serious issues that continue to make news in the country. Be it women empowerment, gender, pay gap, social issues and everything else, Taapsee is in a phase where her opinion matters.
Prod her if she has ever found herself in a tight spot because she has to say the right thing, she laughs out loud and says, "Sometimes, if I over think, I do feel that pressure to be right. But I snap out of that zone soon. So far, people have loved me and supported me for whatever I've said and done. I don't fake anything and people have accepted me the way I'm. If I try too hard, then it'll show and there's every chance that people will disconnect with me. I believe in everything I say. That's why people connect with me. I try to keep it as real as possible."
The actor credits her close friends as her biggest support system in her life. "I disconnect from the film world after I pack up. I have a very little inner circle and that's whom I hang out with after pack-up. My friends aren't from the industry. And they keep me focused and grounded," Taapsee signs off.