Tamil Interviews

Taapsee Pannu Interview: Reading Between The Lines

In which Taapsee Pannu lets Neelima Menon transcribe her journal.


9.15 am, August 15, 2014

Dear Diary,

I don’t know where to begin. I’m feeling nervous. Really nervous. Yes, I was quite brave when I accepted that negative role in Vai Raja Vai…but now that the shooting is over, I’m a little terrified. What if you get the shock of your life? I play a wild girl.

A wild, wild girl.

God, let this be pleasant.

9.20 am

Dear Diary,

In hindsight, I’m not really the ‘villain’. Nor am I Miss Goody Two Shoes. Na, I cannot be defined. I cannot be bracketed. I just add a little twist to the plot, that’s all.

Confused? I will let you figure that out yourself.

9.45 am

It’s pretty weird, diary, but I barely knew Aishwarya Dhanush before we started shooting for Vai Raja Vai. Yes, I’ve met Aish on a few occasions, but that’s about it.  She was trying to reach me for quite some time, but I didn’t return her calls. I just didn’t make the effort to get back to her, yaar.

She’s a chilled out person, though. Such a darling. She just let me be. She would listen to my ideas, and we’d discuss them with me over a cuppa tea.

So, recently, a journalist wanted to know the difference between working with a male and a female director.

So I told the journalist,

Just the gender, dude.

Honestly, I don’t get this question. I see absolutely no difference.

Anyway, about this role – I had to tread super carefully. It was a thin line. A very thin one. Between what, you ask? I won’t tell you, diary. You must watch the movie.

But there’s something that I can tell you. I can’t continue doing those 4-songs-5-scenes roles again. They bore me to tears. I am done with them. Thanks, but no thanks. I am looking for variety.

Anyhow, I have a photo-shoot scheduled at 4.

5.35 pm, August 17, 2014

Dear Diary,

Guess what? I was watching Aarambham the other day. And, I remembered all the fun that I had on the sets. We had a blast. Jammie, Nayanthara, Ajith sir, and I. Director Vishnu sir would come and beg us, diary. Stop laughing, and start working, he would say.

I just adore Jammie. He’s such a cool dude; still keeps in touch. I know what you are thinking. That I probably won’t say similar things about Nayanthara. What’s that? Ice-cold vibes? Na, we share a great rapport. And Ajith sir – I loved talking to that man!


Anyway, let’s talk about Anita. You forgot? Anita is my character in Aarambham. Isn’t she totally unlike me? No? Honestly, I think you should watch the movie again.

She was born out of Vishnu sir’s imagination. Even the way she squeals “baby!” That’s my favourite part.

Are you smirking?

But boy, I worked hard to make her sound less annoying and cute. I didn’t want anyone to grit their teeth when I come on screen.

The trick, my friend, was to stop remembering who I was. I found it easier to slip into her skin, then.

Makes sense?

3.02 pm, August 20, 2014

Back, diary. And I am in this terrific mood today. I was thinking about my career last night. I feel so blessed. I’m happy that I still get offers to play the heroine, some supporting roles, and cameos. It’s such a high. I am not side-lined as a character-artiste.

Multi-tasker, thy name is me!

But it wasn’t easy. To make that transition. I had my share of sceptics. A lot of people thought I needed to get my head checked when I agreed to star in Aarambham. I held my peace then, waiting for the film to release.

And can you see what’s happening now, diary? They are singing a different tune. That’s precisely why I took up KTVI and Muni-3. But man, Muni-3 was quite some role. It was physically and mentally exhausting. If Kanchana and Muni 1 & 2 were surprises, this film will shock you. Yes, even you! Did I tell you that I almost didn’t agree to doing the role?

But all that aside, I think the toughest part of the job is to say no to friends. People try and pull favours all the time. I don’t want to act in weird films, doing weirder things. I put my foot down, now. I have stopped signing films at random. Why should I do it, anyway? Yes, my calendar will be full, but my heart would stay empty! I am not too ambitious. I want my name associated with good films. I mean, if a movie of mine is getting released, I want people to go ‘ok, she’s there; it’s got to be good’.

Rant over.

11. 10 am, August 23, 2014

I never cease to be amazed when I think about life, diary. Here I was – this girl from Delhi who just wanted to bury her nose in MBA books – but look at me now. Where life has taken me. I have done films in almost all the south Indian languages. And to think, south Indian was all about my favourite breakfast – idli and medhu vadai – once upon a time! I hadn’t watched a single movie when Aadukalam was offered to me. I was this hard-core Bollywood buff with a titanic crush on Hrithik Roshan.

As a matter of fact, I still do harbor a crush. I think I’ll faint if I meet him.

I hate it when you smirk.

Anyway, you know how I was bored with modelling by then. I have never walked the ramp – I am bad at it. It was a little thing that I did in college. Somehow, I can never be a statue, diary. I am more comfortable in front of video cameras. A still camera makes me quite conscious.

So, diary, I religiously did my homework before I began acting. I simply can’t walk into a new place without any preparation. It wasn’t something I intended on continuing anyway – in the long run, you know? I just wanted to keep myself occupied before the MBA exams. But then, kismet had something else in store for me.

And as soon as I signed my first film, I started watching a lot of Tamil movies. Come on, you know I never take my work lightly.

But man, I struggled. Tamil. That was my first obstacle. That’s when director Vetrimaaran sir told me – ‘Taapsee, you can connect to the audience only when you speak and understand their language. You can survive without it, but won’t stay in their hearts for a long time.” It was a sage advice, diary. I took it seriously. And now, I have dubbed for my third and fifth movies in Telugu, and I am pretty conversant in Tamil as well. I do have an accent problem, but I am happy to dub.


During Aadukalam, I was so lost in learning that I was not really bothered by the challenge that my role posed. I left the acting part to Vetri sir. Life’s lessons, eh?

6 pm, August 24, 2014

I’m watching Raanjhana now, diary, and whenever I watch the film, I have had the same thought. I always knew this guy would make it big. Actually, I had no clue who Dhanush was when I signed my first movie. Then, of course, Google helped. I was quite surprised to see the kind of following he had. If there’s something that I learnt from the guy, it is his passion for cinema. I learnt to love my work.

Come to think of it, diary, Aadukalam was an eye-opener for me. I realised that it was way too easy to judge a movie, it changed my perspective, and I learned to appreciate a movie more.

You know what, now I get irritated when I see people walk out when a song is playing. A song takes so much effort to make, we never realise it.

Anyway, another pet peeve. I get irked when I’m asked – oh, after Chashme Baddoor, would you be off South Indian films? Why would I do something that stupid, diary? Why would I give up such a well-established market for an industry in which I have no hope whatsoever? So why did I do Chashme Baddoor? a) David Dhawan b) remake of a classic comedy and c) three good looking guys wooing me! Give me one reason why I would say no to such an offer? I didn’t plan anything. I just go with the flow.

My modus operandi is now simple: do the best in all three languages.

But having said that though, I don’t understand the need to find ‘Mumbai girls’ for films down South, diary. I have never been able to figure that one out. Our looks, perhaps? Yet, ironically, we face so much derision. They make fun of our accent, our acting skills. I mean, on one hand, they make us feel desired, but we hardly feel like we belong here.

9.15 am, August 25, 2014
Dear Diary,

I am just back after a great vacation with my family. It’s funny when you think about it. My family knows I am an actress – but they don’t quite know which part of the country I am in at the moment. I do send my contracts to my father. But my career decisions are entirely my own.

Friends, you ask? Don’t. I have to beg them to watch my films. They are totally not bothered about my ‘star’ status. Within the industry, I deliberately avoid making friends. Lakshmi Manchu is perhaps the exception.

It’s a man’s world out there, diary. In the industry. We only get to do a fraction of female-oriented roles, when compared to the ones that they get. But, you need to blame the women as well. I mean, if many of us don’t like watching such films, how would they work? Kahaani and Queen are a sign of progress, though.

If Aladdin’s genie appears before me, that’s probably the only thing I would wish for. Please extend the shelf-life of Indian actresses so that they can do more roles!

Isn’t a woman’s psyche more interesting, diary? So many emotions, so many facets. It requires an aesthetic sensibility to show that off.

But at least on the sets, we are treated on par. And, that’s consoling, diary. For now.

 7.23 am, August 26, 2014

I have a confession to make, diary. I love my fans. I do. I have nothing against them. I mean, as long as they don’t drape their arms around me while clicking photographs. Also, I get these really weird fan requests. Like the other day, this guy wanted to take a picture of us shaking hands! Really, now. Sometimes, I oblige; but mostly, I excuse myself. I also get annoyed when I am photographed without permission. Fans don’t really realise that we are prone to moods as well. And I can get annoyed too.

I’m a true Leo that way.

Of course, Facebook and Twitter are great; I get to connect with everyone. But what about the spurt of nasty comments that I receive, diary? I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I shamelessly block all of them. I don’t want any negativity around me.

Also, I have heard some ridiculous rumours about myself. That I have quit films, and that I am seeing someone. And sometimes, I am amazed at how they can spin negative news out of a positive occurrence. Like when I worked on a Hindi film, it was assumed that I was thrown out of South cinema.

Yes, I don’t get it either, diary. You can’t win either way, eh?


9.20 am, August 26, 2014

I’m currently rifling through an old engineering book of mine. I must be the only actress who loves reading engineering books! You quite know that if I want to fall asleep, I try to read a novel.

Ha ha.

You are not amused, diary.


That’s because I get bored easily. I like constant change. Yes, I love sleeping and shopping – sometimes alone – and I love to talk a lot; as long as there is someone to listen.

I know what you are thinking.

But it’s not like I am a big party person, anyway. I like to spend time with myself. I love to look good and I always dress to please myself. Not that I worry a lot over what to wear, you know. I just don’t let fashion dictate terms.

Looking back, I have tried various things, diary. You didn’t know me then. Kathak, swimming – I used to be an athlete as well. But right now, I just want to work better, learn more languages, and travel the world.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

The Taapsee Pannu interview is a Silverscreen Exclusive.