Thappad is the result of a discussion between director Anubhav Sinha and Taapsee Pannu during the promotions of Mulk, their first film together. Taapsee plays Amrita, a wife who decides to bring to book her husband after he slaps her. Thappad is a protest against domestic violence, the latest in Taapsee's long list of issue-based films.
Ahead of the film's release on February 28, Taapsee spoke to us about why making this film wasn't a pleasant experience, and how she became a cause-based crusader in Bollywood.
Why did you choose domestic violence this time?
Of course there are other causes I could have taken up, and I have done that also before. This cause is, let's just say, too personal to me. I wouldn't want it to be probed further, but it is too personal. Three out of five women go through it.
Why does Thappad emphasize on just one slap as the bare minimum standard?
That’s because everybody thinks one is okay, maybe five is not okay. But who decides? The person who is getting hit and abused is the one who should decide. This unsaid standard of how much is okay, how much is not okay, needs to be questioned.
You have said that playing Amrita was claustrophobic. Why?
The film was shot in a start-to-finish schedule of 31 days. It was not a pleasant space to be in, apart from the fact that I was delighted that I'm getting to address this issue. There was no respite other than this. It was claustrophobic because over time I have become that person who will impulsively speak my mind, almost immediately.
We are always told to think before we speak. My mom's famous saying is, 'Ek chup sau sukh'. I'm a spontaneous actor. When I perform, I react, I don't act. So when people are talking about these stereotypical things about what women can or cannot do, it irritates me as Taapsee. But I'm not able to react the way I want to. I have to react like Amrita, which is much more controlled. So that was claustrophobic.
You have done films in almost every genre, from comedy to thrillers...
I haven't done a superhero film though. I would love to be part of a film like Avengers...
When you look back at your initial film choices, before Pink, what are your thoughts?
I learned by making mistakes. I didn't have anyone guiding me. I'm happy that don't repeat my mistakes. Pink gave me a direction. Before Pink, I was trying to get into all genres of films to see which one is going to work for me. Now I'm very clear about the kind of films I take up, I have a strong reason for doing every film. Not because I am the central character, I am not that selfish as an actor.
Women-centric films get limited release in theatres. Do you see that changing?
It has changed in the last five years, from 2-3 women-centric films being made in a year to now 2-3 getting made in a month. It tells me we're in the right direction. Yes, we are far away from being at par with men. But at least we're headed in the right direction. Maybe my generation wouldn't see us being at par, but my future generation will. That's why I don't want to give up.
Actors like you, Bhumi Pednekar and Ayushmann Khurrana have forged a new path in making issue based films in Bollywood. Was it a conscious choice?
For most of us, initially, it was not a very conscious choice to make such films. It wasn't planned. When such roles and films came our way, and they worked, it gave us a sense of direction, that this is our path. That is what makes us special. So why try to do something hundred other people are running behind?
For example, Bhumi knows that she gets only heartland films. But she says, 'What's wrong in it? How does it make me less of an actor if I am not doing NRI roles?' You have to be comfortable with yourself first of all. I embraced this fact long back that I'm not going to be the diva of Bollywood. There are such beautiful, gorgeous women out there who are extremely good at being the diva. If I try to run that race, I'm going to lose.
But did you have the same thought when you were competing in a Fresh Face or a Miss India?
No, that was me being a competitive girl who was way too experimental with life. I used to love getting into competitions, and not just beauty pageants. I was into dancing, public speaking. I was always the leader of the gang. I used to be the head girl, student of the year. I've always been a very competitive person.
So this being a fighter for what is right was always there even when you were in school?
Not fight for what is right, but I always had this curiosity and inquisitiveness to question, why? That used to irritate the hell out of my parents. Nowadays it irritates my directors also. Unless you give me a logical answer, I'm not going to buy it. That grew into becoming this fighter, because anyone who questions becomes a rebel. I don't see myself as a rebel. I think I am pretty reasonable.
Is this the best phase of your career?
I think the best is yet to come, but this is a good phase. The most beautiful compliment I got after Thappad's trailer released was from a producer who said, 'Your filmography is something any female actor will be envious of.' And I want to keep it like that.
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