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Taapsee Pannu: My Entire Film's Budget is Equal to a Male Actor's Salary | Exclusive

By: Sonil Dedhia


Last Updated: July 12, 2022, 20:00 IST

Taapsee Pannu says working in a movie by Rajkumar Hirani that has Shah Rukh Khan in the lead is a big validation for her.

Taapsee Pannu says working in a movie by Rajkumar Hirani that has Shah Rukh Khan in the lead is a big validation for her.

Taapsee Pannu talks to News18 Showsha about why disparity still exists in Bollywood, and how she is excited about working on Dunki with Shah Rukh Khan

A scan of her repertoire of films is sufficient to ascertain that Taapsee Pannu has been one of the finest actors in recent years. And she has a lot going for her currently, from being deep neck in the promotions of her upcoming film Shabaash Mithu, a biopic on former Indian women cricket team captain Mithali Raj, to sharing the screen space with Shah Rukh Khan in Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki and also looking at her own production house Outsider Films.

In this candid conversation with News18 Showsha, Pannu doesn’t mince words as she says that we still live in a patriarchal society, disparity still exists in Bollywood, and how she is excited about working on Dunki and launching her own production house.

During the release of Rashmi Rocket, you had mentioned about being surprised to know that female athletes had to undergo gender testing. Is there something that came as a revelation for you while working on Shabaash Mithu?

Yes, that before BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) took over women’s cricket, we didn’t even have footage of our women’s cricket matches to see how they played. And that was really astounding for me to know that it comes from a cricket loving nation. Then we are only men’s cricket loving nation and not for women, because if we love cricket, it shouldn’t matter which gender holds the bat. Also, I myself was not aware of the team and players until I read that statement of Mithali Raj till she answered a journalist who asked who her favourite male cricketer was so I am also guilty of that. So there are there are crazy absurd facts that have that are they’re very much in the film for people to see.

I also feel it is sad that Mithali Raj is referred to as Lady Tendulkar…

But that’s how it is. Time and again, people call me a female version of some male actor for different reasons. The benchmark has always been a man. But that’s why we say that we are in a patriarchal society. You have to keep making your way through, keep seizing these opportunities time and again to make the difference.

You’ve been in this industry which has been predominantly male-dominated for a decade now. Do you see any kind of change or there is still a huge disparity?

The change has happened for sure. Ten years back I never thought that I’ll be headlining films and there will be people backing it and there’ll be a good amount of money spent on it. But still, we are far away from equality. We have to be honest with that fact. My entire film’s budget is equal to a male actor’s salary. So the disparity is still huge. We have a marathon to run, but I’m glad that we are moving in the right direction and we have at least taken a few steps towards the equality.

A few months back you tweeted about working with Shah Rukh Khan in Dunki. You wrote, ‘Yes, reaching here was tough, it’s tough when you do everything alone, but a superstar said ‘If you want something with passion, the whole universe will take you to meet it’ is.’ Cheers to the honesty, hard work and dedication. It took almost 10 years, but finally all is well.’ Is it like a big victory, vindication or validation?

Surely, it is a big validation. For someone to feel that I’m worth to be put in this kind of a dream project which is being directed by Rajkumar Hirani and has Shah Rukh Khan in the lead, it is a big validation because it was not like someone picked up the phone and recommended my name. It was purely because they would have liked something I would have done that made them think of me for that role. I had no contacts anywhere for me to get into the film. So, it is a very genuine validation that I am worthy of being a part of Dunki. Even though it came after 10 years, I celebrated like a child who probably has got his first biggest gift. I am still celebrating it, I’m still enjoying it. I am only one schedule down and we are yet to complete the film, but every day I take a sigh of victory of sorts, when I go on the set.

In a recent an interview, you mentioned about how nepotism has affected you in different ways, has that changed and it is no longer a barrier?

No matter how successful you are, there will be different kinds of struggles and hurdles. So there are obviously a lot of hurdles that have gone by but then new ones that have done that I encounter. First the hurdle was just to be visible enough, to be seen and being acknowledged now it’s a different kind of hurdle. Now it’s a lot to do with accessibility in certain way. It’s not like people don’t know me. They’ve seen some film of mine, so it’s not like I’m struggling to show them that what I can do, but it’s still accessibility. I don’t have direct access to people to work with some people, I would ideally want to. So there’s still that kind of distance there, which probably is not for people who have this contact over years who’ve grown up together. So that kind of gap is still there.

Are you telling me that you if you call a director they might not consider you for a role?

I have done that for years, but I don’t think I’ve been able to get into the films or with work with the directors, because I’ve made that call or sent a message.

Is that the reason why you turned producer?

Not really. I feel that with great power comes great responsibility. And after reaching a certain stage of your career, you know that now you have some kind of power. And I wanted to use it to probably make things smoother for other people and not make them face similar hardships that I went through during the start of my career. And the thing is it doesn’t mean that I have to make it only for outsiders, whoever suits the role the best and is available to do that part. or be it cast a bit crew should get an opportunity. There were times that I was not taken in the film because I was not a name big enough, so I thought okay, now if there is some relevance to my name, or some kind of appreciation and love for my name, then I’m let me just use my name and not add that extra pressure on the cast or crew. So I just wanted to like you, whatever I can do in my capacity to make things slightly better.

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first published:July 12, 2022, 15:05 IST
last updated:July 12, 2022, 20:00 IST