Taapsee Pannu: Playing Amrita for 30 days was stifling
As she wins praise for her Thappad act, Taapsee discusses shedding her fierce image to play the subdued wife in the drama
A firebrand who calls a spade a spade—that's Taapsee Pannu for you. But in Anubhav Sinha's Thappad, she is wonderfully understated. As the subdued Amrita who re-assesses her marriage when her husband slaps her, the actor drives home a vital point, without raising the decibel level.
When we get on a call with her, that's where we start our chat. "Amrita is too white, I am all shades of grey. She is in control [of her emotions] and lets things seep in, whereas I am impulsive. So, it was claustrophobic to play her for 30 days in a row. I was stifled because the character was not giving it back until the puja scene. I had to shed the image of a firebrand and cater to an average Indian woman who is conditioned to place others before herself," shares Pannu.
Despite being a woman-centric story, she believes the layered male parts—particularly Vikram played by Pavail Gulati—bring out the film's essence. "It's a no-brainer to leave a man who hits his wife all the time. [In contrast] Vikram does everything right, but he doesn't feel the need to apologise [for the slap]. This film is about entitlement and relationships. Normalising patriarchy is wrong, and men and women are equally responsible. Which is why the female lawyer asking her to move on is a crucial scene." The actor points out how the film compels us to shake off our age-old conditioning. "At a screening, a middle-aged woman debated that Amrita was taking matters too far. I asked her simply, 'Would you say the same thing if Vikram had hit his father in rage?' She didn't have an answer."
Ask her if they debated the ending where Vikram's character apologises and promises to earn her back and she explains, "We wanted that scene to be there so people don't go back rejecting the institution of marriage. We don't want to attack the marriage but the skewed gender equations in the relationship. There should be hope that no matter how adverse things get between a couple, they can be fixed if the intention to work on it is there. At the same time, we wanted the papers signed so people don't think a sorry can fix things that easily."
For a film that champions gender equality, isn't it ironical that Thappad had to move its Women's Day release to accommodate Baaghi 3? She laughs, "It was not for Baaghi 3, we would have changed the release date to avoid a clash with any film. Our movie deserves a fair chance, and by the time Women's Day came, we wanted positive word-of-mouth to spread among the audience."
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