‘Entire budget of female-driven film is equivalent to hero’s salary,’ says Taapsee Pannu
Taapsee Pannu is in a great phase in her career with a variety of films that she is part of. From a science drama to playing a shooter- the actor will showcase empowered women on the big screen yet again. In a tete-a-tete, Taapsee talks about her upcoming project Mission Mangal, taking on strong characters with a voice, and the impact her roles have had on real people. Excerpts.
Firstly, what made you say yes to the multi-starrer film Mission Mangal? Did it require a lot of preparation?
It actually didn’t require too much prep as I am very familiar with these scientific terms because I have studied engineering. I did this film for the sake of story that it is first of its kind in India, and the fact that I will get to share the screen with some wonderful actors, which rarely happens in the industry. So, I didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity.
You have played women in films, who have had a strong voice. Do you see the image as well as certain jaded notions changing with these films, such as ‘women are not good drivers’, ‘women are not great shooters’ etc.?
There are many notions which have been there for years, be it you can’t you can’t be good at shooting or driving, there have been notions attached to genders. Because women were not supposed to do these jobs, which is unlike for people to see these visuals now, and to see women do things which they were not supposed to do until some time back. We are in that changing phase; you can’t expect that change to happen overnight. We will keep hearing all this until we are part of this changing phase. We are at the cusp of it, we mustn’t give up.
Have you personally received messages from people who have felt empowered after seeing such characters on screen?
It has happened to me multiple times. It started off from Pink, then Naam Shabana, and even Manmarziyaan. I am happy that people expect no less when I take on a role; dealing with the strength of a woman and being proud of it. Now, these have become expectations. After Manmarziyaan, I got many letters from women, thanking me for showing what a woman can want from a relationship and it is okay. I will be let down if I don’t get that kind of love with every film I do.
However, when the first poster of Mission Mangal released, there was feedback from people on social media stating that Akshay Kumar’s picture was most prominent especially considering it is a story driven by women. What’s your take?
It is great people notice that, also then those same people can do something about the collections of a female driven film. Because Akshay Kumar will get the audience in the theatre, that is the hard fact. All of us are great work in our own capacities. But, he will still manage to get a bigger number, at the end of the day. We cannot run away from this reality. Whatever issue happened with the poster, hope people realise it and do something about rather than questioning the makers. The audience can change things by walking into theatres where women are at the forefront. Hopefully, in the future it shouldn’t be about the gender, but whose films get the numbers. Eventually it is a business and about how much money your films can make.
With regards to the pay structure, are heroines getting what they demands?
I feel as an actor my demand should be proportional to the kind of money my films can make or has made. I cannot ask for an obnoxious amount if I am not able to show the numbers. So, it is more about your pull as an actor vis-à-vis gender. I don’t judge my fees basis my gender but how much my films have earned. Just cause my male counterparts are getting paid more, that is not the only reason to demand more money. Because I really want my films to make money, so that my producers make money and they make more films with me. That is how I can push the boundaries, by charging an obnoxious amount and making my project in loses is not going to really help in the longer run. So, I have to be sensible in asking that money. However, no doubt there is a huge gap between the two, because the entire budget of a female driven film is equivalent to the hero’s salary. The only way to counter this is not by demanding more salary but by making different films which encourage the numbers . So that the producers don’t get scared in shelling out money in female protagonist films.