Taapsee Pannu is the HT BRUNCH secret Santa: She goes from shocking pink to Santa red
Taapsee Pannu looks as cute as a button. Her role as cover Santa for HT Brunch fits her as perfectly as her red halter dress. After all, this year, Taapsee gave Indian women the gift they never thought they’d ever receive: a commercial Hindi flick called Pink that emphasised a woman’s right to say no.
She wraps our shoot, her second of the day (she’d shot for men’s magazine FHM a little earlier, and pretty soon, you’ll see her on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine as the breakthrough talent of 2016) and almost inhales a creamy pastry before sitting down for a chat. “I just love cake! Every Christmas I religiously source home-made cake from my Christian friends,” she says, stuffing her mouth with unabashed glee.
Taapsee was perfectly cast in Pink as a Delhi girl who is molested and fights a court case against the man who thrust himself on her without her permission. She is a Delhi girl herself, though she now lives in Mumbai and Hyderabad where her career is based, and she saw Shoojit Sircar’s film as the perfect vehicle to show the world exactly what happens in the city that has the unfortunate title of India’s rape capital.
“It was all so relatable,” Taapsee explains. “In fact, I felt a certain sense of responsibility – I wanted to be the voice of all those girls who are sexually assaulted in some way or the other on the streets every day.”
Growing up in Delhi, Taapsee was constantly ogled at and verbally abused by men on the streets. She was also molested once, and she has not forgotten a single detail of the incident even though years have passed since it happened.
“I was walking down a very crowded street and suddenly someone tried to grab me from behind. I got so scared that I almost froze, but then I don’t know what came upon me, I caught hold of his hand and twisted his arm with all the strength I had. I could feel his bones crack. After a point, fear gives you strength,” she says.
All The Colours of the Rainbow
Working in the film industry also requires strength: though Taapsee had done nearly 20 films in the industries of the south, and two in Bollywood, she was virtually unknown on the Hindi film circuit till her amazing performance in Pink.
Now, of course, she’s unknown no longer: over the coming year, Taapsee will be seen on screen five times – and there will be countless magazine covers as well (though none like this one for HT Brunch – we can guarantee that).
There will also be lots of interviews, speeches on women’s rights, and all the media razzmatazz associated with a film star who matters.
“People take me more seriously now,” she says. “Suddenly my opinions seem to matter. But apart from everything else, people have realised that I know my job.”
Having said that though, Taapsee refuses to keep on playing the same kind of serious role that got her where she is now. She’s an actress, after all, which means she can play anything.
Only in one of her five 2017 releases – Naam Shabana, opposite Akshay Kumar – will Taapsee play a role as serious as the one she did in Pink. In the others, she could well be dancing around trees.
“I am also doing Judwa 2! Can you get any more commercial Bollywood than David Dhawan?” she laughs. “I don’t want to get typecast, even though it’s encouraging that today a serious film like Pink has become commercially viable.”
A Christmas Carol
Taapsee is thrilled to be Santa for HT Brunch. The experience makes up somewhat for her terrible disappointment when she first discovered that Santa Claus does not exist.
“I was absolutely devastated,” she says. “As a child, I’d religiously make a wish list for Santa and keep it inside a sock before going to bed on Christmas Eve. And in the morning, there would be gifts inside the sock. However, my innocence was lost when I was around 13. I realised that, increasingly, instead of chocolate, the sock was yielding fruit. I got suspicious. The next Christmas Eve, I actually counted all the fruit inside the refrigerator. The next morning, there was an apple in my sock and one missing from the refrigerator. I was heartbroken when I realised that my parents had tricked me all those years.”
The experience, she says, scarred her for life – but Christmas is still one of her favourite festivals. “Something about Christmas transcends all religious barriers,” she says. “In Delhi, Christmas means party time. The weather is absolutely gorgeous and the houses are all lit up. Unlike Diwali, the festival of lights, Christmas is quiet. There is no bursting of crackers that leads to pollution. I love that. But the best part about Christmas has to be the gifts – and the cake!”
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From HT Brunch, December 25, 2016
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