At a time when only patriarchy and its baseless rules decided the fate and life of families, two elderly women followed a smarter path to live their dreams. Armed with their shooting talents, they go on to pursue more medals and victory in the hopes of inspiring the girls in the family to chase their dreams at any cost.
The duo has been garnering national media’s attention as “shooter dadi” (grandmother) from Uttar Pradesh, since Bollywood movie, Saand ki Aankh (meaning bull’s eye) based on their life was released two weeks ago. The debate of featuring younger actors aside, Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar – who played the protagonist duo- aced the portrayal of the two grandmas with great pomp and reality, evoking applause from audience and critique alike.
Having lived with the shooter dadis for a while to get into the skin of her role and understand the lives they lead has paid off well for Taapsee.
As a matter of fact, Taapsee’s Twitter account currently seems like a dream come true for any actor. It is filled with comments from people of all ages enjoying the movie- women and grandmothers openly dancing to the closing song and imitating the shooting positions at picture booth and teachers and students from various schools watching together.
Taapsee’s conscience as an actor is clear in her choices and performance like this. “As long as I get to do the kind of work I want to do, I am okay with being a Z-lister,” she has said. The Punjabi-girl from Delhi has come a long way to establish herself as one of the best performers and commercially viable actors of her generation.
Reeling women’s aspiration
Many of Taapsee’s other films have also championed critical issues relating to the plight of women in India. Pink (2016), for instance, picks on women’s safety and the deep-rooted stereotypes that play into crippling the independence of young women in India today. It also shed spotlight on the police’s insensitivity towards women in molestation and harassment cases. The International Film Academy Awards honoured Taapsee as the Woman of the Year, for her performance in Pink, which also won National Award for Best Film on Other Social Issues.
In Marmarziyaan (2018), Taapsee’s Rumi is a whimsical girl - not another damsel in distress who tailors herself to the men’s wishes, but goes about living life on her own terms. The love triangle between Rumi, her boyfriend, and her husband, shed light on concepts of consent, marriage, and sisterhood, with a good deal of screen time for the female lead. Despite power-house actors Vicky Kaushal and Abhishek Bachchan sharing the screen, Taapsee stood out, earning prominent film critic Baradwaj Rangan’s praise: “an explosive Taapsee Pannu, giving the performance of a lifetime in the role of a lifetime.”
And Taapsee is unapologetic about her win. “Truth is, I’m less heroine and more the ‘hero’ in my story and for some that’s a bitter pill to swallow, but then that’s tough… because I’m not going anywhere,” she says.
Before the camera
As a kid, Taapsee was into outdoor sports, dancing, and public speaking, in addition to scoring well in exams. While during her under graduation in engineering, she started modelling for earning pocket money. But soon, she realised that she was not meant to do a regular 9 to 5 job. So she ditched her Infosys placement and accepted a few good offers from filmmakers in the South.
However, even after acting in critically acclaimed South Indian films, including the 2011 Tamil movie Aadukalam which earned six National Awards, Taapsee navigated through her share of difficulties starting off in Bollywood.
With no ties in the industry, Taapsee was treated indifferently and she has confessed that she often questioned herself whether working on regional films made her any less credible as an actor. But today, Taapsee’s acting career spanning Telegu, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi cinema has got around 50 movies to her credit.
“I am an outsider. I was never offered the kind of roles where I could play the glamorous diva, because there are already so many of them doing it - and doing it well. So I had to bring to the table much more than just looking good,” says the actor, who also has a knack for entrepreneurship.
Taapsee, along with her friend Faraj Parvaresh and sister Shagun Pannu, founded The Wedding Factory, a wedding planning company, a few years ago. She also owns the badminton team, the Pune 7 Aces.
Living one tweet at a time
An actor will have played many characters; but eventually, it is their identity off the reel that strikes the hardest. Getting more of their true selves has become easy and frequent, thanks to the internet revolution.
Not one to mince words, Taapsee makes sure to educate the wrongs over social media platforms, often with wit and sarcasm. Once when a Twitter user made a lewd comment saying he liked her ‘body parts’, the Pink actor came back with a bang and wrote, “Wow! I like them too. BTW which is your favourite ? Mine is the cerebrum.”
Another one called her a ‘cheap actor’ and commented on her mental state. To this too, Tapsee tweeted, "Ok sir. When are you giving me therapy sessions? And in the bargain also tell how to become an 'expensive' actor. Inflation toh mere mein bhi hona chahiye na (Inflation has to happen to me as well)."
There are more and in nearly all cases, her followers couldn’t stop appreciating and expressing their love for the 32-year-old actor.
In a world that is constantly trying to change you, Taapsee’s rebellion has been staying true to her self – as her Twitter profile says, she is “all in all REAL.... with flesh, blood and SPINE!”