She is at her fittest best today and luminous even on a laptop screen. Taapsee Pannu, who enters the race as a track and field athlete, admits that prepping for her upcoming sports drama, Rashmi Rocket, was physically draining and took a mental toll, but like the character she plays, she took no shortcuts. Excerpts from an interview:
Your prep for Rashmi Rocket must have been different from that for other roles. How did you go about it while maintaining optimum fitness through the pandemic?
The prep was very organic and there were no shortcuts. I did not take any banned substances or steroids to play Rashmi even though she has a higher testosterone level as revealed by the gender discrimination test she is forced to take. I went about it in a regular way with whatever was there in my own body.
Yes, it did take a mental toll. I was pushing my body beyond limits I had never crossed before. It was physically draining, but surprisingly, my body was liking it. (Laughs) The mind not so much. Now, I can put a big tick mark in front of a body type I had always dreamt of having.
After working so hard and getting the body every woman dreams of, what was it like being trolled for it?
People like us are used to listening to a lot of nonsense every day. I reacted like Taapsee who had worked hard to get these comments. They made my life easy because I could position what my film, Rashmi Rocket, is all about.
You could answer the trolls appropriately. But not everyone can do that. How would a real athlete feel?
It’s certainly not a happy space to be in for any athlete who has given her whole life to represent the country. They win medals not only for their personal glory, but for the glory of the country. Then, to hear comments like “Oh, she so boyish”, “She’s so manly looking, how will she get married?” can be really hard. And then, God forbid, if you have a higher testosterone level, they can write you off as a woman! I don’t understand who gives anyone the authority to decide what a woman should be like. How she should look like to be woman enough… Or not enough.
Shah Rukh Khan’s “Sattar minute” lines in Chak De! India have become a motivational speech for many over the years. Will your “Terah second” dialogue in the film become just as iconic?
Aapke muh mein ghee shakkar, I hope it does. That scene was my trigger for saying “yes” to the film. And I had been raring to do it since we started shooting.
Chak De! India is my most favourite film and I believe it’s the best Hindi film and Shah Rukh sir’s “Sattar minute” has become an iconic dialogue. I hope my “Terah second” will be just as inspirational. It was always playing at the back of my head. I was constantly preparing for it.
And how did it go on the day that you finally performed it on camera?
It took only two takes, one from each angle, to be okayed. I was so ready for my favourite scene. I spoke those lines that even during the narration had struck a chord and made me want to do this film, dil se, straight from the heart.
You are working with Shah Rukh in Rajkumar Hirani’s next directorial. Guess you will be exchanging notes on your “Sattar minute” and “Terah second” dialogues when shooting for that film.
On the subject of signing that film, I’ll leave it to when I am 100 per cent sure I am in it to shout about it from the top of my voice. And I’m sure that there will be a lot more to chat about when I meet Shah Rukh sir.
Moving on to Shabaash Mithu, the Mithali Raj biopic, how much like the captain of the national women’s cricket team is Taapsee?
Behaviourally, I’m not like her at all. But I can identify with her inherent fire for a level-playing field. Given that we call ourselves a cricket-loving nation, we should not discriminate between men’s cricket and women’s cricket.
Similarly, as a nation we love films. So, then, why should we be bothered about whether the hero is a male or a female? We should just love the film for itself. That is the one string connecting us and I have been building on it.
Your social media exchanges with Kangana Ranaut have always made headlines. Will she be your cheerleader on this film or will she join the trolls?
This has become so irrelevant. I’ve reached a point where it’s stopped affecting me. I have become indifferent.