ELLE Cover Star: Taapsee Pannu, A True Original

Taapsee Pannu

Observing Tapsee Pannu on the sets of our cover shoot lends a fair insight into who she is as a person. Confident, decisive and prompt, she knows her angles and is not afraid to ask for what she wants–qualities that have held her in good stead as she’s navigated over a decade in the film industry, taking on neither conventional nor easy film roles. “At this point, I feel my professional choices are largely driven by the value of my time,” she says. “I want to be sure if taking up a certain project is worth my time because I want to enjoy life beyond work. The second factor is relevance. I would love to cherish my filmography years from now. So, I don’t want to invest time in something that will not stand the test of time.”

On Taapsee Pannu: Ivory lace bodysuit by Roseroom By Isha J; Classic black trousers by Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna; Ruby and uncut diamond necklace and earrings, both by Narayan Jewels.

From her debut in the Telugu film Jhummandi Naadam in 2010 Pannu’s filmography boasts an impressive string of characters that have not only won awards but also spurred conversations. Her courtroom drama, Pink (2016), shed light on the topic of consent, while her portrayal of the septuagenarian sharpshooter Prakash Tomar in the biopic Saand Ki Aankh (2019) focused on two women who stood up to patriarchy. I ask her about her approach to these roles and what gets her under the skin of these characters? “I like to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone. This way each day on set is an exciting adventure. When it comes to acting, I thoroughly enjoy the process of getting to live so many lives. I get to view things from another character’s perspective. And I like seeing that story as an output on screen. I enjoy the fact that we’ve been able to create a world from only words and pure imagination,” she says. 

On Taapsee Pannu: Textured and zari embroidered Cosmica bustier, Zari embroidered Amaya cropped jacket and gold handwoven banaras weave pants, all by JADE by Monica and Karishma; Amsterdam heels by House Of Prisca.

A change that Pannu has observed is how receptive audiences are to unconventional stories today. “They’re really interested in female-led stories. Watching films like The Dirty Picture (2011), Kahaani (2012), and Queen (2013) turn into commercial successes gave me assurance that I can sustain a career in this industry without having to go down the beaten path. And this change in the audience, for me, is a big confidence booster.”

While the industry has also managed to keep pace with this change, Pannu feels that there’s still a divide in terms of which actors are cast in performance-led films and which can work for commercial scripts. “I am hoping for that to change too,” she adds with a smile. 

On Taapsee Pannu: Goldie dress by Raw Mango.

In addition to her films, Pannu runs her own event management company and has a badminton franchise in the Premier Badminton League. How does she juggle these multiple roles? “My idea of peace and happiness is where I get to work hard for 12 hours, but on my day off, I can totally switch off without having to chase a deadline. I have a family and a home  to return to, and I have friends beyond the film industry who I hang out with to intentionally keep that non-celebrity side of me alive,” she says. 

Janet bralette and trousers both by Ritu Kumar; Rose cut & zambian emerald earrings, both by Narayan Jewels.

A deep sense of contentment with what she has achieved is her secret to maintaining inner peace. “There will always be people around you who have more or less than you, and in the hustle to reach the top, we forget that there is no ‘top’. I’ve realised it is better to start enjoying life beyond my profession. I’m okay with not becoming the biggest thing ever, but I want to make sure I live happily every day of my life. You are not as significant as you think you are in your head,” she laughs. 

I ask her what lessons she’s learnt in the past decade she’s spent in the industry. There are many, she tells me. “The evolution of my style, for one. I’ve realised that it’s okay to not be very fashion-conscious. It took me years to come to terms with not trying to keep up with trends.” 

On Taapsee Pannu: Embellished brocade jumpsuit by Tarun Tahiliani; Zambian emerald earrings and bracelet, both by Narayan Jewels.

“I have been very competitive since childhood, maybe because I took part in sports. Over the years, I have realised that I function best when I’m not in competition with anyone but myself. It keeps me in my best form when I’m not thinking about competing with anyone.” Pannu also feels a sense of gratitude when she realises how far she’s come. 

Talking about her current projects, she’s excited about her upcoming releases. “One is part two of Haseen Dilruba, which is called Phir Aayi Haseen Dilruba. This is my very own franchise, and it is very special to me. I am looking forward to the audience’s reaction to this. The second one is Khel Khel Mein which has an ensemble cast where I get to do an out-and-out comedy role.”

On Taapsee Pannu: Janet bralette and trousers both by Ritu Kumar; Rose cut & zambian emerald earrings, both by Narayan Jewels.

A glance at her Instagram shows Pannu spending her time off the set on vacation or working out. What does a day off look like for her? “Having a good ten-hour nap,” she tells me. “After that, I love to work out, practise some aerial yoga or play squash. And end the day watching a film or being at home with my sister.” She also loves to travel. “It helps me stay mentally fit,” she says. “This profession can easily turn you into a narcissist, and make you feel like the world revolves around you, and everything is about you. Travel helps me understand that you’re literally nothing in the larger scheme of things, which helps me let things go and unwind.”

On Taapsee Pannu: Ivory lace bodysuit by Roseroom By Isha J; Classic black trousers by Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna; Ruby and uncut diamond necklace and earrings, both by Narayan Jewels.

“But regardless of whether it’s my day off or I am working, I still wrap up and get into bed around ten-ish,” she adds – the perfect segue to head home after a long shoot day.

ELLE India Editor: Ainee Nizami Ahmedi; Photographer: Rema Chaudhary; Jr.Fashion Editor: Shaeroy (styling); Asst. Art Director: Sanjana (cover design)
Words: Ainee Nizami Ahmedi; Hair: Hair By Seema; Makeup: Evania Pannu; Bookings Coordinator: Anushka Patil; Assisted by: Komal Shetty; Sanaaya Gajaria (styling); Jasleen Narang (bookings); Kaustubh Khare (photography); Production: Cut Loose Productions; Artist’s Reputation Management: Spice Social; Location: Space 118; Furniture:Taherallys; Rugs: Jaipur Rugs.

Read the full story on ELLE India’s new issue, or download your digital copy via Magzter.

- Editor In Chief


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