Having made a habit of playing the female hero what gravitated towards Rashmi Rocket?
Taapsee Pannu: It’s not really true that I gravitate only towards female hero roles. It just happens to be that way. It’s not like I tell myself , ‘Let’s do this because I play the protagonist.’ It’s just a snowball effect because of the kind of films I do. If I feel the script binds me as an audience for those two hours, I do it.
Rashmi Rocket is based on the controversial subject of gender tests for athletes. How much did you know about this archaic practice ?
Taapsee Pannu: I myself didn’t know about gender tests when I was offered Rashmi Rocket. I had to do research.And the more research I did the more shocked I was. It felt so unfair to female athletes. I love sports and athletics and I wasn’t aware of it! It sounded so crazy to have them go through gender tests after all the struggle they already have to go through as female athletes. It bothered me.
Female athletes as a rule face many more hurdles than their male counterparts.Do you think there should be better work ethics for women in sports?
Taapsee Pannu: Female athletes do have to go through much difficulties than male, whether it is gender testing or sponsorship disparity.Of course things need to get better for female athletes. The change is not in my hands. But I can create an awareness through my medium. Rashmi Rocket is not like other underdog sports stories. From the time we see her on screen Rashmi is a hero.In that sense it’s not a regular athlete’s story.
Is that what got your attention?
Taapsee Pannu: It wasn’t like a regular film about an athlete. It’s also a film about identity. There should be no one out there to tell you whether you are a woman enough—enough by whose definition? This film tells the audience to let the woman or for that a man, live the way you want to live. This is a major identity issue that needed to be addressed.
Playing an athlete comes naturally to you how much preparation did this one require?
Taapsee Pannu: I love sports. Playing an athlete comes naturally to me .So the excitement of playing an athlete takes care of the energy level in playing the part. Having said that , the training took a lot of effort. Every day after I finished training I thanked my stars it’s just for a film and not for real.
Taapsee Pannu: It’s just so hard to do it.I used to train and shoot every day which used to make my day stretch out to 15-16 hours .Every day I had to get up at 6 am train for two hours and then report for shooting from 9 am to 9pm. Even my bathroom time was rushed. This schedule went on for months. Then five months of question mark when the first lockdown was called.Then when I resumed training we had to start from scratch. Because an athlete’s body is not something you can maintain by working out from home. That entire perseverance had to be reinstated. I could write an entire book on my training tribulations for Rashmi Rocket.
Is Rashmi Rocket Dutee Chand’s story?
Taapsee Pannu: It’s been said time and again that Rashmi Rocket is not one athlete’s story, that this gender testing has been happening to female athlete’s time and again in India. Kudos to Dutee Chand for fighting back. There were others who went into oblivion. But it is not really her story.Beyond the gender testing there is no similarity.
How would you define this role in your career? Would you place it up there with Pink and Thappad?
Taapsee Pannu: All I can tell you is,this has been the hardest role of my career. It not only required a physical training but also a rigorous emotional procedure to get close to her character. Rashmi is unlike any woman I know.When her gender is questioned she starts questioning her own femininity. \
Have you taken up any new offers?
Taapsee Pannu: I haven’t signed anything new during the last few months. I already have so much on my plate.I have three films ready for release,after that I am working on Shabaash Mithu . Then there is my own production Blurr. In November I’m starting a film called WohLadki Hai Kahan.I have a very busy 2021 and 2022 as well.
You turn producer and blind in Blurr?
Taapsee Pannu: Yes I’ve turned producer with Blurr. And I play a blind girl. It’s been a very satisfying experience .I will release it next year.