I was brought up to believe it was my fault if someone misbehaved with me: Taapsee Pannu

Taapsee Pannu was not always the fierce woman we see on screen. She was a rather meek girl in her childhood. To Hindustan Times, she revealed that she did not even react when she was touched inappropriately.

With films like Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Pink and now Naam Shabana, she is becoming the new face of strong women on screen. Taapsee Pannu, who made a major impact with a minor role in Akshay Kumar-starrer Baby, is now gearing up for the release of Naam Shabana, a prequel to the 2015 hit directed by Neeraj Pandey.

However, she was not always the fierce woman we see now, but a rather meek girl in her childhood.

In a candid chat with Hindustan Times, Taapsee revealed that she did not even react when she was touched inappropriately. She also talks about her experience of eve-teasing, the importance of learning self-defence, her upcoming movie Naam Shabana and more.

Have you ever been molested or assaulted?

Thankfully, I haven’t been assaulted, but eve-teased, yes. I have spent my initial life in Delhi and I have travelled in DTC buses. I have been in crowded places where men touch you inappropriately or grope you.

How did you react to these situations?
I just didn’t. I never reacted to these incidents. I was brought up to believe it was my fault if someone misbehaved with me. I was scared that if my parents came to know about it, they would lock me up and won’t allow me to step out. There was this one time when a man had his hand near my butt and twisted his finger, but I did not have the courage to even turn around and look at him.

After I learnt self-defence, I have never faced such situation.

What is Naam Shabana about? Does it focus on the emotional journey of becoming a spy or the training and technical part?
It is the story of Shabana and how she turns into a spy. We wanted to trace her journey right from the beginning. Before she is spotted by the agency, and before she becomes a spy, you get to see Shabana’s human side, her personal life, college, interests and the like.

After she is picked up to become a spy, there is a lot of training and action involved. So you get to see all the mechanical part of becoming a spy. The emotional and technical sides of Shabana go hand in hand in Naam Shabana.

How difficult was it to portray Shabana in the film?
Shabana is very different from Taapsee, she has a distinctive sixth sense, her response time is way better than mine. The physical part —the action sequences—were, in fact, the easiest on the sets as I had been training for almost two years.

But the mental disposition and attitude was the most difficult. I had to constantly remind myself that Shabana is not Taapsee. Even a shot where I am just sitting in a room, was difficult. Shabana does reading between the lines and often pre-empts people’s behaviour—the body language and eye movements are very swift and quick. These are things that do not come naturally to me.

What kinds of training did you take for the role?
Ever since Baby, the idea of Naam Shabana was there and I have been training since then. I trained for Krav Maga during Baby and continued the training after the film. I also learned Kudo as my character plays Kudo in college. You will get to see a Kudo tournament in the film.

You have been posting training videos on social media. What do you hope to achieve with those?
With my training videos that I have posted on social media, I want to send across the message that self-defence is very important. It is sad, but it has become as important as eating or walking in today’s times. Every girl needs it. I often go to Akshay Kumar’s self-defence classes as I want people to understand that even I need it. I am no superhuman.

Directed by Shivam Nair, Naam Shabana is slated for release on March 31 and also stars Manoj Bajpayee and Anupam Kher in pivotal roles. Akshay Kumar plays a cameo.

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