Talking to talents who feature in a murder mystery is an exercise in restraint.
The actors are understandably cautious and measured in their responses as they don’t want to unwittingly give away spoilers ruining the experience for their fans.
The end result? This journalist is left clutching at straws.
A similar predicament arose when we emailed Amitabh Bachchan about ‘Badla’, directed by Sujoy Ghosh of ‘Kahaani’ fame.
The veteran actor’s responses were undoubtedly clipped, but his co-star Taapsee Pannu — who plays a murder accused — was relatively more forthcoming. But you have to give it to this pair — who impressed us in director Shoojit Sircar’s trailblazing thriller ‘Pink’ — an incisive tale about consent and sexual abuse — on not giving away the proverbial farm.
All we know so far about ‘Badla’ is that Pannu plays a married woman on a murder trial for allegedly killing her lover, while Bachchan is a sharp lawyer who’s on call to defend her in court.
“I just want the audience to trust me this time when I tell them that ‘Badlaa’ is a film that I have never done before in my career… Just watch the film so that I can prove it,” said Pannu in an interview with Gulf News tabloid! over the phone.
Excerpts from our interview with Pannu…
Q: What can you tell us about ‘Badla?’
A: It’s an intriguing murder mystery. Murder mysteries are the oldest genres in films, but it has reduced a lot in Bollywood. Lately, we have barely seen any murder mystery. It’s the first time in my career that I am doing one too. I am trying to do things I have never done before in my acting career. I just want the audience to trust me on this one. A beauty of a good murder mystery is if it can keep you hooked and onto the edge of your seat till the last minute.
Q: Tell us about your role...
A: I play a businesswoman. She’s a self-made woman who has made quite a name for herself in Glasgow in Scotland. Perhaps, that’s why she has a chip on her shoulder because she has done it all by herself. While I say that, she’s deserving of all the confidence too. She has single-handedly done quite a bit and that is why she’s confident about herself. So, come what may she won’t let her business or her family crumble down because of the allegations against her. She’s confident enough to know that she’s guilty of infidelity, but she shouldn’t be punished for a crime she hasn’t committed. So, she wants someone as good a lawyer as Varun Gupta to represent her. He hasn’t lost a case in 40 years and she can afford him. He’s confident that he can set her free and he will do everything in his power to save me.
Q: Of late, you have gravitated towards roles with grey shades (Think ‘Manmarziyaan’ in which she played a woman in love with two men)…
A: I like to play layered, complex characters. There’s so fun to be had when you go off track and confuse everyone. In real life, we all have shades of grey in us. We aren’t black or white. We have instincts like being selfish or wanting to take revenge. Those follies are what makes us human. So when a director comes to me with a grey role, I feel you have a lot more to do.
Q: What was director Sujoy Ghosh’s brief to you and how was it different being directed by him as opposed to Anurag Kashyap, your director in ‘Manmarziyaan’?
A: With Sujoy and other directors, once they convince me with their script, I believe them blindly. My yes in an indication that I am excited to play that character. So half of my homework is done when I come into the sets excited to play that role. These directors tell me if I am going wrong. Sujoy’s world is simpler and isn’t as dark as Anurag’s world. While Sujoy’s characters will be complex, all of Anurag’s characters are grey. Another commonality is that these are the only two directors I call by their first name. We have such a good comfort level. Sujoy and I have been wanting to make a film for over three years.
Q: ‘Badla’ releases worldwide on International Women’s Day, March 8. Was that by design or choice?
A: It wasn’t by design. But, I really wanted one of my films to release on Women’s Day. In this film, I play a protagonist who’s strong and is at par with the male protagonist. On Women’s Day, you ask yourself what we can really do to work towards equality. In my eyes, that’s feminism. My character in ‘Badla’ is at par with the male lead. It shows us that it’s time that women share the screen space equally, if not more.
Q: Keeping in mind the theme of the film which revolves around infidelity, would you ever kill for love?
A: Taking someone’s life is never OK. I am not an advocate of violence. I can never stand it as I am not violent in real life. Personally, I am against infidelity. But as an actor who gets to play a role with such grey shades, it’s wonderful. If a relationship suffers from adultery, I will break it off personally. I am not someone who will forgive. I will just move on after breaking ties with the one who cheated on me. While it’s each to their own, I am against infidelity per se. But as an actor, I want to play roles with different shades of grey in them.
Q: Last year, ‘Manmarziyaan’ entrenched you as an actress to reckon with. If you are in a film, it should be worth watching is a popular sentiment... How do you look back on your journey in Bollywood?
A: Starting last year, people have been kind towards me. My goal when I became an actor was to instil that kind of faith in my viewers. Half my time went in transitioning from the South cinema to Bollywood. I am now in my fifth year in Hindi films. Considering that I never wanted to become an actor, it was my first film that taught me that acting was in my destiny.
That’s when I began taking my acting career seriously. I had to learn everything from scratch. I didn’t want to be a big name or have a huge fan following. I wanted to do films that people remember you for a long time. This industry can make you immortal if you do things the right way. I found direction in my career after Pink. I realised what I was good at and what the audience expects from me. I found my potential after ‘Pink’. But honestly, I may have this image of being perpetually intense and troubled. In real life, I don’t take life so seriously and that comes as a shock to many people.
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‘Badla’ is out in the UAE on March 8.