TechSparks 2019: Actor Taapsee Pannu on what it takes to be a self-made woman, similarities between Bollywood and entrepreneurship
You might remember her as Minal Arora in Pink, Shabana Khan in Baby and more recently, Naina in Badla. But Bollywood actor and National Film Award winner Taapsee Pannu is more than just your average leading lady.
The self-made woman – who is well-known for her appetite for challenges – lit up the stage at the tenth edition of YourStory’s flagship TechSparks event, as she charted her journey from being a software engineer to a film star, to her most recent entrepreneurial undertakings, during a fireside chat with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma.
Like entrepreneurs, actors too have to venture into the unknown, seize opportunities, and fight rejection, said the B Tech graduate, who also dons the entrepreneurship hat with her venture The Wedding Factory, a wedding planning company she founded with her friend Faraj Parvaresh and sister Shagun Pannu to provide unique experiences within a budget.
Just like entrepreneurs, actors also experience failure and find themselves questioning whether they’re in the right line of work or not, Taapsee says. Still, the many downsides are just as important as the upsides, says the actor, who is also the owner of a badminton team, the Pune 7 Aces.
“I think both highs and lows are very important. If you don’t see the downside, you will not enjoy the upside. Like the song says, ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’, and I have believed in it since my childhood,” Taapsee said.
True to her word, Taapsee has only emerged ‘stronger’ with every new undertaking, continuously venturing outside her comfort zone with the projects and roles she has chosen over the past decade.
“It is not fun to be an actor if you’re not coming out of your comfort zone,” Taapsee said, as she drew parallels between the world of actors and entrepreneurs.
The actor, who had her first brush with the camera as a model while still in college, today has over 42 movies to her credit and five more in the pipeline to be released over this year and next, including Saand Ki Ankh later this month during Diwali.
“Whenever I saw failure or was called a ‘bad omen’ or ‘bad luck’ for a movie, I told myself that I will show them what I am made of,” said Taapsee, who made her debut in the film industry with Telugu romantic musical Jhummandi Naadam.
To be sure, Taapsee did exactly that: show them, for the actor did not have any contacts or references when she entered the industry. Nor had she ever acted in a play in the past, whether at school or in college. But none of these factors deterred her.
“I never said no to any opportunities without evaluating them. Of course, it wasn’t easy. Even today, I can still get replaced because of favouritism, nepotism, or any other ‘-isms’…. I have made plenty of mistakes. I have also learned from them and have never let them defeat me. I think this sense of confidence helps me go forward,” Taapsee added.
In her soon-to-be-released film Saand Ki Aankh, Taapsee will be seen playing the role of Prakashi Tomar, along with Bhumi Pednekar, who will be seen as Chandro Tomar – in what will be a biographical account of the world’s oldest sharpshooters from Uttar Pradesh.
The actor has fielded with ease much of the criticism and flak that she has received for playing an older character, which some felt should be reserved for veteran actors. At the time, Taapsee wrote on social media, “I wonder… I just wonder… Do we ever want to embrace the positivity or just keep latching on to negativity and glorifying it to save our lack of risk-taking tendencies. Have we really lost the shoulder along with our spine to support people who venture out of their comfort zone to bring about change?”
Talking about her latest project, Taapsee was quick to applaud fellow actor Bhumi Pednekar for agreeing to be a part of this two-women project after hearing the script. Several others, she noted, had pulled out last minute or were unwilling to share equal screen space with another woman, demanding instead that one of the two roles be a lesser role.
But despite her obvious love for acting, she believes the profession is one of the ‘scariest and most fragile jobs out there.’
“We (actors) ourselves are like walking-talking startups. We have to please people. Our business runs on how much people like us. We do not have external investors, we are investing in ourselves from our own small pockets to build our brands. And the fact that most of us come from outside of the industry, it makes it an even more risky proposition – because there is no fallback option.”
Still, despite the risks, the failures, or challenges, there’s always a time to restart, Taapsee told an enthralled audience of over 2000. As she aptly summed it up for the roomful of fans,
“Most of the time, we live with this delusion that ‘this’ (failure) will not happen to me. We refuse to see that something is not working. But if we need to take the longest jump of our lives, we need to first accept that we need to restart.”
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)
YourStory's annual extravaganza TechSparks brings together the best and the brightest from the startup ecosystem, corporate world, policymakers and, of course, the investor community. Over the past decade, TechSparks has grown to become India's most loved tech and startup platform for knowledge sharing and networking. A big thank you for all your support over the years and a big shoutout to our sponsors.