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Taapsee pannu seems to be emerg­ing at the top of the game with her ju­di­cious choice of roles — cater­ing to both the think­ing au­di­ence and the for­mula- driven one

WKND - - Bollywood Go Girl! - By khalid mo­hamed

el­come to the lime­light. At one point, there didn’t seem to be some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary about Taapsee Pannu. Then, of late, there were two si­mul­ta­ne­ous re­leases fea­tur­ing the 29- yearold bright- eyed ac­tress: the rom­com Run­ning Shaadi and The Ghazi At­tack, pro­moted as In­dia’s “un­der­wa­ter film”, since a sub­stan­tial sec­tion was lo­cated in a war sub­ma­rine.

Both films fetched mixed re­views and weren’t quite in the league of Taapsee’s ca­reer- ce­ment­ing Pink, in the com­pany of Amitabh Bachchan. In fact, it’s Pink which prod­ded the front­line pro­duc­ers to ac­knowl­edge her as an artiste who has what it takes to do suf­fi­cient jus­tice to roles of some so­cial sig­nif­i­cance, as well as to fit into the glam­our mould.

She didn’t grab awards galore for in­vest­ing cred­i­bil­ity in the part of a young woman vil­i­fied, along with two flat­mates, in Pink. She should have gone home with tro­phies, at least for Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress, but, de­servedly, Sha­bana Azmi, as the be­reaved mother in Neerja, had an edge.

Although awards may have eluded her, Taapsee — born to Sikh par­ents in Delhi and ed­u­cated there — has at the very least achieved broad recog­ni­tion. In fact, ac­cord­ing to trade track­ers, Run­ning Shaadi had been lan­guish­ing for months in the cans. It’s only the af­ter­glow of Pink, which smoothened its pas­sage to­wards a de­cent the­atri­cal re­lease across the na­tion.

An­other rea­son why this col­umn is de­voted to Taapsee Pannu, is that, for years, hers was a typ­i­cal strug­gle of a lead­ing lady who could have fallen into the crack of obliv­ion, if it wasn’t for a sin­gle, im­pact­ful film in which she had to do much more than sit, stand, dance and look pretty.

Who knows? If she had not sub­mit­ted her­self to step­ping off the hack­neyed track, with a hard- knuck­led, shorn of ar­ti­fice en­deav­our like Pink, she wouldn’t have made it in the of­ten un­healthy com­pet­i­tive Bollywood jun­gle. Like it or not, most debu­tantes, and es­pe­cially star daugh­ters, are wary of be­ing seen in what, for want of a bet­ter term, can be de­scribed as “se­ri­ous” films.

A pro­fes­sional com­puter en­gi­neer, Taapsee started her ca­reer with modelling, and then moved on to star in Tamil, Tel­ugu and Malay­alam films. She was no­ticed — but barely — in David Dhawan’s lam­en­ta­ble re­make of Sai Paran­jpye’s cult com­edy Chashme Bad­door, in which, need­less to em­pha­sise, she wasn’t a patch on the orig­i­nal’s hero­ine Deepti Naval. how taapsee stacked up in the pop­u­lar­ity stakes: 1 in Baby 2 in the ca­reer- defin­ing in Run­ning in

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how the oth­ers lost out: Diana Penty showed prom­ise in Cock­tail but fiz­zled out Ileana D’cruz could only man­age weak roles in films such as Rus­tom 3 other than Madras Café, Nar­gis Fakhri was for­get­table

Mean­while, other fresh­ers like Nar­gis Fakhri, Ileana D’cruz and Diana Penty ar­rived on the scene but, from the look of things, none of them has proved to be a stayer. That’s been par­tic­u­larly un­for­tu­nate in the in­stance of Diana Penty, who struck an in­tel­li­gent screen pres­ence with Cock­tail op­po­site big­gies like Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone, but wasn’t sure if she could per­sist with act­ing, only to reap­pear af­ter a lengthy hia­tus in Happy Bhaag Jayegi, a fairly en­ter­tain­ing laugh- raiser that tanked at the box of­fice.

If Diana has any other project on her plate, it re­mains a well- guarded se­cret. At one point, she was men­tioned in the line- up of Nikhil Ad­vani’s un­der pro­duc­tion Lucknow Cen­tral, but now seems to have been re­placed by Kriti Sanon, who thus far has pro­jected her im­age essen­tially as a glam­our girl, chang­ing her de­signer out­fits in ev­ery scene. Look­ing gor­geous, ev­i­dently, comes be­fore re­veal­ing an iota of act­ing ta­lent.

By con­trast, Taapsee’s sur­viv­ing power can be as­cribed to that manda­tory quo­tient: a killer in­stinct. Or the de­sire to bal­ance off­beat films with the brazenly for­mu­laic. Tadka, be­ing helmed by the Chen­nai- an­chored ac­tor- turned- di­rec­tor Prakash Raj, has her in the cast. She played sec­ond ( or was it third?) fid­dle to Ak­shay Ku­mar in the es­pi­onage drama Baby, but in its pre­quel slides into the ti­tle role of Naam Sha­bana. Hope­fully, as a trained- in- mar­tial arts spy, she will be able to in­vest some plau­si­bil­ity in a role de­signed as a show­case for her act­ing chops.

Taapsee has also, along­side Jac­que­line Fer­nan­dez, been pen­cilled in by David Dhawan op­po­site his son Varun Dhawan for Jud­waa 2, the se­quel to the Sal­man Khan pop­u­lar dou­ble­role act some 20 years ago. So there you are. Maybe an artiste can live in both the worlds — the avowedly sen­si­ble and the purely es­capist. If the feisty girl from Pink can, it will have to be said, bully for her!

Taapsee’s sur­viv­ing power can be as­cribed to that manda­tory quo­tient: a killer in­stinct. Or the de­sire to bal­ance off­beat films with the brazenly for­mu­laic. Maybe an artiste can live in both worlds — the avowedly sen­si­ble and the purely es­capist

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