Taapsee Pannu’s film Rashmi Rocket brings back memories of two female Indian athletes — Olympian Dutee Chand, the national champion in the 100 metres, and Santhi Soundarajan, a track and field athlete. Both of them were ostracised and banned from the sport. Rashmi Rocket, which is set to premiere on Dussehra on an OTT platform, tackles a unique issue of hyperandrogenism, or high natural levels of testosterone in women.
The film also had Taapsee being trolled when pictures of her training on the tracks surfaced. But Taapsee is keen on breaking the glass ceiling and busting myths instead paying heed to bullies.
“These are the kind of things I really want to shatter. Who defines what is feminine and what isn’t? Is it just your muscular build that will define you if you are a female? Do you realise there are certain hormonal imbalances or abnormalities in some women and it’s not their choice? They are born with it. Those hormonal abnormalities might show on their physique and after the training, they don’t look like the female bodies we’ve allowed to grow in our minds,” she says pointedly.
Continuing in the same vein, Taapsee even asks if we’re going to ask these women to change their genetics to fit in the category of how a woman should look according to us. “And who’s anyone to snatch away the identity of a woman and say she’s not a woman or not woman enough,” she thunders.”
Complimented, not bullied
When people started telling Taapsee that her body was beginning to look like a man’s, she felt vindicated. “It was a compliment because it validated the hard work I put in for the film,” she says.
“While I was lucky not to have the kind of abnormality that these girls had to face in their life, I had to work doubly hard to get this physique so I could get into the character. But I cannot imagine how heart breaking it is for women who have these issues and then get called transgender and eunuch.”
Through most of her films, Taapsee Pannu’s been a flagbearer for women who’ve been discriminated against, be it her film Pink (2016), Saand Ki Aankh (2019), Thappad (2020) or her upcoming, Rashmi Rocket.
“I have got the privilege to extend my personal beliefs into my work. I am not an aspirational diva, wanting people to say, ‘Wow, she is so gorgeous!’ That’s not my department; mine’s to represent today’s girls as protagonists on screen. That’s been my trump card, to show how they are the heroines of themselves, and I don’t have to think too hard over how that’ll happen because I live around such characters and many issues have affected me too. It’s rather natural for me to pick up these subjects,” she adds.
Rolling it her way
Interestingly, it was Taapsee who’d chosen the subject of Rashmi Rocket first and then the maker, unlike in the past when she had to choose from what she was offered.
“I got the story in Chennai from Nanda Periyasamy, who had the story with him. He’d made a very beautiful AV and it shocked me because I follow sports and didn’t know about this subject and had to Google it; the details stunned me. I asked him to consider making the film on a national platform so that the entire country could watch it,” says Taapsee.
She then called her collaborator Pranjal Khandhdiya and cajoled director Akarsh Khurana over lunch at the Florence Film Festival. Thereafter, the film got made in a bigger manner and with even a studio on board.
“I never had the luxury of such an option before. Earlier, I usually chose films others rejected or films that basically came to me with a script where I was told what my character is. Earlier, I could never decide how a film should be done from seed level,” confesses the actress.