Taapsee Pannu: Challenging Norms, One Move At A Time
Cosmopolitan India|November - December 2021
Cosmo Editor Nandini Bhalla in conversation with actor and producer Taapsee Pannu about unrealistic beauty standards and why is it important to honour your own unique self.
Nandini Bhalla

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“It took age and time to get to this point, but today, I understand how beautiful it is when you truly love the way you are.”

A masked face pops up on my Zoom screen and two eyes peer at me from a chin-up angle . “Hi,” says Taapsee Pannu, who seems to be walking quickly through a crowded lobby, one eye on the room, the other on the phone. “I’m on my way to a shoot, so just give me a minute until I am in my car.”

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60 seconds later, Taapsee is in the backseat of what looks like an SUV, which begins moving immediately, navigating traffic on an undisclosed street. Taapsee removes her mask and holds the phone up to her face. “Hi again,” she smiles, “I am ready.”

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Settled in a car seat, her curly hair in a bun, Taapsee has a girl-next-door quality to her. The kind of girl-next-door who also happens to be blessed with a cool, calm confidence and eyes that hold undeniable intelligence. If she’s wearing any make-up, I can’t tell, because the actor has a natural, bare-faced beauty to her that tends to come from expensive dermatologist appointments or a deep, inner satisfaction (also expensive, I feel the need to philosophise). As we begin chatting, the one facet that stands out for me throughout is how ‘real’ Taapsee Pannu is. Not in the way one speaks of actors who claim they also ate a bag of chips for dinner last night. No, Taapsee’s ‘realness’ comes through in her beliefs about beauty and its standards (“I hated my curly hair!” she exclaims); in her stories from childhood (including getting into aggressive arguments with her parents); and in how she will always be unafraid to speak up against society’s wrongs, no matter the repercussions. If you didn’t already think Ms Pannu was something else, I have a feeling this candid interview will change your mind...

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Nandini Bhalla: Growing up, what was your definition of beauty?

Taapsee Pannu: ‘‘It was the opposite of everything I was. I didn’t have those big ‘doe eyes’; I didn’t have an elegant, small nose...I had this large, ‘royal nose’, as people call it. I did not have luscious lips or straight, silky hair—you know, the kind that actresses flipped around. I had curly hair, and I remember noticing that none of the actresses on television had hair that looked like mine. And so, while I was still in school, I visited a salon to get my hair chemically straightened. I was sneaky about it, and did not tell my parents, and got my hair straightened—twice—using those terrible chemical treatments that were available at the time. And that completely ruined my hair! At first, I was so frustrated to have limp ends with curly bits growing on the top, and then I was horrified when my hair began falling.

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