From ‘Soorma’, ‘Saand Ki Aankh’ to ‘Rashmi Rocket’, Bollywood actress Taapsee Pannu has some incredible sports films to her credit and now she is all set for another one, ‘Shabaash Mithu’, a biopic on Mithali Raj, former captain of women’s cricket team.
Mithali Raj is among the highest run-scorers in women’s international cricket and Taapsee says it was never easy for her to portray a living legend on screen.
Taapsee was in Capital for the promotion of her movie, ‘Shabaash Mithu’ along with Mithali Raj and director Srijit Mukherji.
She told about how she prepped up physically and mentally to depict Mithali and the kind of roles she is looking forward to play.
“It was a biggest challenge and especially for someone who has not played cricket ever before to portray a living legend like her-the first woman whose name comes to mind when you talk about women’s cricket.
“And this is also true that if this role was not so challenging I would not have been motivated to give my best. Apart from that, to perform as a character, we both are very different as individuals. So, the challenge was not limited to just the cricketing field, it was also beyond, to impersonate in a way. I am not someone who’s very good at mimicry.”
“When I have to portray someone who’s not really like me I will not try to mimic her. I’ll try to embody her and make a version of myself like give a part of myself into that character. Instead of trying to just superficially mimic someone. So that also takes a little bit of effort mentally to change yourself to portray someone who is so different from you,” she added.
Taapsee, furthermore asserted that she was extra careful because this movie is not only based on cricket which is loved by the entire country but it comes under more scrutiny as the story revolves around a woman cricketer and that makes the topic more sensitive and need to be handled with care. Moreover, the actress said ‘yes’ to the movie even before its script was ready.
“When this opportunity came to me I thought about what could be better than this. It seemed like this role was written for me. It was full of challenges. Firstly because this movie revolves around cricket which is most loved in our country and second because it is based on the life of a women cricketer. Wherever women are involved that lens with which people will look at you will be double precise.”
“They will be observed with a double microscope like how she is holding the bat, how she hit the ball. So, the level of commitment needed was double. And we all had given that. I have put all my effort into portraying a cricketer and the same goes for the director and producer. It is a team work,” shared the ‘Pink’ actress.
For depicting the life of a sports personality there is a lot of physical training that is required and Taapsee said that she was fortunate as she was prepared to play a professional cricketer by not just one but four coaches including Mithali Raj’s friend Nooshin Al Khadeer for the biopic.
She revealed: “I was trained by four coaches, not just one. All of them have played with her and were friends with her, especially Nooshin. They had the responsibility, the herculean task to turn a non-cricketer into Mithali Raj. I think we should praise them for courageously accepting this challenge without even knowing me. The first day, I didn’t even know how to lift a bag. I came for practice the second day to begin again. “
“It was beneficial to learn from Nooshin not only because she is a cricketer and has played with her (Mithali) for a long time but also because she is a very close friend of Mithali. So, this helps me to not just learn cricket the ‘Mithali way’, but to also know Mithali beyond the pitch. Due to the fact that she was busy at the time, it was extremely difficult for me to conduct research work. In fact, I didn’t even have any videos of her. Before, it was also really difficult to find her interviews.”
“The ones that were found were from around 2012-2013. There weren’t any interviews prior to that period. I had no footage. Therefore, Nooshin was a window for me to know Mithali, not just as a cricketer, but also as a person beyond the ground.”
Recalling her first meeting with Mithali, Taapsee reminisced: “I was getting butterflies in my stomach. Because I always admire sports stars. I have this little fangirl moment whenever I see any sports star who’s represented India because since childhood I used to watch sports more than movies. I am fond of them so much because there is no second take for them like we get in movies. So, when I met Mithali I talked a lot, in fact more than her. Now at certain times I feel if I would have let her speak, maybe I would have understood the character in a much better way.”
Taapsee had a lot of memories from the sets of her movies and she enjoyed every bit of it. The way she played cricket and prepared herself will always be with her. At last she talked about her wish and concluded with: “I want to play an avenger and please tell Marvel they can do something about it.”
–By Ila Sankrityayan