Hot off the success of Soorma, Taapsee Pannu is making waves with her freshly released film Mulk. Releasing alongside Fanney Khan and Karwaan, Mulk also stars a host of talented actors, namely Rishi Kapoor, Prateik Babbar, Rajat Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana, Manoj Pahwa and Neena Gupta.
The film tells the story of a Muslim family trying to reclaim its lost honour and has been directed by Anubhav Sinha. We were fortunate enough to catch up with the very busy Pink actress to talk more about Mulk and her character. Here’s what she told our Editor Fatima Patel, ahead of the films release.
Taapsee, have to admire you for your brave choice in films. Hindu, Muslim tensions have always attracted heated discussions and tense debates and clearly, you’ve been getting social media abuse for your film Mulk. Were you expecting the trolling to be at such a level and what is helping you mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for such abuse?
Well, was I expecting it? Honestly yes, I was expecting all of this. I think the reason why such a big issue is made on this film, is because there are a bunch of people who don’t question these things and keep moving on with life, which is not ok. Of course, when someone makes an attempt to question that prejudice, why are we having preconceived notion about certain things? So, of course that sore nerve will be touched, and some people will have an issue with it. So, I think we would have been a slightly disappointed if people didn’t actually troll us, because that would mean we didn’t really touch their sore nerve, which we really intended to with this film. So, I think it’s all going in the right direction.
Hate crime and trolling is obviously a global problem. Do you think British audiences will identify with the storyline or content of Mulk?
Honestly, I don’t want to label the audience whether the audience is British, Indian or American, I think anyone with a brain who understands what is right or wrong has the maturity and sensibility to judge a situation wisely and not judge based on things like religion or caste, will love the film – If that’s what we are talking about! What matters more is humanity. We’re talking about humanity and anyone who has the sensibility and brains to understand between right and wrong will love the film.
You’ve said in interviews and just now that you’re more disappointed with those who have not spoken out about the prejudices or such issues. There hasn’t been much from the film industry either, for example I haven’t seen much comment since the trailers released.
I beg to differ on that. There has been very good reaction from the industry. The industry has been really responsive. I have had calls from a few directors and a few actor friends of mine have tweeted about it. I think the industry has received it really well. When we say the majority what I mean is between you and me. All of us, all citizens of India for that matter.
You know we’re so busy with our own lives our own problems, so we don’t really bother to address these trolls. Which is fair enough you don’t have to bother to address the trolls, but the problem is when we don’t voice our concerns over national issues and we just stay low when people are making religion an issue. So that’s when people like you and me who have the sensibility to question bigger things and not things like what is your religion? And what is my religion, and why are cows respected? All these questions are not the ones to be asked right now. The questions to be asked right now are where are the schools? Where’s the food? Where’s the water? Where is the house? We are more bothered about asking other questions which are not relevant in the present state in the country. So, I think that is the problem.
What for you is the most powerful dialogue or statement made in your film Mulk?
I think that will come out once you see the film. There are so many of them. I openly say this that I think it’s one of the best scripts, dialogues that I have ever read. There are beautiful dialogues in the film and I don’t know what will be your take away from it, but everyone will have their own. There are some beautiful dialogues said by characters of this film that lets see which ones the audience will like more.
Aarti Mohammed the name itself is very powerful, what has it been like playing her?
It has been the most intimidating role of my career and that’s because I had to share my screen space with some brilliant actors. I am not generally intimidated with big stars, or to act with big stars, but I am extremely intimated when I know I am in the same frame with brilliant actors. Any scene that’s not on par will be captured and it would shine out like a sore thumb. That’s why I was very intimidated when I was sharing screen space with actors like Rishi Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana, Rajat Kapoor, Neena Gupta, Manoj Pahwa…Such brilliant actors. It’s an ensemble cast film. Everyone plays such important characters, no one can be taken out of the film. So, it’s purely driven by characters and that is why I say it has been intimidating because I am sharing screen space with such brilliant actors.
As for Aarti Muhammed she is a very very beautifully written character. The fact that she is from a Hindu family married to a Muslim guy. When in London lawyers are very professional, but when she is with her in laws that is when the incident happens, when she chooses to stand for what is right, rather than deciding what is her religion. Because she is practising Hinduism still. She is still going to the temple, she prays to her Hindu God, but she has proudly taken up her in laws casting. Doesn’t make her any less of a Hindu or more of a Muslim.
I think it is probably the most secular outlook. She stood there, as a Hindu girl defending her Muslim family because that is what she believes is right and good for the country eventually.
So that’s where the power of the character comes from, it’s such a thin line I was treading because I had to be professional to fight their case as a lawyer. You cannot be emotional. But at the same time, you are fighting for your family for your in laws. So, you are emotionally attached to them as well. You are not just their lawyer and they are getting ripped apart, so you tend to feel for them as well, you can’t just cut off that feeling. So, you know I was walking this very thin line in my personal and professional life in the film, so that in itself was a challenge for me to portray.
So, what are your expectations from the film, apart from it doing superbly well at the box office?
Well when we made the film we thought that if at all that socially relevant people like it. We just want people to start talking about the elephant in the room. Don’t shut this topic under the carpet. Let’s not be delusional. We are not living under a rock for us not to know that something is definitely not ok and that something is definitely going wrong! So, let’s just face it for once and for all and finish it and stop shoving it under the carpet anymore because all we need to do is to look up and be able to talk and discuss similar to the issues we have in a family. Like we say OK I have an issue with you, you have an issue with me, lets sort it out let’s make up and sort it through. Because there is way more time and effort used in fighting than, if we spent the same amount of effort in peace and working together then we’d be more successful as a nation and I think we would be far more ahead of what we are right now.
Mulk is out in cinemas globally from 3 August 2018