It’s incredible how, irrespective of where they begin, the best of Taapsee Pannu’s films almost always end in or around the courtroom.
Much like Ayushmann Khurrana, Taapsee Pannu has been working conscientiously towards building her own brand of cinema. When sitting down to watch her films, you know what to expect—a simple story centered around a spirited woman (usually) with a message watered down enough to be easily absorbed by everyone.
In the last five years, Taapsee’s filmography has come into its own much like her performances. However, it’s incredible how, irrespective of where they begin, the best of her films almost always end in or around the courtroom.
It all started with Pink—Taapsee’s big Bollywood breakthrough, which also starred Amitabh Bachchan, Kirti Kulhari, and Angad Bedi. Arguably one of the most impactful Hindi films on consent and everyday misogyny, it asked uncomfortable questions through the travails of its three women, one of them Taapsee.
The film’s message hit as hard as the bottle that Tapsee’s Meenal swung on her assailant. Though it was Taapsee’s third Hindi film, it was the first that got her recognition and set the tone for her films to come.
Mulk released two years later in 2018. This time, Taapsee became Arti, the Hindu daughter-in-law of a Muslim family accused of terrorism. After her brother-in-law gets killed in a police encounter for planning and executing a bomb blast, the entire family falls under suspicion.
Arti, who is also a lawyer, takes up their case in court and fights till they get acquitted, all the while addressing the prevalent deep-seated Islamophobia and the many social biases that stem from it. Also starring Rishi Kapoor and Ashutosh Rana, Mulk is a poignant plea for secularism, tolerance, and compassion.
Manmarziyaan followed soon after. Now, you’d say it’s a love story. It is. But it does end outside a court where Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan) and Rumi meet to get their marriage annulled. Another terrific film peopled by confused characters but with a clear message—love is neither linear nor easy.
Next came Thappad in 2020, Taapsee’s second collaboration with director Anubhav Sinha after Mulk. In the film, when Vikram slapped his wife Amrita during a party at their home, it resounded with many, forcing married couples to assess the powerplay in their relationship.
Again, Thappad is a family drama that invariably reaches the courtroom. Soon after the film released, we had a family gathering. Female relatives of my mother’s age, whom I’d never seen discuss any uncomfortable issue ever, opened up about their experiences. It was a revelation for me, a change I thought I’d never see. And it all started with, “Hey, did you watch Thappad? Do you think what she did was too extreme?”
And now Rashmi Rocket. The Akrash Khurana directorial is as much a courtroom drama as it is a sports film. The protagonist, Rashmi, is a girl from a village in Kutch with a natural talent for sprinting. Through her, the movie builds a case against the archaic, draconian gender test that has and continues to strip several female athletes of their identity, dignity, and right to play.
Rashmi Rocket has its share of problems but there is still plenty to praise. Much like all other Taapsee’s films mentioned above, this one too is ably supported by a slew of charming performances.
Despite their limited screen time, Supriya Pathak, Manoj Joshi, Priyanshu Painyuli, Abhishek Banerjee, and Supriya Pilgaonkar contribute significantly in making the film what it is—a wholesome story highlighting an issue we knew little about.
There is a lot to like about Taapsee’s movie template, even if it makes her films predictable, much like Ayushmann’s. Both of them have been consistently bringing to fore issues not many actors of their credibility or bankability do.
That the stories of the best of her films inevitably reach the courtroom is a testament that Taapsee is inclined towards portraying women who are fighters with grit and fortitude enough to challenge injustice and see it to the finish line.
We need more of such women on screen. And in life. After all, as Rashmi’s father tells her in the film, “Haar jeet toh parinaam hai. Koshish humara kaam hai (Losing and winning is a result. We must keep trying).”
(Edited by : Yashi Gupta)
First Published: IST