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From software engineer to happening heroine!

Last updated on: June 29, 2010 16:32 IST

Image: Taapsee in Jhumandi Naadam
Radhika Rajamani in Hyderabad

Already, she has been touted as the most happening heroine in Telugu cinema. And this before the release of her first Telugu film, Jhumandi Naadam, directed by none other than K Raghavendra Rao.

She also has finished a Tamil film, Aadukalam, a film directed by Vettrimaran in which she'll star alongside Dhanush.

Born and brought up in Delhi, Taapsee is a qualified engineer in computer science who has entered acting through modelling.

A Miss India winner for Best Skin, Taapsee has a number of modelling assignments, both print and television, under her belt. Tall and beautiful, Taapsee seems to have won over the film industry from the start, and already she's signed films opposite Vishnu Babu and Ravi Theja.

Her Telugu debut Jhumandi Naadam features Manoj Manchu as her co-star, and is produced by Lakshmi Manchu under the Lakshmi Prasanna banner. The film is slated for release this week.

Here's what she has to say about her role and more. Excerpts:

How did you decide to enter films? Was it a natural corollary of modelling?

Initially, I wanted to be a full-time model and never thought I could act. As time went by, modelling became not that exciting or enjoyable, as posing in front of the camera became monotonous.

Also, I felt my name was not being highlighted. The name gets highlighted only in films. One gets to do something new, meet new people every day and travel while doing films. Every day is a challenge and something new happens too. So I wanted to act.

'I didn't know Raghavendra Rao uncle was a big name in Telugu'

Image: A scene from Jhumandi Naadam

You chose to enter cinema with a Telugu film? Why?

There was no choosing on the basis of language. It was only on the basis of the role and the technicians.

What was appealing about Jhumandi Naadam? The fact that it was being directed by K Raghavendra Rao?

When I came for the audition, I didn't know Raghavendra Rao uncle was a big name in Telugu. Only when I was about to sign the film did I realise how big he is and also the magnitude of the banner.

How different was acting in a film from modelling?

I was happy I shifted to movies. The first day was different:

We were shooting in Araku Valley. I joined the unit after they had started the shoot. Raghavendra Rao uncle and the unit people made it special. In fact I was made to sit down and Manoj stood behind me and they did the dhristi removal (nazar utarna) with the pumpkin and kapur (camphor). This was also included in the song we shot. So that was special too.

Could you talk about your role?

I play a soft-natured girl who's chirpy and sentimental. She's an NRI but brought up in the traditional way and has not faced hardships in life. She falls in love with the boy and then the twists and turns occur.

Surmounting the language barrier must have been tough...

Yes, it was initially tough. The South Indian and North Indian languages are different; the sound is different, the meaning is different. Whenever people spoke, I wondered if they were talking about me. But I was mentally prepared for it. Instead of cribbing, I started to catch words to use in my daily conversation.

I had a special AD (assistant director) and she used to write the lines in Hindi. Lakshmi (Manchu) said the lip sync should be perfect. She is my mentor. The dialogue sheet would come a day before, but at times it would be changed and then I did fumble and felt I wasted time.

'Modelling was possible with studies'

Image: A scene from Jhumandi Naadam

You are not a trained actor. So how was it being on the sets?

Though I am not trained in acting, I have been a stage performer before. I am trained in Kathak from the age of four. I learned it for eight years under Kanika Ghosh Singh (a disciple of Birju Maharaj). After schooling, I was with Shiamak Davar's dance institute and was training to be an instructor there. I didn't want to be one though. I completed my engineering in Computer Science from Indraprastha University. My dad wanted me to study. I got placement in Infosys and was scheduled to join in August last year, but I signed my first film in the same month.

So you juggled modelling with engineering?

Modelling was possible with studies.

Did you walk the ramp?

I got so much print work that there was no time for walking the ramp. Also, I was not keen on doing it. The only time I did it was during the Miss India pageant.

How was it acting with Manoj?

Manoj is full of energy. Even on a bad day, he is on top. His energy level is tremendous. People used to talk of my high energy. So we clicked. Besides energy levels, our thought processes were also similar. His experience and professionalism is different. I learned how he changes in front of the camera. Manoj helped me a lot. He made me carry off the long emotional scenes well. Also since I was a newcomer, I was open to learning from day one.

'I was treated like a star from day one'

Image: A scene from Jhumandi Naadam

How was it being directed by K Raghavendra Rao?

Raghavendra Rao uncle is a man with a Midas touch. I am lucky to have worked with him. He has made me look beautiful and people appreciated me in the song. He is quite chilled out. Having made 105 movies, he knows the pluses and minuses of his artists. He never caused me stress. Once while I was preparing to tackle a three-page dialogue he asked me, 'Why are you stressing yourself? We'll shoot and pack up when you want to.'

Could tell us something about the experience of working on Jhumandi Naadam?

I was treated like a star from day one. Since the technical crew was experienced, they had a good rapport and they made me feel like one of them. They were encouraging and complimented and appreciated my performance.

On the third day while shooting a song, Raghavendra Rao uncle gave me and Manoj a complimentary Rs 1000 note with 'Best Wishes' signed on it. He also said 'You'll go a long way in your career'.

Many compliments followed, which were a major source of encouragement. Whenever I got ready, he used to give me a look of approval. He would say 'You don't have to put on makeup to look good. You are one of the most beautiful heroines I have worked with.' That was a huge compliment.

You are being talked about as one of the happening heroines even before the film released...

Till a week ago I was happy and excited. Film offers are pouring in. Media is writing good things about me. There is good talk about me in the industry, and this shows in the offers too.

I have finalised my third film with Ravi Theja. I have three films before I am launched. It's just about dawning on me and now I am having panic/anxiety attacks as expectations are high. People have taken a risk by signing me as a lead heroine. I am scared of the hype as one shouldn't fall below expectations.

'I can't expect all my films to be super hits'

Image: A scene from Jhumandi Naadam

Success and failure are part of this industry. How are you equipped to face this?

I can't expect all my films to be super hits. I'll give each shot my best. I don't know what the audience will like. I will make sure I get noticed and appreciated, even if the film doesn't do well.

Was convincing your parents tough when you wanted to enter films?

My mom wanted me to enter films. My dad wanted me to do engineering, and I ended up passing with distinction. So I told him, 'I always did what you wanted me to do. I want one year to do what I want to do. If it doesn't work, I'll get back to what you wanted'.

Do you think winning the Miss Beautiful Skin title at the Miss India pageant was your passport to fame, modelling and now movies?

Not at all. Lakshmi didn't know about my winning the title. Many others didn't have any clue of my background. I had to tell them.

Are you doing a film with Prabhas directed by Dasarath?

Yes, I have a film with Prabhas produced by Dil Raju where I play a tomboy character. I am doing one with Vishnu produced by Mohan Babu uncle and directed by Hemanth Madhukar (his directorial debut), where I play a simple girl, and a film with Ravi Theja directed by Ramesh Varma.

Are you open to doing films in other languages?

Yes, I have shot a Tamil film Aadukalam back-to-back with Jhumandi Naadam. Aadukalam has Madurai backdrop and I play an Anglo-Indian girl. The character is from the middle class and faces an identity crisis. Her parents are troubling her to settle in Australia. Vettrimaran (director of Polladhavan) directs it and I act with Dhanush.

How did you manage with Tamil?

It was more difficult because I had to learn the Madurai dialect. Also one was going back and forth between Telugu and Tamil. The characters are different. I am a glam doll in the Telugu one, while in Tamil I hardly wear makeup.

How do you take care of your skin? And what's your fitness and beauty regimen like?

I am blessed with good skin. I fear makeup and don't wear it during public appearances. I have no fixed plan as far as skin is concerned. I make sure I eat a balanced diet -- fruits and vegetables. I eat only when I'm hungry.

One shouldn't restrict oneself by overeating or eating less. I have a dancing background, so my fitness is taken care of. Even now as and when I get time, I dance.