Taapsee Pannu: Five of us can’t bring numbers that Akshay Kumar does

Taapsee Pannu talks box-office and bias as she takes on criticism about Mission Mangal’s posters that feature Akshay Kumar prominently over leading ladies

I got greedy for Mission Mangal. Sharing screen space with Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan doesn’t happen every day. It’s a unique film,” begins Taapsee Pannu, when we meet her at a suburban five-star where she is promoting the ensemble venture. Given her knack for recognising powerful stories, the statement says a lot about the script of the Jagan Shakti-directed venture that is inspired by India’s Mars Orbiter Mission.

With the story predominantly focussing on the women scientists essayed by Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Kirti Kulhari, Nithya Menen and Pannu, the film is undeniably a step in the right direction for Bollywood. However, detractors pointed out that the makers played it safe by putting the spotlight on Kumar in the posters, despite having a talented all-women cast. “We can’t escape that it is a commercial requirement. This is a big-budget film. We need to face the reality that Akshay Kumar’s face on the poster will be able to get huge footfalls. Five of us women put together won’t be able to add up to the opening figure that Akshay alone can get. Truth is, if we women weren’t there, the film would still open big because of him. Our absence would have reduced the star quotient but not made as big a difference,” says Pannu with her signature candour.

She adds that the episode serves as a harsh reminder of how the audience, too, needs to change their mindset. “People on Twitter, who are enraged about this, should ask themselves if they watch women-centric films on the first weekend. Why do they wait for reviews before making their decision?” Pannu is all praise for Kumar for championing gender equality. “Akshay takes all of us along [for the promotions]. It shows that he is standing up for us. At a promotional show in Delhi, he was made to sit separately. He got up and made sure he sat with us. We are on our way to becoming equal.”

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