(L to R) Leander Paes; Taapsee Pannu and Ranveer Singh
Training for the forthcoming Rashmi Rocket for months, Taapsee Pannu finally realised how many muscles she had in her body. She did much of her training in Haridwar in the biting cold at 5 in the morning while shooting for Haseen Dillruba (2021), which would last from nine to nine for more than four months. By 10PM, she had to be in bed for the body to repair itself. She’s proud that she developed a sprinter’s physique in those months without any external aid of steroids or mass gainers. The change is organic, she says, adding that she has never felt better even after moving on to shooting for other films. “My body has become like a spring,” she says recalling how the body’s muscle memory asserts itself. In any case, Taapsee has always been what used to be called a tomboy. She would be playing pitthu with the boys of the neighbourhood and in her school, Mata Jai Kaur Public School, Ashok Vihar, Delhi. “I remember a lot of girls in my neighbourhood were told by their parents to stop being friends with me because I used to hang out with the boys and play outdoors,” she says. But then Taapsee doesn’t believe in following the conventional feminine prototype of the coy, vulnerable heroine whose physicality is more than about being thin, because only then will men fantasise about you. “Let the woman choose her body, you are no one to decide what womanhood means to a woman,” she says. Even in Rashmi Rocket, her character begins as a hero and ends as one, with a brief period in which she is a fish out of water. Loosely based on sprinter Dutee Chand’s life, it speaks for all the women athletes in India and internationally whose careers were destroyed by an archaic gender test. Taapsee’s not done with sports films yet. She will play cricketer Mithali Raj in Shabaash Mithu, having already ticked hockey off the sport list while learning it for Soorma (2018).
How tough can it be to get two tennis legends to talk to each other though they haven’t acknowledged each other for a while, despite their daughters going to the same school and them living within 30 seconds of each other in Mumbai? Very tough but Nitesh Tiwari and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, who have both made critically and commercially acclaimed sport films, Dangal (2016) and Panga (2020), are not just tennis fans but also fans of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. For their brilliant new documentary on Zee5, Break Point, which was planned largely during Covid, they talked to both of them for five hours over nine days as prep. They then scripted the questions on the basis of these conversations. They then shot them separately, and then over three days each in Rishikesh. “We wanted them to reflect on their career, to think over what had happened, and we thought there is nothing more healing than the Ganga,” says Ashwiny. Obviously, it had an impact. By the end of it, Nitesh and his co-writer Piyush Gupta were able to take them back to the stadium in Bengaluru where they had played as boys. They even got them to do their iconic chest bump. It was a happy ending, says Ashwiny, which they had always wanted from the start. It is one of the most emotional parts of the series. The camera zooms in on them and then pans out, leaving them in conversation with each other on the nets, giving them, and us, time to reflect on what might have been but also what was achieved.
Did You Know?
Actor Ranveer Singh has been named the NBA Brand Ambassador for India. He will engage with NBA fans in India throughout the league’s 75th Anniversary Season in 2021-22. While he is promoting basketball in India, apparently former US President Barack Obama is backing NBA Africa. Over the course of the season, Ranveer will participate in a number of league initiatives that will be featured on his own and NBA’s social media accounts. Ranveer will attend the NBA All-Star 2022 in Cleveland, where he will post behind the scenes social media content and meet NBA players and legends. Ranveer previously attended NBA All-Star 2016 in Toronto, where he sat courtside at the NBA All-Star Game. Ranveer has been a basketball fan since he was a child. Says he: “It is one of the most electrifying sports in the world and NBA stars have been shaping pop culture for decades now. From Michael Jordan to Allen Iverson to LeBron James, the NBA has developed a unique culture. The level of sophistication in this game attracts fans in a way few other sports can.”