Actor Taapsee Pannu, raided last week by Income Tax officials, said today that she had "nothing to fear" and had no idea why the raids took place in the first place. "If I have done something wrong, I will serve the punishment," the actor told NDTV in an exclusive interview in which she also talked about being finally noticed in Bollywood because of her breakout roles.
The 33-year-old actor said she and her family had cooperated with the officers and had answered all their questions. "I have answered all their questions and if there is anything wrong it will come out. It's not like I can hide anything if I have done anything wrong. I have cooperated in all possible ways and if there is something that they had found which is wrong I will be more than happy to serve the punishment that comes with it. This is the law of the land. You have decided to be a citizen of the country, you will follow that and there is nothing wrong in that," she said.
The Income Tax Department on March 3 launched raids on the homes and offices of Taapsee Pannu and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap as well as his partners, who launched the now-shuttered production house Phantom Films. The searches, part of a tax evasion probe against Phantom Films, carried out across 30 locations in Mumbai and Pune, also covered Reliance Entertainment group CEO Shibhasish Sarkar and some executives of celebrity and talent management companies KWAN and Exceed.
Many, however, linked the searches to the fact that both Taapsee Pannu and Anurag Kashyap are outspoken critics of the government and had recently also come out in support of the farmers' protests near Delhi. Recently, Ms Pannu had criticised the celebrity pushback in the form of tweets in solidarity with the government after pop star Rihanna's post on the protests. The actor took a jibe at the pushback and questioned "one tweet" rattling one's belief.
"There is no way to find out (why the raids) because these are highly confidential procedures. When IT raids happed, there is no option but to follow procedure," said Taapsee, describing the raids as "intimidating" in the beginning.
On speculation about the taxmen discovering Rs 5 crore during the searches, she said: "I was wondering who is giving me Rs 5 crore. There were stories of me having a bungalow in Paris. I answered all the questions asked by the Income Tax officers. My family and I cooperated with the IT department."
The "Thappad" actor also reacted to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's comments on the raids.
Nirmala Sitharaman last week said Anurag Kashyap and Taapsee Pannu were raided in 2013 as well, but no issue was raised then, as was now. "First of all, I am not commenting on any A or B individual. (But) since the names were taken, (I want to say) the very same names were raided in 2013," she said in an interaction with journalists at the Indian Women's Press Corps. It "wasn't an issue (in 2013). It's an issue now," she said.
Taapsee Pannu said: "It was nice of the Finance Minister to say that it's a procedure, don't sensationalise it."
The "Pink" star has been trolled viciously for speaking her mind in social media posts and her most recent comment on the raids drew a vitriolic response from fellow actor Kangana Ranaut.
"No one can get to me by trolling me. It doesn't work on me. Trolls are giving me so much time... they are closet lovers," she grinned.
She also spoke about making a place for herself in Bollywood with her niche roles.
"I had a dream of not being replaceable and now I see filmmakers are ready to wait for me. This is so special for an actor," she confessed.
There was a time auditions defeated her. But after the success of "Pink", Taapsee Pannu has had her pick of what she calls "brilliant" roles that have allowed her to experiment with varied genre.
"It is an age-old truth that one hit film changes everything. People noticed me as a leading lady in Pink. A lot changed for me for the better," she said, adding that she would continue to do a "mix" of commercial and offbeat films.