Tapsee Pannu has been making headlines recently for her powerful performances in films like Pink and Naam Shabana. But Tapsee recently revealed that Tollywood, where she first started out, looks at her very differently, and not in a good way.
Chatting with East India Comedy, Tapsee spoke about her Tollywood stint, especially with director K Raghavendra Rao, who launched her with the film Jhummandi Naadam in 2010. She took a major dig at the director’s obsession with throwing fruits and flowers at heroines’ navels to add ‘sensuality’ to his films.
“I saw Sridevi’s and others’ videos. Everyone had flowers and fruits thrown at them,” Tapsee says in the video. “My turn came and I don’t know, maybe I was not prepared as I told you… they threw a coconut at me! I don’t know what is so sensuous about a coconut hitting my midriff,” she says.
In the video in question, which gets played right on cue, we see Tapsee Pannu lying on a bed of coconuts, and half a coconut filled with coconut water lands on Tapsee’s navel. And then a yellow flower makes its way into the coconut. As the video continues, much to the uproarious delight of the audience, Tapsee is then seen frolicking in a bath shaped like a large coconut.
“If you see, the water in the large coconut had turned slightly blue, that was because my dress’s colour seeped into it,” Tapsee says to the laughing audience.
Watch the video from 10.05 here:
Earlier in the video Tapsee talks more about Rao’s obsession with the navel. “I can’t understand the obsession, what are you looking at here?” she asks.
Rao’s obsession with actor’s midriffs is so well known that he is even referred to as the ‘navel specialist‘ by some media websites. In fact, actor Chiranjeevi commented in an interview that if one wanted to learn about fruits, one’s best bet would be “to do one film with director K Raghavendra Rao. He used to put all the fruits around the heroine’s navel (boddu).”
This navel obsession has been so typical to his portrayal of heroines that a basic search on YouTube reveals many compilations of ‘navel songs’ and ‘fruit songs’ from Rao’s films. Here’s one example.
Take for instance, the song Muddimmandi from Allari Mogudu, which stars Ramya Krishnan. In most scenes, she is writhing and rolling around, but the USP is a scene where an orange is thrown at her midriff. And that’s not all, she rolls on a bed of oranges, which is followed by a close up of her waist with a single orange perched on it.
Here’s another one: the song Vuliki Padaku from Major Chandrakanth. In one scene here, actor Nagma is seen lying down, with rice grains falling on her navel from above.
So what could possibly be the reason behind this fixation with women’s navels? In a 2015 interview to TV9 Telugu, Rao attempted to justify it, saying that it was not only fashionable, but also a way of worshipping a woman’s beauty. He made no mention of the ‘sensuality’.
“They are making a fuss about me showing women’s navel with flowers but it’s actually in fashion. The wasit is a beauty spot for women. Throwing flowers or fruits on it is to worship it,” he says. Watch the clip here:
It’s all too possible that many other actors, like Tapsee, find Rao’s portrayal of ‘sensuality’ problematic. But it remains difficult for them to call it out. After East India’s Company’s video went up on YouTube on Friday, some popular Telugu sites immediately hit back at Tapsee for ‘insulting‘ and ‘poking fun‘ at Rao. These sites called her comments ‘disgusting’ and ‘advised’ her not to forget her roots, now that she has moved to Bollywood.
In the video, Tapsee also talked about how women are objectified in film industries, and how their acting talents are completely ignored in the process. She reveals that many directors thought that she could not act, and only changed their opinions after Pink and Naam Shabana hit the screens.
Such objectification of women has been a common problem across film industries, but actors have now begun to speak up about it.
In December last year, Kollywood actors Tamannaah and Nayanthara had slammed director Suraj for saying that he raised the hemlines on heroine’s clothes to sell his films. “People give money to watch a hero fight, and a glamorous heroine. I don’t believe in a heroine clad in a saree,” Suraj had said.
Nayanthara had responded by saying that the audiences were more mature than Suraj and respected women, and that no one should think that heroines can be taken for granted.
Tamannaah had similarly spoken out in a statement, saying, “We are actors, we are here to act and entertain the audience and should not at any point be objectified as commodities.