Deepika Padukone is shooting for Farah Khan’s Happy New Year, at Mehboob Studios. We sit inside her state-of-the art vanity van, which also has an inbuilt kitchen. “She has designed it herself because she stays in this mobile home for long hours. It is her second home,” one of her staff members tells us. As we speak, however, Deepika walks in and promptly greets us with her trademark flashbulb of a smile. Looking like a million dollars, she tells us how she still cannot believe how great this year has been so far. Excerpts from the interview that followed:
Very rarely in Hindi films is a heroine’s performance lauded as in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. That’s quite a high isn’t it?
I am overjoyed seeing how the feedback has been. Even though I wholeheartedly believed in Ram-Leela, I really didn’t know what to expect from filmgoers. When I woke up that Friday morning when it released, my brand new phone kept hanging because the messages just wouldn’t stop. I got so emotional with the appreciation that I was very close to breaking down every time anyone said anything nice. I can’t begin to explain how it felt.
Six years ago you started with a bang with Om Shanti Om. Then you went through a tough phase with some forgettable films. Good to be back with a bang this year?
You know these six years I have been working non stop so I have not really had the time to sit down and analyse. I don’t know why those films didn’t do well because as far as I know I did them with the same gusto, same passion. These six years have been tough and easy. Easy because I was fortunate to get some good films and big banners. Tough because my debut film was such a nice set up where I was protected so beautifully and presented so well, and I assumed this is how it is going to be everywhere. But then suddenly I found myself to be on my own. The unit of my first film used to tell me that it would not be easy for me from my second film onwards, but I didn’t listen to them. I am like that. Even when my parents tell me not to do something, I go ahead and do it. I have to learn from my own mistakes. It was after a while that I realised this is not going to be such a smooth journey. Nobody is going to spoon-feed you here. Some things have changed over the years and I think the biggest change is that I have become more comfortable with myself as a person.
You mean you had to drop some inhibitions?
Maybe. I have never been on a movie set before I did my debut film. It is right on the sets that I understood the craft, learnt to deal with the people, and most of the time I have let my instinct do the judging for me. I still rely a lot on my instinct. I owe a lot of what I am today to my sports background. You get defeated and you know what to learn from it. You get a better sense of where you stand when you face defeat. I should be grateful also to some fans who believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Everyone goes through bad phases, but I remember the people who never questioned my decisions and loved me for who I am.
So for someone who comes from a different background, is it tougher to deal with adulation?
Of course. My life has changed over the past few years. But even when people shower praises, it will not go to my head. Really, within me nothing has changed.
But there is something else that has changed. You were open about your personal relationship but now you are more cagey about it. Did you regret being open?
I don’t think I regretted that. I decided for myself that I don’t want to do that anymore. Also, right now I have nothing to talk about. I am in this phase of my career where I have to spend all my energy on work. When I seriously get involved with someone, I will give a lot of myself emotionally. I am scared to do that now. I do not know whether I am emotionally ready to invest in a relationship right now. The beauty of investing all your energy in your work is that it gives you back 100 per cent but in a relationship you are dependent on someone else. So yes, I am scared. And I control myself.
But isn’t it easier said than done?
I am an emotional and extremely sensitive person. When I get totally involved with someone, I put myself whole-heartedly into the relationship. I don’t believe in casual flings.
There are stories of Ranveer Singh and you being together…We saw your on screen chemistry in Ram-Leela and it makes us want to believe in those stories….
(Laughing) Sizzling, isn’t it? I think the beauty is that we didn’t know each other before the film. We got to know each other through the process of doing this film. I think the chemistry is because we have discovered each other as human beings, and as actors, through our work. When I saw the film, I was quite taken aback by our chemistry…I was like…uhm…this is quite…whatever you call it…intense?
Yes. Intense. For those of us who know how calm and composed you are in real life, it comes as quite a surprise. I mean the kind of passion shown in the film.
I think that’s the beauty of being an actress. I surprised myself that I could have outbursts of that kind in the film. I have never experienced that kind of emotion in real life. I felt very liberated.
Are you more restrained because of the kind of upbringing that you have had?
Possibly. A lot of it comes from my parents. They would tell us not to be impulsive, absorb all kind of negativity and not give it back. There are days I might be angry but I don’t break down too easily. The conditioning has always been to be strong, to internalise it and not to take it out on other people.
After becoming a star, what do you miss the most?
I miss my family. I am this single girl living in a city that I have not grown up in. Other than the workload there is also this responsibility of running the house. Also I don’t have anyone to go home to. My parents had warned me that it is going to be difficult and at that time I had taken it lightly. But now I know better. But I have a great support system in my staff. They are like my family here. My family back home, too, has been such a support. Some days I would feel really guilty but they have never questioned me about my absence.
In an industry where actresses are not paid at par with the actors, do you think it is time for you to command a higher price?
I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. Seriously, I am not good with discussing money. I have my agents who do this for me and I trust them. It is not my department and I really don’t want to know.