She had an outstanding 2013 with four back-to-back hits. Now, Deepika Padukone is on a career high again, with a great 2015 and a reported Hollywood outing with Vin Diesel in the pipeline for 2016. Even as the actor soaks in all the adulation coming her way, she admits that “family time is very important to her”.
Here, she talks about her success, her passion for her work, rumoured beau Ranveer Singh, and more.
In 2015, you earned a lot of acclaim for your performances. What’s the secret formula?
I wish it was as easy as, “Oh, you can drink a potion and it will happen.” All this has been driven purely by just one thing — my passion for my work. I feel I am at a very interesting phase in my career, where I feel I have a lot to offer.
Does all this attention ever make you nervous?
It feels nice, but it is also something that I don’t take for granted. For me, none of this has happened overnight, and it hasn’t come easily. It has been a gradual process. I appreciate the applause and the encouragement, but I don’t take any of it for granted. I have had to work hard for it to happen in a way that it has.
Are you feeling any kind of pressure due to the expectations?
I haven’t thought about that yet, and I hope I never get affected by that. I hope I never get weighed down by anyone’s expectations, including my own. When you work on a film, it’s important to feel that you are starting afresh and doing it for the first time. Also, it’s important to have those butterflies in your stomach; you need to wonder how you are going to approach the character and whether you will be able to do justice to the part.
There has been a marked difference in your performances from when you made your debut. What has changed?
I haven’t thought about it, and I don’t want to. I don’t know. I guess the only thing that I can attribute it to is how comfortable I am with myself now. I think it boils down to that, and how much I am enjoying my work. I just love being on a film set. I am so consumed by my work at this point that nothing else has ever consumed me so much. I love my work and what I do. I would like to believe that I am a collaborative actor. That’s why I love all the directors I have worked with in recent times, as they are all collaborative directors. I think my constant desire is to keep bettering my own work. I don’t get easily satisfied with my work; I am very critical of it. I learn from my mistakes. I am very hard on myself. And whatever criticism comes my way, it always works to my advantage, because I am someone who will always take it in a very constructive way. I want to keep learning, improving and getting better.
You have stated in some of your past interviews that Ranveer has been important to you in the past two-three years…
Yes, he has been a huge influence. We have very different personalities for the outside world, but deep down inside, he is very different, mature and extremely intelligent. I think sometimes people don’t see or get his intelligence because he is like a joker and a bubble, who is jumping from one place to another. He is very sensitive, emotional and most importantly, very grounded.
Do you ever ask him to tone down his theatrics?
No, I don’t need to because I know he isn’t like that all the time. With me, he is a different person.
Is there any truth to the rumours suggesting that you two might get married this year.
Not at the moment (smiles). People seem to know more about my life than even I do (smiles).
Are you okay with such speculation?
I like it. It’s not relevant to who I am and what I do. People can go ahead and make up whatever [stories] they want to about the equation that we share; I am totally okay with that. I don’t feel the need to define what it is to us.
2013 was a fantastic year for you, and 2015 was too…
I didn’t imagine that a year like 2013 could happen so soon or if it could ever happen at all. And that’s why I cherished those moments so dearly back then because such a year happens very rarely in an actor’s life. It was extremely special. I didn’t think, at that time, that I will be in a similar situation two years later, with three films releasing in the same year almost back-to-back; I am extremely overwhelmed.
How important was 2015 for you, considering 2014 wasn’t as great?
I was fully aware of what 2014 was for me. I was clear that it was about Finding Fanny and Happy New Year. I didn’t have any other expectations. So, there’s no question of being disappointed or feeling let down.
Were you expecting such a great response for Bajirao Mastani (BM)?
Somewhere, as an actor, you are aware of the scale of the film, and you are aware of what the possibilities are, but until those possibilities become a reality, you are never prepared. I remember the day I saw the film, I came out of the theatre and for almost two hours, I couldn’t stop crying. I think I was so overwhelmed by our journey, and by the film itself, and what we all had gone through, that I couldn’t believe that it all had come together in this manner. I got up, and gave Ranveer a big hug, who was sitting next to me, and cried on his shoulder for 10 minutes. Then I saw Sanjay sir (Leela Bhansali; director) and cried again, and I think he also started crying. It has been very overwhelming.
Does it help if you share great real-life chemistry with your co-star, the way you do with Ranveer?
Would you have asked me the same thing if we were talking about Irrfan? I feel it has nothing to do with the equation one has [with a co-star] on a personal level. It’s important to trust your co-star, and completely surrender while you are doing a scene. Everything else will follow. I have a very different energy with Ranveer than I have with Irrfan or Ranbir (Kapoor). It’s up to directors how they bring these energies together.
The competition in Bollywood seems fiercer than ever before…
That’s never been a thought in my mind. My focus is constantly on my own work, so it’s about what I have done before, what I am going to do next and how I am going to do better than what I did last.
You hardly discuss competition. Why?
These things are irrelevant to me. My work, my state of mind, my health, my family and my friends are the only things that matter. Other than my work, everything else is irrelevant.
It’s surprising to see no new film in your kitty?
I read a couple of scripts in the last few months, but I got nothing that I felt I could do justice to. Also, I don’t think it’s fair to a film if an actor is not 100% convinced. I know there’s a lot of talk about me potentially working with a lot of directors, but I have signed nothing yet. I will never sign a film for wrong reasons.
There has been a lot of talk about your Hollywood project with Vin Diesel. Are you kicked about exploring the new avenue?
As an actor, I am only excited about doing good work — be it in mainstream Hindi cinema, Hollywood, a French film or a Marathi movie.
Are you doing the Saina Nehwal biopic? What about a film with Salman Khan?
I haven’t been officially offered any film. And I want to work with Salman soon, hopefully (smiles).
We heard your family loved you in Bajirao Mastani…
My family from the US had come down, so my parents couldn’t come to Mumbai for the premiere. But they went for the film after booking an entire theatre and for the first time, my father complimented me. Finally, he gave me a huge compliment, but he added that I still have a lot more to do. My dad is like that; he keeps pushing me to do better, to do more, and to keep improving [my craft]. For my family, it’s the best film they have ever seen. When they watch a film, they watch it critically, as an audience. I have a text message from my mother, saying that it’s the best film they have ever watched.