This year has started on a busy note for Deepika Padukone, with her debut Hollywood film, XXX: Return of Xander Cage, releasing worldwide. And although the actor has had to hop around the globe to promote the film, she isn’t complaining. “I won’t say I am tired. I am raring to go. I feel there is so much more to do and give. It’s been such an enriching experience that it has energised me,” she says, while speaking about her career, Priyanka Chopra, and working in Hollywood.
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Has working in Hollywood been an important career move?
Was it significant or necessary? No. But yes, at a personal level, it was. It was important to challenge and push myself to move out of my comfort zone. I want people to know that it’s okay to take risks. It may pay off sometimes or it may not, but the idea is to not be afraid. There are certain notions in society, whether it’s in India or anywhere else, and it was important for me to at least try and break them. That’s why it was a personal challenge on so many levels. It paid off in a much bigger way than I had expected.
XXX is this year’s highest-grossing film worldwide, with collections of over Rs 2,000 crore.
I am extremely happy for the film’s success, but success for me arrived much earlier when my work in the movie was appreciated and embraced by India. But as far as the numbers are concerned, seeing the film getting so much success internationally makes me happy. Does it mean anything to me? Well, I’ve never understood numbers in India and don’t understand numbers globally either.
Ever since you signed XXX, there’s been talk about the rivalry between you and your ‘friend’ Priyanka Chopra.
I like the fact that you use the word ‘friend’, because that’s what she is to me. So, every time I read anything that doesn’t say that [we are friends], it really surprises me. I have always said that she is someone I’ve known for many years. I feel extremely awkward and weird when such comparisons are made, because I don’t even believe that we are professional rivals. We never were. So, why should we be now? She is doing amazing work in her own space. And what her work will require from her in terms of time and other commitments are different from what I am working towards or what I am doing.
This is your tenth year in showbiz. How does it feel?
I don’t think I have ever sat back and thought about it. I don’t think I have had the time to reflect on how long the journey has been since Om Shanti Om (above left). I have never reflected on that. I don’t even come across my old work. The only time that happens is when, at parties, a song is played, and I am like, ‘oh, it’s from that movie’. Otherwise, so much has happened and so much is happening. And it doesn’t feel that long anyway.
Watch xXx: Return of Xander Cage - Trailer
Will we see you at the Oscars?
Let’s just say it’s an interesting time to be in Los Angeles (USA) this weekend. It’s fun to travel the world. Let’s see (smiles). I often feel the media knows more or thinks more [than celebrities].
For the past few weeks, the focus on your personal life seems to have ebbed…
I don’t know. Why did it stop? It’s so refreshing and amazing to hear that no one is talking about it. If that’s the case, I will only say, ‘well done, Deepika (laughs)’. That’s a great place to be in [when people focus on only your work]. If that’s the case, I feel extremely satisfied, because that’s exactly the way I want it to be.
On Karan Johar’s show, Sania Mirza said that if she woke up as Deepika Padukone, she would dump Ranveer so that he would be single for everyone else…
Well, Sania’s husband should be concerned about that statement (laughs).
Has the molestation case involving a Malayalam actress shaken you too?
It scares me as a human being. I am not thinking, ‘oh, she is an actor, a businesswoman or a cricketer’. I am just thinking of her and what she might have had to go through. Again, it’s similar to the Bangalore molestation incident (on New Year’s Eve), and I strongly feel [upset] that people get away with these things time and again. Nothing is going to change if the laws don’t get stricter as far as punishment is concerned. Sometimes, it’s scary how people get away. How many more incidents like these do we need for someone to wake up and realise that we need to do something? And there’s not just physical abuse but much more that needs to be addressed.
Were you shocked by the violent incident that happened with Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the sets of Padmavati?
I would say it’s immature and childish the way certain people behave, and it’s absolutely uncalled for. No one can behave like that based on speculations. At least, one must have the entire information before reacting in a certain way. Having said that, maybe it’s time for us and for the media to also realise that sometimes, tabloid pieces can be very dangerous because it came from that. All I can say is that only good is going to come out of this. Sanjay sir is extremely passionate about his craft. He lives for cinema. And I know he will use this experience in the best possible way and only pour it back into the film.
Watch Pinga song
Initially, were you scared about working in Hollywood?
I wasn’t apprehensive, but yes, I was nervous and a bit scared. I didn’t know how the experience was going to be, or how they were going to be towards me, or what the film is going to mean for my career. So, it was a challenge and a risk and I was nervous. But now — professionally and personally — to be in a place wherein not just the film but my work, too, has been well-received by people, who take pride in my work, is really rewarding and liberating.
Watch Deewani Mastani Full Video Song | Bajirao Mastani
You put your Bollywood work on hold for XXX: Return of Xander Cage. In that sense, do you think you have got what you were looking for from the film?
In my mind, I don’t think I put anything on hold. I have been through a phase in my life where I have done four films at a time and honestly, if there was something [a film] that I really liked and wanted to do, I would have definitely taken it up. I would have managed two-three films. I have done it in the past and I can do that again. It’s just that there was nothing exciting for me at that time, so it allowed me to focus completely on one film.
There will be a two-year gap between your two Hindi films (Bajirao Mastani; 2015 and Padmavati). Does it make you insecure?
Nothing will ever define why I choose to do the films that I do. It’s not that I haven’t read scripts or haven’t had the time. Like I said, if I wanted to, I could have (done films) but nothing excited me. I shall do a film only if my instinct tells me that I want to take up something. And if that film is Padmavati, which releases two years after Bajirao Mastani, so be it. I don’t think I have ever thought about my career in terms of timelines or a game of chess, where a move today might have an effect later on.
Do you feel shooting for Padmavati is as challenging as Bhansali’s other films
I shot for Padmavati in November and December. And I remember that schedule being peaceful, despite the fact that we did some difficult scenes. There was a different calm in the air. I don’t know if it comes from the fact that I have worked with Sanjay sir before and that relationship has evolved but there was something magical. I hope that magic continues when I join the film again. Hopefully, by the end of this month, I will start [shooting] again.