Deepika Padukone, glamour goddess, wears a sporty hat for a change and talks about her days as a badminton champion at the launch of MTV Force India.. The Fast and The Gorgeous, to Nikhil Taneja.
What was the impact of sports on your growing up years?
It has taught me so much! I was very young when I started travelling for tournaments. Because of the fact that I interacted with people across the country, I am very confident now. It taught me to be responsible and independent. I have lived the life that sportspersons experience in India, with the limited facilities. I have travelled by second class trains, lived in dormitories and you know, shared loos.
You continue to be associated with sport in some way, isn't it? You are a former badminton champion, we spotted you at IPL last season, and now you are the brand ambassador for Force India.
(Smiles) I come from a sports family. So I've always been extremely fond of sports. I've played national level badminton myself, and I'm in the glamour industry now.
Formula One is one of the only sports which has a blend of both glamour and sports, just like my life. MTV Force India.. The Fast and The Gorgeous, like MTV Roadies is fresh, young, and about being yourself and expressing yourself.. which is why I'm endorsing it.
What's the one memory you have of being on the badminton court?
(Thinks, and then lights up) I think the days when my dad, Prakash Padukone, would coach me.
Did he let you win sometimes?
We never played competitively actually. Moreover, he didn't want to spoil me by treating me any different from others. He was the coach for the senior players, and I was a junior player.
It was only once in a while, when he was in a good mood, that he'd train me separately. That was fun! (Smiles)
He never once let the fatherly aspect take on the badminton court?
No, on court, he was a coach, and at home, he was a father.. a very normal one at that. He balanced out his family time and his career very well. I never felt like my father wasn't home for me.
Was he disappointed when you left badminton to join modelling?
(Pauses) No.. both my parents have been extremely supportive of whichever career my sister Anisha or I decided to take up. They trust the fact that we would make the right choices.
Did they have an inkling that your heart was set somewhere else?
I modelled as a kid and did a couple of campaigns. I don't know if they expected it, but when I told them, they handled it really well.
I did have to convince them first. They just told me that they trusted me to work hard and get noticed. And well, I'm just glad I didn't do any wrong work and get carried away.
What's the one thing you still miss about the sport?
When we played national level, it was a lot of fun when we travelled as an entire team. We lived in the worst conditions, ate the worst food, and struggled our way up.. but it was fun doing it together. Times have changed now and things have become professional, but that phase was also fun.
You may have become a national level champion had you still been a part of that world.
Yeah, probably. But you know, when I was young, there was no thought of not getting into badminton. It was expected that the daughter of a sports legend would obviously take up that sport.
It's only after I started playing, there came a time when I had to think whether that was what I really wanted. I realised that I was good at the game, but I just didn't enjoy it as much as I'd enjoy, say, being a part of the entertainment world.
What have you learnt from your father which helps you in your film career?
It would surely be the way he handled success. He is also very passionate about what he does. Even today, the minute you start talking to him about badminton, he's so passionate, you can see it. That's what makes a person successful in the first place.
How did he handle defeats?
He had stopped playing by the time I was born. But he's told me a lot about success and failure. You have your good days and your bad days, but you can't give up. Sometimes, it's nice to be defeated because it gives you the strength to go back there and do better.
Is that how you feel after Chandni Chowk to China's debacle?
Yeah, I guess. You can't get disheartened if your film doesn't work, because there's no formula to success. The most important thing is to enjoy the process of making the film. So many months of our lives go into that.. you meet so many
people, learn so many things, enjoying your time is very important.
Being from a sports background, do you think the sporting spirit is missing in the film industry?
(Evasively) I think I have been able to handle failure of a film or things like allegations and rumours much better. It's something I was prepared for, coming from a sports family.
So is the sporting spirit missing?
(Thinks) Some have it, some don't.
You recently said that you'd be starting a sports academy.
My father, Prakash Padukone, has already set up the Olympic Gold Quest with Geet Sethi and a couple of corporates.
They'd be supporting talented sportspersons financially, with the aim of bringing back Olympic medals. I plan to do something similar, but on a personal track.
You will be supporting sportspersons financially?
Yes. When sportspersons in our country go out and play, they shouldn't be worried about whether they have enough money to eat or support their families. Their worry should be focusing on the game, but that's sadly not the case.
Would you put together a film on sports?
I don't know about that, but I would love to be part of a sports film, whether it's badminton or any other. I think it's nice for a girl to do different things in films, especially after Chak De! India became popular.
So who has the most sporty body in the film industry?
(Instantly) Me. Amongst the girls, definitely me.
And amongst the guys?
(Instantly) Akshay (Kumar). Oh, and John (Abraham) too.