I’ve never identified with the emotion of fear; was never scared: Deepika Padukone
Actor Deepika Padukone says her “self-belief” and “fearless” nature gave her strength in the last few months; adds at this stage, everything has been “trumped by the love, success, the celebration and blessings” for Padmaavat.bollywood Updated: Feb 05, 2018 14:37 IST
It could be called a classic case of real life mirroring fiction. Not only was Deepika Padukone busy portraying the bravery of Rajput queen Rani Padmavati for film-maker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, she also showed immense courage and strength in the face of constant threats and controversies surrounding the film in real life. With her film seeing success at the box office and her performance garnering praise, Deepika says she has “never identified with the emotion of fear”. We catch up with the actor to talk about the film, the controversy, and more.
What’s your state of mind right now?
I don’t think words can sum up what I am feeling at this point. There is a sense of being overwhelmed, a feeling of achievement, and sense of gratitude and victory, besides, of course, joy and happiness. I feel as if people are blessing me. This has never happened before. I have done films in the past as well, and people have appreciated performances and have spoken about success. I also feel a sense of ownership that I never felt before. Last week, I saw a number of people outside the venue of an event I was attending. I felt as if I was [one of] them and that I was theirs. There was a sense of unity, of oneness, and of wanting to protect.
Where did you look for strength in the face of the threats?
It was all self-belief and being fearless. To be honest, so many good things have happened in the last week or so, that it has erased all of that for me, in a way. I feel those were very important times as well. In fact, it gave me clarity about a lot of things. But today, there is nothing more important than the fact that the film has released, that it is seeing this kind of success, and the fact that Rani Padmavati is being celebrated. There is no better feeling than this one.
Did you feel scared at any point?
Never! As a person, I have never identified with the emotion of fear.
Do you think the love for your performance has overshadowed everything?
Absolutely. It has trumped everything else. It’s not to say that I didn’t feel strongly about certain things at that point. But now, as we speak, I feel everything has been trumped by the love, success, celebration and blessings.
After playing the titular part in Padmaavat, do you feel it’s going to help in the long run vis-à-vis female-driven films?
Absolutely. I believe that it will. It should, and if that does not happen, I would say that I failed somewhere. I look at this as an opportunity for many such films to be made, and [proof of] the fact that money can be entrusted to a female protagonist. It is a very important time and it’s extremely imperative for us to recognise this.
Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, Piku, Bajirao Mastani and now Padmaavat – do you feel you have set the bar higher now?
As an athlete, you learn very early not to enjoy too much of anything — not to let success get to your head or to let failure reach your heart. That is one of the first things that my father (ex-badminton champion, Prakash Padukone) taught me — it is very important to celebrate, as you need to acknowledge your efforts and your victory and years of hard work. But not for too long. So, when this phase is done, I will put this behind me and I will have to move on. Otherwise, I will not grow as an artiste and as a human being.
This is your eleventh year in the industry. Do you think there could have been a better start to 2018 for you?
That’s so true (smiles). First of all, my birthday comes very early on in the year, so right at the start [of 2018]; I got the best news when I woke up one morning: that Padmaavat had got the CBFC certificate. At that moment, I told myself, ‘this is going to be a great year’. I felt it started on a very auspicious note. I am sure there was a much larger plan for all of us if the film didn’t release then [in December last year] and it did now. Sometimes, you just have to let destiny run its course and not question it while having faith that what’s right will win in the end. Always.
It has been quite a journey for you since Om Shanti Om, and some have called it a beautiful one...
It [the journey] might look beautiful, and I am not saying that it hasn’t been. But it has come with a lot of sacrifices. For me, my biggest sacrifice is to not be able to wake up to my family every morning or the extremely disciplined life that I lead. But it’s not something that I am new to. When I was an athlete, I had to stay disciplined, and I couldn’t be a part of birthdays, other celebrations or randomly stay up all night, because I had commitments in the morning. Your friends might complain at that point of time, but it’s the life that I have chosen for myself. Still, I would say that my biggest sacrifice was to move away from my family and live on my own.
What’s the best compliment that you’ve got for Padmaavat?
People have said really special things like, ‘you have immortalised Rani Padmini’, or ‘you have infused life into her, made her immortal and brought her alive.’ In fact, Javed saab (Akhtar) said, ‘when one thinks of Madhubalaji and Nargisji, one thinks of Mother India and Mughal-E-Azam. They have done at least one iconic film in their entire career’. Then, he added, ‘Padmaavat is your Mother India’.
Watch ‘Ghoomar’ song I Padmaavat
Your next film is with Vishal Bhardwaj…
Yes, and it’s the first time that I will be working with him, and the second time with Irrfan (Khan). I would have liked to do a slightly less exhausting and emotionally draining film, but I guess this is what was in store for me. This film has also gone through a lot. You know, it is something that has stayed with me for two years. I feel like this woman’s story (which the film is based on) needs to be told.
Many critics and experts felt that you may have been the best choice to play Rani Padmavati from the current generation. Do you feel happy or pressurised with such thoughts?
I would be lying if I said no. To land a role in a film of this magnitude has to come from somewhere and I think the kind of work that I have done over the years has led me to where I am today, and also has led me to lead the film in a certain sense. With a lot of pride, I can say that this is the most expensive film ever made in the history of not just Hindi but Indian cinema. It is the most expensive film with a female protagonist and that I believe is a huge achievement.
So do you think this will give makers confidence to back more of such female oriented films?
I believe it will open the doors for many such films and producers will finally have faith in the fact that they can put their money where my mouth is and the fact that women are exactly as capable as men [to lead a film]. In fact, the first few people I thanked other than Sanjay sir was the studio for having faith and enabling this film. They had faith in Sanjay sir, but had they not had faith in me and the fact that I can carry it, this film would never have had been made. In a lot of ways, I did feel that sense of responsibility, which was different from any of my earlier films.
You don’t have over-the-top filmy sequences or long monologues in the film but have still delivered a power-packed performance. What was the biggest challenge for you?
I think that was the challenge, the fact that there were no crutches and that the only way to express whatever she felt and thought was through her eyes. As a queen and the woman that Rani Padmavati was, she had to hold all her people together with dignity when there were moments of weakness and let the people around her have faith. There was no such moment where she could have looked broken because there were so many people looking up to her for strength and support. For that, she had to be strong. I guess that is the way Sanjay sir and I saw it. And I am glad it came through. It reminds me of something that people say, ‘Your eyes are the path to your soul’.
Watch Padmaavat trailer
The jauhar (self-immolation) scene has been mired in controversies…
When you watch a film, you have to watch it in the context of its time. These rituals and practices were prevalent in those times and the period that the film is set in. For me, it was not the act of self-immolation, but what stood out was her strength, power, courage and the fact that she was a leader, who leads others to victory. Of course, that [jauhar] is something we would not endorse today. For me, it was more spiritual than anything else. Not the act but the last few moments are a celebration of womanhood, their strength, power, courage and dignity.
At this stage, you must be really content with your career graph?
Yes but a lot of hard work has been involved. I was written off as an actor when I first came in. There was also a notion that models can’t act. A lot of people loved what I did in my first film, but many didn’t. They thought I was an overnight star but without substance and I wanted to prove that notion wrong. I am the kind of person, who will always find the strength to correct what someone may feel I cannot do. It’s not about others but proving things to myself. I don’t know what it looks like from the outside but it has been a lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifices. At the same time, it’s also imperative to make time for certain important events and people, and to find that right balance.
On the release day of Padmaavat, your fans formed a ‘DP First Day First Show’ club and flocked to theatres. How special was that?
I have never seen something like that. It is unprecedented. Being a fan is one thing, but to make this sort of commitment or pledge to support something is truly beyond anything that I could have ever imagined. I don’t think any amount of words can justify the gratitude that I feel for them. Another reason why I could withstand everything that I have gone through in the last few months is them. It’s all about the strength that they gave me. It is just unbelievable. When I talk about blessings, I wonder where does it all come from and what have I done to deserve this.
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