Joined: 06 September 2010
"My dad has always taught me that whenever you are in a crisis, never react instinctively"
My guest today is Deepika Padukone. It's the first time on Walk the Talk that I have had the privilege of featuring a daughter after having featured her father.
Thank you so much.
I've been a fan of your father since my days in school and college. And now the entire country is a fan of yours.
I always beam when people say she's Prakash Padukone's daughter. That's a nicer feeling.
That's how you became close to sport.
I remember I was in school and it started off with me going to the courts every evening, learning how to play a sport. Obviously, it was badminton. But before I knew it, I had already started training and was playing competitive badminton, till I was about 16 or 17. One day I decided that this is not what I want to do. I realised I was more inclined towards the glamour industry. My parents were and have been very supportive of that decision. A lot of people ask me: 'Didn't your father get upset that you were not playing badminton?' But he is someone who always believed that (you should) follow your heart, and follow your passion. He played badminton when everybody else was becoming doctors and lawyers and engineers.
When there was no money in badminton. Even today there is no money, unless you win an Olympic medal.
Yes. It's sad you need a champion, for people to recognise a sport. But the conditions in the badminton fraternity are slightly better now. I remember my father playing tournaments without shoes. I remember he didn't have proper courts to play in and would practise in a wedding hall. He would use the steel rafters and beams on the ceiling to his advantage. He would make sure that the shuttlecock went exactly through the rafter.
Take us back to the start of your career.
It all started with (model coordinator) Anila Anand, who was and is a close friend of my parents. Her daughter, Kavya, and I were in school together. Our mothers would come in the afternoons to pick us up from school and that's when Anila aunty would tell my mother, 'She should start modelling'. I was very young then and my mom would say, 'Let her focus on her studies'. But I did get a portfolio done. Waseem Khan was my first photographer. I was so still, so stiff and so shy while shooting that first portfolio. I remember he played some music and made me dance and took some pictures. Those pictures landed me a couple of print shoots.
Were you the tallest girl in your class?
Second-tallest. Kavya was taller than me.
I see you, in flats, sort of towering over everyone around you. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage in cinema? All the Khans can't measure up to you, at least vertically.
It's an advantage. Because when you're doing, say, action sequences or when I have to dance, I am personally more comfortable being in flats the whole day. It's less strenuous.
Do men have to wear heels with you?
No. We manage. With camera angles and great stylists.
So after Bangalore, you landed in Bombay.
I moved to Bombay only when I realised that there was enough work for me to do here. I did a couple of TV commercials, Liril being my first big ad. That was followed by Close Up. Those commercials made people sit up and recognise my work. And that's how I landed Himesh Reshammiya's music video. Farah (Khan) noticed me in the video and she was casting for Om Shanti Om. That's how movies happened for me.
If I look at your career so far, it's a bit like a badminton game: 21-10, 12-21 and now 18-5. And the game is on. Is that so?
That's a nice way of putting it.
So what happened in that second game?
Everyone goes through a phase of discovery, whether it's professionally or personally. Also, when your first film is a success, it's difficult to match up to that. Or at least I found it very difficult to match that in my next couple of films until Love Aaj Kal. Apart from that, the shift from Bangalore to Bombay, getting used to a new city, a new industry, new people...
Was it tough getting used to Bombay?
A little. There was the initial struggle of moving to a city. People in Bangalore are different from people in Mumbai. I think people here are go-getters. And they move on very quickly...Farah and Shah Rukh gave me such a wonderful launch, and took such good care of me. I thought that this is the way it will always be. I remember her (Farah) telling me that from now on, I'm going to be alone and that I'll have to make my own decisions. It took me a while to understand.
Your father said, 'Follow your heart'. Does it work in Hindi cinema?
I'm often told that I'm someone who listens too much to my heart and that I should start listening to my mind. But my father has always told me, whether it's in interviews, interactions with people, the choice of films, you should do what makes you happy and do it from the heart.
Have you made more mistakes following your heart or following your head?
I think I've made more mistakes following...my head! I don't know. Every experience teaches you something.
And what did you discover about yourself?
I used to be someone who always bottled up everything. Today, I'm more confident. Professionally, I can't say I know everything but I am sure about what excites me and what doesn't. Who my friends are, who my friends are not. What kind of a life I want to live.
How did you handle the phase when everybody seemed more fixated on your personal life? That also coincided with the period that your movies were not doing so well.
Maybe the focus shifted because my movies were not doing really well. Going public about it (personal relationships) or talking about it was from the heart. But I did not realise that it would take away so much from what I'm actually here to do or what I love doing the most.
There are film stars who use their personal lives to further their film careers. You weren't quite doing that.
No, absolutely not. There was a point when I think we felt like, 'Now why have we done this?' But it was too late and that's also a part of learning...But I ended up realising that there was a lot more focus on that than on anything else.
With changing times, you have become more outspoken...
Yeah. But I also feel that after Cocktail, when you have a good film, a solid performance, nobody is interested in anything else.
It's a rare popular film that the heroine has carried on her shoulders. And you haven't even got the guy at the end.
This is a film I went for with my heart. A lot of people said, 'Why are you doing this film? One, there's another girl in the movie... it's not a solo heroine film. And you don't get the guy in the end.' But from the time I read the script, I completely believed in the film and specially in my character. People like Imtiaz (Ali) gave me that extra confidence. He said that I was ready, as an actor, to play that character. And I'm glad that I went with my gut instinct, because I guess it paid off, eventually.
This persona of this modern, urban, independent Indian girl...that's something that you've made your own.
Strangely, I'm completely the opposite. What quite a lot of people don't know is that apart from being this fiercely independent modern Indian girl, there's a very traditional side to me. That comes from my parents who are very traditional and very conservative.
So you keep running back to them?
Yes, I keep running back, even if it's for one day.
They'll be happy to see you getting involved with Olympic Gold Quest now, almost like a brand ambassador. Pro bono... no money?
Yeah. Some things you do from the heart. It's not about the money. I've been a part of the sporting circuit. And when I played badminton, I remember the kind of infrastructure and facilities that we had. I remember telling myself then that when I make enough money or enough of a name to make a difference, I would like to contribute to sport. Fortunately, my father and Geet Sethi founded the Olympic Gold Quest...
In a tough situation, do you remember something your dad taught you?
My dad has always taught me that whenever you are in a crisis, never react instinctively. He's always someone who believed in giving it some time...
Never smash a shuttle in the net in a fit of anger or desperation. What do you do?
The instant reaction always is anger but somehow I learnt how to channelise that and control that first bout.
Toss it back up...
Think about what you want to do. Just keep tossing and tossing...and now I am winning!
So we'll start a new innings, maybe Test cricket style.
We should play badminton, actually, sometime.
I will have no chance. But thank you so much for your time.
Thank you so much.
Transcribed by Rajkrishnan Menon. For the full transcript, log on to www.indianexpress.com
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