A chat with Deepika Padukone about being a global icon, handling social media, working for causes and more

Dreamy, delightful and dedicated, Bollywood diva  Deepika Padukone sets the mood for things to come, speaking about  being a global  icon, handling social media,  supporting various causes, and more.
Deepika Padukone
Deepika Padukone

Wherever you are, whatever you do, be in love’ — the Rumi quote is Deepika Padukone’s latest Instagram post and fans can’t help but take hints and wait for the actress to reveal her own love story. While the grapevine is abuzz with news of a possible wedding in November with her Ram Leela co-star and rumoured boyfriend Ranveer Singh, the leading lady of Padmaavat remains tight-lipped about the relationship. When we push her about her immediate future, “You’ll know soon,” she quips, saying it all, while saying nothing. 

Looking chic as usual in a deep V-neck black bell-sleeved dress, the 32-year-old actress welcomes me with an enthusiastic ‘hi’ followed by her signature beaming smile.  Silver hoops, black stilettos and her long locks left free, the actress is cheerful as she fidgets a pen in her hand while indulging in casual banter with her team.  In the city for the store launch of Tissot, one of her longest-standing brand associations, Deepika sits down for a tête-a-tête with Indulge.

Ten years and over 30 movies later, Deepika is not just one of the top paid actors in India, but also a global icon. After her debut Hollywood movie in the Vin Diesel-starrer xXx: Return of Xander Cage in 2017, Deepika has appeared on various international platforms such as The Ellen Show, and The Late Late Show with James Corden, among others, and was also one of the most noted celebrities at Cannes this year.

Always an Indian
While representing India to the world, the 32-year-old actress says she doesn’t feel the need to be pressurised. “I don’t think there is anything to be conscious about. Wherever you go, the person you inherently are will come through anyway.  For me, my roots are very, very strong. It’s very Indian. Even if I try to get rid of it, I don’t think I will be able to do it. So my identity is not something that I have to consciously carry with me on any international platform,” says the Bengaluru-based model-turned-actor.
Even while realising that she was stepping into a completely different industry (Hollywood), she says she didn’t foresee things such as her Indian accent being such a talking point.

“I’m proud of where I come from and also the way I sound. Till now, I haven’t felt the need to sound differently or speak differently.”

“When I first went overseas, people found it difficult to understand what I was saying. And, I would try and speak in a way to make it easier for them. Later, I realised, people there are not speaking differently to me. Half the time, I can’t make out what they are saying, but I take the effort to understand it. So if they want to, they can also take some effort and try to know me, my accent, or the part of the world I come from,” says Deepika. 

Deepika at the launch of Tissot's brand new store
in Chennai

Having made her Bollywood debut in Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om (2007) opposite Shah Rukh Khan, and acted with stars including Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, among others, Deepika was a part of some of the highest grossing Bollywood movies in recent times, such as Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express and Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (all in 2013). While her latest film, Padmaavat (2018), faced various issues from a delay in obtaining the censor certificate to vandalism on sets and protests by various communal groups, the film went on to become one of the top grossing Bollywood movies of all time. For Deepika, who was at the forefront of all of it, working on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus was a ‘great life experience.’

As you sow, social you reap
With over 25.9 million followers on Instagram and 24.5 million on Twitter, Deepika is one of the most-sought-after celebrities on social media. Such popularity comes with great responsibility, she observes. “I feel very strongly about speaking for causes. Speaking about them is just one thing. If you are in a place of influence, it is also important to see the impact as well. Celebrities talk about too many things, but are they seeing any impact? I believe that you can see impact only when you work for one cause for a prolonged period of time,” she adds. While admitting that she is mindful of her virtual presence, the Piku actress says she knows how much is too much. “People tend to portray a different version of themselves on these platforms. I feel that on social media, one needs to be authentic to who you are. I don’t think anyone should lose themselves trying to be someone else. One should not do anything just because it’s expected of them. It’s your voice. What you portray has to be real,” she asserts.

Cause and effect
Having been vocal about feminism, gender pay parity in Bollywood and mental health, Deepika came out as a survivor of depression in March 2015. She founded the Live, Love, Laugh Foundation to create awareness about mental health in India through various awareness programmes for children and adults, 24x7 helpline, guides to deal with cyberbullying, and more. “I don’t think these are things that I have to take time out for. It is a part of my life. It is within the scheme of things that I live for. Whether it’s my family, friends, colleagues or friends at social work, all those are important for me. I will always have time for them. It’s like how they say, when you really want to do something, you will find the time for it,” she says.

Not having announced any new projects yet, Deepika says she would rather use her time and energy for the scripts that excite her. One such script was Vishal Bharadwaj’s crime drama Sapna Didi, she says, which was supposed to be in production now. Currently stalled because of (her co-star in the movie) Irrfan Khan’s medical condition, Deepika says the news didn’t come as a shock to her.

“Forget the actor part, for me, Irrfan is someone I’m extremely fond of as a person. I can’t say it was expected, but neither was it a shock. I myself have been through certain experiences in the past, and it has taught me that life is fragile. Anything can happen to anyone. Nothing shocks or alarms me anymore, but I do wish him good health and a speedy recovery.”

Strike up the brand
A prominent ambassador for a lot of brands such as Tissot, Maybelline, Coca-Cola and L’Oreal Paris, among others, Deepika was named the most visible face on television in India (according to TAM AdEX). When asked about her yardstick to say yes to a brand endorsement, she says, for her, it’s all about the values that the brand stands for. “Values are important for anything you do in your life. For me, it’s the values as well as the message that the brand is conveying, and people’s perception of it. It has to go with my personality, otherwise it will be a misfit. If a brand or the endorser is not honest, it will be evident. Being on the same page and wanting to achieve the same goals together as a team is important,” she shares.

In order to not be just a brand, to not lose the sense of self, the former Kingfisher Calendar model says, one has to constantly remind themselves of where they come from. “Looking back to the early days of my career, I realise a lot. Today, if I can drape my own sari, it is because of my modelling days. I travelled a lot and met a lot of people during those days. For me, all my previous experiences prepared me for the film world, which was way more demanding,” says the only Indian female actor to be in Time’s 100 most influential people list.

We can’t help but speak of her as the daughter of former badminton champion, Prakash Padukone, and Deepika was also active in sports such as badminton and baseball, having also played at national-level championships. “Sports taught me a lot. My discipline, dedication, being focused — all of that come from being an athlete. I believe, everything you do in your life prepares you for who you are, and what you are eventually becoming,” she shares.


Memories of Chennai
“When I was a badminton player, at least once a year, if not more than that, I used to come here for the tournaments. Until a couple of years ago, I had my family here. I love the city for its people and 
the food.”
Comfort eats
“Rasam and rice, any day.” 

No time to kill
“On an off day, you will find me cleaning. I’m very restless. I can never ‘not do’ anything. For me, 
cleaning is therapeutic. Moving things and sorting things makes me feel good. Organising things, printing, filing, labeling and stapling are my favourite things to do.”
Fit and fab
“I like working out in the morning. It makes me feel alive and awake, and gives me the energy to last 
the entire day. When it comes to exercise, I’m extremely disciplined. I have dinner at a certain time, and I sleep at a certain time. For me, feeling rested is very important.”
Fresh and lovely
“I’m not too much of a talker. I love conserving energy, instead of spending it. I don’t engage or spend energy on something if I don’t think it’s worth it. I think that’s how I manage to stay energetic.”

Preferred getaway
“South India!” 

fathima@newindianexpress.com| @fathiimaashraf

Pic credits:

 deepikapadukone.co.in |instagram.com/shaleenanathani|


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