Deepika Padukone on her films Chhapaak and '83, turning producer and being a mental health advocate
PLAIN WHITE T-shirt paired with metallic silver pants (by Iro), matching stilettos and earrings — trust Deepika Padukone to make a fashion statement effortlessly. In the city for Tissot’s second store launch, the actress easily dominates the room at ITC Grand Chola, where we caught up with her for a sit-down interview. The Padmaavat actor may be one of the highest paid actors in India, but up close, she brings no starry air, and is as level-headed as one can get.
A lot has happened for the star in the last one year. From her dreamy wedding in Italy, her killer looks at the Met Gala, and more recently at the Cannes Film Festival, the 33-year-old Bollywood diva never stops feeding our social media timelines. After a two-year break, the Piku actor now has two movies in the line-up — Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak, where she is portraying an acid attack survivor, and Kabir Khan’s ’83 where she dons the role of Kapil Dev’s wife, Romi Devi. Deepika sat down for a chat with Indulge about turning producer, her upcoming movies, and on being a mental health advocate.
Last year when you came to Chennai, you had a lot of things lined up for you, including the wedding. Looking back, how much has life changed or has it changed at all?
It has changed a lot. At the same time, it’s not changed much at all. I think in a way, life must change. There is no other way of evolving. There is a part of you that would always want to stay connected to your roots as much as possible. At the same time, you would want to evolve as well. I think that is where
I am right now.
You are turning producer with your next two movies. How does that feel?
I think being a producer puts you in a slightly more empowering place creatively, where the process is a lot more collaborative. When you are an actor, your contribution to a film is slightly limited, whereas when you come on as a producer, the involvement from a creative point of view is a lot more. So it’s very satisfying, yet challenging because you are pushing beyond the boundaries of being an actor. You are thinking from a fresh perspective.
It is very exciting and also, a lot of work. Being a producer is not just a title. At least I am not that kind of person. If something is given to me, I would like to make the most of it. Chhapaak in that sense has been a very collaborative process with Fox (Studios) and Meghna. So yeah, I think it’s an interesting place to be in.
What kind of movies do you intend to produce?
I have been very fortunate in the kind of films I have been offered as an actor, and I think it’s really about expanding that scope. So my choices as a producer would also be in the same way I have chosen my films as an actor. In the future, there might be films that I am not able to be part of, creatively there may not be a place for me in it. But not right now. I don’t see that happening in the films that I have greenlit or the films that I am considering. It’s going to be acting, and producing as an add-on. It kind of gives you more legs. I think it allows a lot more to be done creatively.
Tell us about Chhapaak. You said it’s the most precious film in your career...
I have never woken up thinking that one day I am going to play an acid attack survivor. That is not really a nice place to be in. We shouldn’t have ever had to be in that place to begin with, where you have to play such a role. What inspires me are human stories. There are many stories of bravery, courage, and everything. But this one, specifically, is the one that spoke to me.
It’s such an intense character. Did the role affect you emotionally, in any way?
I don't know. It's to soon to tell. Right now, we are just coming to terms with the fact that we have finished the shoot. We literally just finished filming and Meghna is off on a holiday on a much-deserved break. So I think it’s too soon to talk about the impact that the film has had on me
You are also playing Kapil Dev’s (Ranveer Singh) wife in the movie, ’83. What are you looking forward to?
When Kabir narrated the story to us, I remember there were three or four people in the room and all of us literally had goosebumps by the end of it. The film is all about the three weeks after Team India left the country to UK for the World Cup. It is such an inspiring story of human grit and determination and coming from an athlete’s family, somewhere the story really resonated with me. I know the anchor, the support system my mother has been in my father’s life when he was an athlete.
Having followed the lives of several athletes, I have realised that the roles their families play in enabling their success often go unnoticed. When you are an actor or an athlete, your entire life revolves around what you do and the families have to make huge sacrifices, which I think people don’t get to see much. That said, the personal journey of this incredible victory is really what drew me to the script.
You recently attended a fundraising event by the Youth Anxiety Center in New York, where you shared your story. You never stopped being active in creating awareness about mental health... What is the change you want to see?
I want to see more content people. People living with slightly more peace of mind, and probably see the rates of suicide in our country coming down. There is a need to stop the lack of awareness and the fact that a lot of people struggle with mental illness and they don’t even know what they are dealing with. I want people to be more aware of their mental health, the signs, and symptoms of it, what they are experiencing and the fact that you must seek help. I think that’s what we all want to see in the long run.
— Fathima Ashraf