If looks could kill, the audience would be dead. Dressed in black, with red lipstick and red nail polish, Deepika Padukone looks striking. She is in Chennai with the film crew to promote her upcoming Farah Khan film Happy New Year, and exudes all the charm of her on-screen character Mohini.
The fact that she remembers that I have interviewed her before is self-assuring, as I sit down all geared up to shoot a few questions before I run out of my allotted minutes. Om Shanti Om to Happy New Year and back to Farah Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, it must feel like a homecoming after seven years. “Well, though I have done a film with Shah Rukh in between this, working on Happy New Yearbrings back memories of Om Shanti Om, my first movie, simply because of the way they were protective about me. Not coming from a film background, I have learnt everything here. And it's only when I sit down for interviews like this do I realise that it's been seven years. I have so much to learn and to do still!”
The cameraman walks in and begins clicking feverishly. A little peeved, she asks him to click after the interview is done.
We talk of Brand Deepika. “Everything I do — be it films, ads or endorsements — is all because of my films. The films have made me, and the brands know that I bring some value to them. However, the characters in the movie leave a lasting image on the minds of people and this is what brands work on. And if I can make that lasting impression or make a difference, why not?”
Shantipriya, Gayatri, Meera, Shonali, Aaliyah, Veronica, Naina, Angie — the list of characters Deepika has played. Which is closest to her heart? “Naina Talwar,” she says, instantly. “Very rarely do you come across a character that you identify with. I identified with her back story and her journey and that’s why she remains closest to my heart.”
In Happy New Year, Deepika is bar dancer Mohini. How did she prepare for it? “Fortunately,” she says, “I had seen a few movies on bar dancers, but you don’t want to typecast it; you want to do it differently. I am lucky that a large part of my character is in the writing itself. For the body language, Farah and I sat together. You also need to be true to the moment. And as far as challenging goes, it was only the initial part that was difficult. Once I bit into it, I was able to enjoy it.”
In Finding Fanny, critics and audiences found Deepika’s acting beautifully natural. Would she rather do more such roles or does she prefer masala movies? “I don’t like to classify voices as masala or other types. For me, the effort I put into a film whether it’s Finding Fanny or the masala movies is the same. I enjoy both, depending on the character and what I like at that point.”
How could I end without touching upon the huge cleavage controversy? But Deepika doesn’t bite: “The more I talk about this, the more meanings will be drawn. I have made my point and I think it’s best to leave it like that.”
But if there’s one thing she will want on screen or off screen, what would it be? “Respect,” she says, “It’s what all women want.”