The Reigning Queen

After essaying characters with Tamil, Punjabi and Marathi backgrounds, Deepika Padukone struck the right chord with her portrayal of a Bengali architect in Piku. This month, You & I sits down with the actress to talk about her latest releases, and the choices she’s made in love and life.
How important is it for an actor to identify with her character?
It’s not necessary that you must identify with every aspect of the character you play. Maybe in certain situations, you identify with a few aspects of the character. For instance, playing a daughter in Piku meant I could identify with certain situation in the film. But Amitabh Bachchan’s character is very different from my father.
Speaking of Piku, was it all about nuances?
With the way Shoojit (Sircar) and the writers penned the script, half our job was done. Piku is about the nuances. You get hints, but you don’t know what’s on her mind at the moment. Shoojit guided me very well.
Did the movie alter your equation with your parents?
As a daughter, I’ve started valuing my parents a lot more now. I stay away from them and don’t get to meet them too often because of my busy schedule, but I’ll hopefully make it a point to be more available to them from now on.
Did you have to learn Bengali for the movie?
Whatever I did learn was from the script. A Bengali assistant was available for guidance, but the script was so detailed and to the point that I didn’t require diction classes. Lots of scenes didn’t demand that I speak, and I could express something without saying lines.
How it was working with Irrfan Khan and Big B?
I was really excited to get the opportunity to watch them act right in front of me. I also felt privileged to actually sit with Shoojit behind the monitor to watch them perform. I should give credit to them because they never came to the set with any attitude or airs. They know they are great actors, but they never walk with that, so I felt really comfortable around them.
Which of the two was easier to work with?
There was already a comfort level with Amitji because we’ve known each other socially and had done a film together. With Irrfan, I don’t think we’d even met socially before Piku. We were shooting a very big scene with him on the first day, and I thought he would be really strict and stern, not talking to anybody. But it turned out to be quite the opposite. He is very shy like me but has a great sense of humour, and Shoojit fortunately shot the scene at one go, so our own discovery of each other’s personal lives somehow added to the film in a strange way.
Is it easy to swap roles if you’re doing multiple projects?
I mostly do films back to back, so it does get a little complicated, because that’s not the ideal way of working. You want to prep for one film, shoot it, finish it, take a break, and then move on to the next one. But situations do not always allow you to do that. You need to work things out with other people’s dates as well. But the minute you start reading the material, go to that film’s set, meet the director and start talking about it, things fall in place.
Do you plan your life, or is it ‘one day at a time’ for you?
I think it’s a little bit of both. You need to have your dreams, ambitions and goals, and figure out how to go about getting them. At the same time, you cannot plan it so much because life itself is unpredictable. To balance it is the key. If you asked me what I want from myself ten years from now, I won’t be able to give you an answer. But if you ask what I want two years from now, that can be found. You leave that space because you know anything is possible.
People call you the reigning queen of Bollywood. Do you feel pressure to perform?
No, absolutely not. You make films to entertain audiences. Both 2013 and 2014 were very special for me, but I don’t think every year will be like those. Not every film is about box office numbers; a successful one is about repeat value, and Finding Fanny is one such film you can watch again and again. Its breeziness is great on the first watch, but when you watch it after that, you’ll unravel more layers. Similarly, if I could pull that off, I think it’s become a lot easier for me now.
Deepika Padukone, talks about her latest releases 
But surely after such success last year, you must be more confident of yourself.
You know, actors are the least confident people. Since we perform on the big screen, people assume we are confident, but we are actually very insecure; I’m very awkward socially. The box office is very unpredictable, and you never know what audiences will and won’t like. Numbers shouldn’t deter you from telling stories you want to tell. You have to be brave enough to make a film you want to, and whether or not people like it is secondary.
The buzzword ‘woman-centric’ has been doing the rounds in showbiz. How do you perceive it? Are you willing to do the lead in a film that demands it?
What is a woman-centric film? Please explain this. Mary Kom is a woman, and the filmmakers have decided to make a film on her. Obviously, Arjun Kapoor cannot play Mary Kom. If someone wants to make a film about a woman and I’m interested in it, I will do it. Woody Allen’s recent film Blue Jasmine is based on a woman’s life and story. How come no one called that a ‘woman-centric’ film? We should watch films for what they are. Masala, art house, niche, and woman-centric are just labels that should be done away with.
Stardom is temporary for anyone. Do you ever think about that?
I know for a fact that this purple patch will go away someday. Such is the reality of this industry that today. I’m the ‘it girl’ and tomorrow it’s someone else. I’m very secure about that. Anyone who thinks they can be a star all their life is delusional.
Do you judge your own work?
There have been very few times that I’ve been really happy about what I’ve done, be it a film or photo shoot or even an interview. There are only some rare moments where I’ve been satisfied with my own work. That way, I am very judgmental of myself. I’m very critical of my work, and that’s a good thing. I very rarely appreciate my own performances.
What about Ranveer Singh? Have you found love?
I might have embarked on a journey to find love for my friend in Piku, but in real life, I can’t help myself in finding love, forget about doing it for someone else. But yes, I would say that it (being in love) is the best feeling in the world. We should stop being one-dimensional, as Piku also teaches us. Love is not just about being husband and wife, or girlfriend and boyfriend. There are so many dimensions to it: parents, friends, neighbours and partners. There are so many aspects to this emotion that as a whole, love is just a beautiful feeling!