When Deepika Padukone spoke about how devastated she would be if Cocktail didn’t do well, it signalled just how much she had changed since Om Shanti Om.
Since most goodies, including the big break in Hindi films, came to her on a platter, when Deepika gave her first bunch of interviews she was composed, endorsing equanimity in all situations as her strength. She refused to be over the moon over a break opposite Shah Rukh Khan in a blockbuster hit that made her a star long before the audience got a glimpse of her. “Whether it’s success or failure, you’ll always find me like this,” she had dimpled with a touch of arrogance, claiming that one would neither find her ecstatic over a hit nor depressed over a box office debacle. Unsaid was that she wouldn’t be like other film people who display extreme emotions of agony and ecstasy.
Five years and several ups and downs have disturbed that equanimity. Failure does bring on a dip in emotions and success, especially in films where the stakes are so high, is a cause for celebration. With Cocktail not just doing very well commercially but also bringing her well-deserved accolades for an extremely spirited performance, Dippy celebrated by throwing a success party. So welcome to the film industry, Deepika. Be not uppity over emotions, they do rule our lives.
Deepika is not the only outsider to have come into the film industry with a superior sneer over prevailing norms. At one time, Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri were equally guilty of it. I was on maternity leave when someone editing my magazine in my absence had put in an innocuous (and yes, clichéd) piece on Shah Rukh’s proximity to Juhi Chawla. Juhi had characteristically shrugged it off while SRK called me up (despite knowing that I was on leave) and the Khan couple had used up an entire day using foul four-letter language with the publisher and the editorial staff. SRK had even come to the office and had a showdown with the whole lot. In all this, the frequently thrown line by Gauri and husband was, “We’re not like these f...ing film industry people.” Shah Rukh had also claimed for a few early years that unlike other film actors, he would never pose with a female co-star for a magazine cover.
Two decades later we’ve seen it all. Shah Rukh with Kajol on a cover (and it was not a still from a film), Shah Rukh shrugging off the umpteen stories about Priyanka Chopra and him, Shah Rukh laughing off and even joking about him and Karan Johar!
It’s an outsider syndrome, especially the educated ones who don’t want to seem eager aspirants. They walk in exuding a cut-above-all-of-you superiority that gets washed out as flops and hits, cheers and jeers level them all out. Today a Deepika and a dyed-in-the-wool film industry girl like Kareena are all a part of the same industry, have the same work ethics and form their own little groups within the work space.
One little group that has once again come together is that of Shah Rukh, Farah Khan and Karan Johar who are all thick as thieves. When you sign one of them, you sign on his or her goodwill too and benefit from it. If Karan is doing a show or directing a film, Farah will willingly go over for an episode or choreograph a dance, however busy she might be. And Karan and SRK will join Farah when she’s attempting a new assignment.
Benefiting from this close friendship is Sanjay Leela Bhansali whose cantankerous personality has earned him little goodwill. But with Farah Khan on board Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi, this time as lead actress, Bhansali is getting the benefit of her friendship with Karan and Shah Rukh. Is the Guzaarish maker grateful that Karan helped promote a film in which Bhansali’s sister, Bela Sehgal, makes her debut as director? No, Sanjay doesn’t change his stripes. From what one hears, Bhansali didn’t even send flowers or a “thank you” note or make a courtesy call on Karan.
It was Shah Rukh’s turn to do his bit for Farah when he lit up a recent event with his antics. When Shirin Farhad... promoted a take-off on Dilwale Dulhaniya..., it was Farah who not only got SRK to come on board but spent the day before going over her act with him. What seemed spontaneous had been discussed between the friends.
Farah has a way of meticulously planning the publicity of her films and she’s doing this for Bhansali’s production even though she is only an actor in it. Ultimately, it’s the film Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi that is getting unrelenting attention. Thank you, Farah. And no thank you, Bhansali.
Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal