| Shah Rukh and Deepika
London, Nov. 8: Deepika Padukone, making her Bollywood debut, certainly spark-les in Om Shanti Om, heralding possibly the arrival of a fresh talent in the Indian film industry.
There are many models who have made the transition to movies but, by common consent after today’s world premiere in London, there does appear to be something special about Deepika who stars opposite Shah Rukh Khan, the star of Om Shanti Om.
The film, directed by Farah Khan, uses reincarnation as a device to bring the hero and heroine back to life, 30 years after both perish in a fire. While western viewers may be puzzled by the concept of reincarnation, Indian audiences may not quarrel too much with the idea of the dead returning to life.
In this case, the characters played by Shah Rukh and Deepika — Om and Shantipriya — come back looking exactly like themselves and with their memories preserved from the past.
One aspect Shah Rukh made clear was that no religious significance should be attached to the use of reincarnation.
“I don’t believe in reincarnation,” he said bluntly. “The film industry is secular.”
At a news conference after today’s screening at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square, Shah Rukh was flanked by Deepika and two of the other cast members, Arjun Rampal, who plays the film’s principal villain, and Shreyas Talpade (of Iqbal fame), who is Shah Rukh’s sidekick in the movie.
Shah Rukh called Om Shanti Om “a film within a film”, which, in a way, it is, for the tale begins with Om, a junior artist, and Shanti, the lead actress, meeting on the sets of Dream Girl. He rescues her when a fire scene goes wrong but is later unable to do so when the villain burns down Shanti on the set of a movie.
But not to worry. Three decades later, they are back, the same people, but with different names.
In between, Om Shanti Om develops into a Bollywood video with 30 stars. There are so many that it is difficult to keep count.
One moment it is Kajol and Rani Mukherjee, the next it is Preity Zinta, Priyanka Chopra, Amisha Patel, Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt (he must have found time in between his court appearances), Shabana Azmi and Rekha. Some old timers, such as Dharmendra, also join the party as well as Abhishek Bachchan. Even Shilpa Shetty, wearing her sari daringly low, does her bit.
Part of the film is shot in the style of the Hindi movies of the 1970s, which, Shah Rukh said, was “not a spoof”.
“You can make fun of yourself if you are confident of yourself,” Shah Rukh pointed out. It is more than likely that Om Shanti Om will be dissected by cinema academics in the UK for the benefit of their students so that they can identify the originals on which the sketches are based. Madhumati, Sholay, Amar Akbar Antony and Deewar were all mentioned in passing.
Despite its use of reincarnation, Om Shanti Om is not a deep film. But it is harmless fun that families might enjoy over Diwali.
It is only the English cinema scholars in Britain who will subject it to profound analysis.
Deepika is one of those lucky actresses whom the camera obviously loves.
“I could not have had a better launch,” she said.
Turning to Shah Rukh, she paid him a compliment which made everyone laugh: “I have grown up watching your films,” she said.