Monday, 30th October 2017

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‘Naina is the way i am’

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By Deepika Padukone tells t2 about being naina vs veronica, acting with SRK vs Ranbir, wearing sari vs western, playing tamilian vs gujarati PRATIM D. GUPTA WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE DEEPIKA PERFORMANCE? TELL T2@ABP.IN
  • Published 18.06.13

Many congratulations for Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. It’s turning into a monster hit. Easily your biggest. How does it feel? Can’t you see me glowing? (Laughs out loud) Overwhelming it has been. Of course, the box office is doing its own thing... it’s going crazy. Also critics reviewed the film really well. They reviewed my performance really well, which is something I really, really appreciated. But there was an intangible quality attached to Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani... a lot of love and support and encouragement from the audience. It was almost like they felt connected to the film, they felt part of the film and they wanted it to do well. They gave it a kind of response which is extremely overwhelming.

That happens with very few films. It’s almost like the whole nation came together to celebrate Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. One can’t explain why it happens. It’s almost like what happened to DDLJ or Jab We Met. More DDLJ, actually. Everyone loved that film and they talk about it even today. Yeh Jawaani has repeat value. It makes you laugh... it makes you cry. You want to go through the emotions over and over again.

You were only getting to do the wild party girl roles and this was such a refreshing change...

It’s very strange actually. For me, Cocktail is the most difficult character that I have played because it’s so different from my personality. The kind of lifestyle that I have or the kind of person I am. But as you said, the verdict out there is that I have bettered my Cocktail performance with Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. I find it strange because I completely identify with the character of Naina Talwar. People who don’t know me feel that I have acted in Yeh Jawaani. For me, I was just being myself. That’s the way I am. That’s the journey I have actually gone through. From the shy, introverted, under-confident person to coming into her own... I have gone through that journey myself. Apart from the fact that Naina Talwar was a very studious girl and I was never studious, in every other way I was completely like her. So, while it felt like I was living that part, I was just being myself. But if people feel that they like me in this one more than Cocktail, that’s great. Both the films are very close to my heart and I have worked very hard in both those films. Now I am hoping that Chennai Express takes me even further.

Here you are playing a south Indian girl for the first time... Yes, I play a Tamilian girl Meena Lochini. I am familiar with Tamilian culture because I have grown up in Bangalore. And I feel that whether you are from Chennai or Kerala or Bangalore, the south Indian culture is very similar. Whether it is eating with your hands or sitting cross-legged on the floor or addressing your parents as Amma and Appa, those little-little things I’m very, very familiar with. And if you know one of the languages down there, you understand the others. Like if you know Hindi, you have an idea about Marathi and Gujarati. I totally understand Tamil when people speak, because I was surrounded by Tamilians when I was growing up. But I had to still learn the language. Rohit (Shetty) was very clear that I had to learn the language for the film.

Chennai Express talks about something which is a very Indian subject — the country is diverse in terms of culture and language but love is the universal thing that brings people together. And today we have so many different inter-regional marriages — you have Bengalis marrying Marathis, you have Goans marrying Gujaratis and so on. Because it doesn’t matter where you are from, it’s the feeling which matters. When one talks about India internationally, no one talks about Punjabis or Kannadigas. You speak of India as India. That’s the beauty of our country.

Last time you were in a film with Shah Rukh Khan it was your first film Om Shanti Om. Did you feel any different this time?

More confident, for sure. In my first film, I was so new. I had never been on a film set before. Plus, Farah (Khan) had thrown me into this magnum opus called Om Shanti Om! I didn’t even know how films were made. I did want to be a part of all this but I had no idea how it all worked. I had never met anyone from the industry. And Farah and Shah Rukh really protected me a lot. I didn’t even realise when we started and when we finished. Every day was so much fun. In fact, even on days when I was not required, I would go to the sets and hang out with everyone and have lunch there. Everything happened so suddenly, it was all a blur.

I remember I never spoke to Shah Rukh much. I was more of a listener. He used to give me a lot of advice about life, about career, about friends. Even today, he gives me a lot of advice. But I think today I am a lot more evolved as a person to be able to communicate with him. I can disagree with him now, I can have arguments. He is someone I respect a lot. Shah Rukh and Farah are two people who would always play a role in my life. If they don’t like my work, I would be very, very affected. After all, they launched me. They are responsible for who or what I am today.

When you do a scene with Shah Rukh it must be very different from doing a scene with say Ranbir (Kapoor). There is a sense of seniority at play there...

Yes. I think so. A little bit. Out of respect. The fact that he is way more experienced than me.

Does that help or not help the scene?

I think the ease is there. Only the respect factor does come into play. With Ranbir, for example, we’ve been friends. We started our careers on the same day. There’s a certain liberty which you can take with friends. Also, with people in your same age group, you take things more for granted. Whereas with co-stars like Saif (Ali Khan) and Shah Rukh, there’s the respect which comes in automatically but creatively it doesn’t come in the way in any way. If there is a dialogue which Shah Rukh wants me to say in a certain way and I am not feeling that way, I can definitely talk to him about it. He would never say no. That equation has to be there with your co-star, whether it’s a Ranbir or a Shah Rukh. And I am fortunate to have that rapport with everyone.

Shah Rukh was saying that Rohit Shetty and his team would shoot the scenes prior to your arrival on the sets with stand-in actors and there was a man playing you throughout the film. How weird was that?!

It was fun. The making camera would keep rolling and we would keep saying that we should also release this parallel film that is being made on the side with all of Rohit’s assistants. It was fun to see their interpretation of how Shah Rukh would say a dialogue or Deepika would do a certain scene. Very endearing it was. Rohit is so clear with his vision... what he is trying to communicate. And he prepares everything so much in advance. It’s almost like we didn’t have to do anything. Everything was tailormade.

You will be seen almost throughout in a sari in this one. Between Indian and western outfits, what do you prefer wearing on screen?

I love saris. I love Indian clothes. In fact I have taken out all the bharaas in Chennai Express because otherwise I don’t get to wear Indian clothes in my films! I am very, very comfortable in them. Given a choice I would wear a sari every day. In Chennai Express, we have done the patta paudas, which is like the skirt and the blouse and you drape the saris very differently. All the saris were Kanjeevaram saris, the authentic south Indian silk. And then there is the mogra too. I love it. If you ever come to my home, you’ll find fresh mogras everywhere!

Any concerns of the performance being lost under the accent and the look?

No, because they are not superficial. If anything, it is one of the most lovable and endearing characters I have played. I am a south Indian myself and I would have taken a lot of offence if a character from down south was shown as caricaturish or not true to what the real culture is. You’ll see, when you see the film.

There’s Ram Leela after this and Sanjay Leela Bhansali calls you Leela in the film, which is his mother’s name...

It’s a huge compliment. I know how much his mother means to him. When that film releases, I will show you a message he sent me when I signed the film; it’s a beautiful message. Ram Leela is Romeo & Juliet set in Gujarat. So, from a Tamilian, I will be playing a Gujarati girl! And for that too, I had to learn the language.

What has been your experience with Sanjay?

It’s probably the most liberated I have felt as an actor, while working with Sanjay. The kind of freedom that he gives you and the way we are constantly improvising on the sets, it’s so refreshing. He is like, “Bachcha, just do whatever comes from the heart!” Not that other directors don’t give you that but there’s a certain kind of free hand which he gives. The impression about Sanjay is that he is very strict and he is a very hard taskmaster but he is quite the opposite.