Earlier this week, Deepika Padukone dropped by the Hindustan Times office for a quick chat. On her slender shoulders was the responsibility of single-handedly talking about her upcoming multi-starrer Race 2. In the conversation that ensued, she spoke about the film, her equation with Bollywood’s senior stars, learning to live with rumours and a talkative Shah Rukh Khan.
With five releases in 2013, you’re one of the busiest actors this year.
I hope that’s a good thing (laughs). I’ve never worked at this pace before. It’s always been one film after the other. But now, it’s shooting for 15-20 days for one film and then going for the other. When you’re so busy, you have to sacrifice other things. In my case, my family has taken the beating. Even for my birthday they came down from Bangalore, and I thought I’d at least be able to enjoy a quiet breakfast with them. But that didn’t happen. I just hope that at the end of the year when these films release, it pays off.
Do you think about who your co-stars are before signing a film?
It’s not the primary factor, but at a subconscious level, I guess it does matter. When I was doing my first film, Om Shanti Om (OSO; 2007), Shah Rukh Khan told me to take on films where I know I will be happy and enjoy myself. Besides, you can’t be miserable on a film set. You spend two-three months with the same people. You need to enjoy yourself.
How different is it to work with a Ranveer or a Ranbir, from a Shah Rukh or a Saif?
Now it’s all the same. But had you asked me a few years ago, I’d tell you I’m more comfortable with the younger lot. On OSO, I was very quiet. I’d just sit next to Shah Rukh, listen to him talk and absorb as much as I could. Farah would tell him, “Shah Rukh, I think she’s getting bored. Maybe you should stop talking.” Then he’d get conscious and say, “Am I boring you?” Today, I have come into my own, and I am more comfortable around him. I can’t talk as much as him, but I talk (laughs).
Do you get nervous ahead of a film release?
Yes, not only for a film release, but also events around it. Even for an awards function, when your car pulls up on the red carpet and you see hundreds of photographers, you feel butterflies in your stomach.
You weren’t in Race (2008). How come some of the older actors aren’t repeated?
Half the people in that film were killed off. You can’t have the same cast unless there’s some reincarnation. We heard there were some issues while casting for the film. There was a scheduling issue, but that’s bound to happen in a project with a huge star cast. And because I’m doing so many films, it was difficult adjusting dates. That was blown out of proportion and it might have seemed like I was not doing the film, but that’s not true. Films are your destiny. If they have to happen, they will.
Is this your third film with Saif?
Fourth, actually. We did Aarakshan (2011), something we all conveniently forget (laughs). He’s one of the finest actors today. He started the trend of the urban rom-com with Dil Chahta Hai (2001). In Race, our chemistry is different, there’s more tension, more sensuality. And because the characters are never completely honest, there’s a certain greyness.
Is there room for insecurity in a multistarrer?
I squirm at such questions (laughs). Everyone got into the film knowing their part, so everyone is secure. We all got along. And that chemistry can be seen on screen. In the song Party on my mind, there is a bit where we shot each other. We were fooling around with the camera, throwing it around; it turned out to be a great shot.
You’ve done about a dozen films now. Do you regret any of them?
I question them sometimes, but I don’t regret anything. I’m not going to tell you which ones though (laughs).
Around Kartik Calling Kartik (2010), critics started noticing your acting skills. Do you feel you’ve transformed as an actor?
I felt that change after Cocktail (2012). People’s perception of me and my ability has changed. I hope the success doesn’t go to my head.
What can we look forward to with your upcoming films?
With both Ram Leela and Chennai Express, you will see a different Deepika. I play a Tamilan girl in Chennai Express, and I’ve changed my accent and body language. In Ram Leela I play a typical Gujarati, and there too I’ve done a lot to get into character.
Will you ever play a negative character?
Maybe. I don’t know. I have never been offered anything like that. And I feel bad for villains because people start believing that they are negative people in real life, which is not true.
Is there a role you haven’t done yet, and would like to do?
It’s something everybody says. I would like to do an action film… where I get hurt and for which I need to train for months.
You come from a family of athletes. Do they take an interest in your films?
They take an interest in my work, but not to a point when they start interfering. Also, the feedback I get after they watch a film is honest.
How is Kochadaiyaan with Rajinikanth coming along?
I have finished shooting for it. It’s heavier on post-production than performance — which is captured by a process where the camera is rigged to your body and face. The rest is done in post-production, from make-up to costumes, like you would in an animated film. I won’t look the way I do in a feature film, but it will be close to that. It’s a mix of live action and animation. It will be made in Tamil, because that’s his (Rajinikanth’s) main market. It is also going to be in English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Japanese. It’s the first time an Indian film is using performance-capturing.
Is Rana (also with Rajini) shelved?
We did Kochadaiyaan instead of Rana. Rana was to be a live-action film with him playing three characters. But he fell ill. So we decided to do Kochadaiyaan instead, which is a prequel to Rana.
Cocktail was appreciated for its music. Do you look forward to shooting a song sequence?
Yes, especially after you’ve shot a couple of days of intense, emotional scenes. With any kind of song — party, romantic — the energy on set changes. That’s (music) the most integral part of Indian cinema. That’s is what makes us different from the rest of the world.
You’re associated with Olympic Gold Quest. How is work for the 2016 Olympics coming along?
We have already started training our athletes for the 2016 Olympics, and right now we are in the process of signing new athletes. I haven’t been able to give much time because of my film commitments. But it’s something I am passionate about. And whenever I am required, I will be there.
I feel bad for villains because people start believing that they are negative people in real life.
Are you in touch with Saina Nehwal? She had said you are too busy.
The only time we have been in touch was when we played together. After that, we have only bumped into each other socially, at awards functions. But I wish her well, and I know she wishes me well too.
A lot has been said about your bond with Ranveer. What do you have to say about it?
I don’t think there is anything to say. Whatever needed to be said, he said. It’s just weird that one doesn’t talk about me going out with my other friends like Ayan (Mukerji) or Shahana (Goswami) and a big deal is made about this. But it’s fine. I live with it.
How do you keep yourself fit?
I haven’t been working out, which is not right. But I believe it’s not about going to the gym or how big your muscles look. It’s about feeling physically fit. I think you can do little things like walking or climbing a staircase.