Beyond beauty

Beyond beauty
It was her “beautiful, deep eyes” that caught filmmaker Shoojit Sircar’s attention when he was looking out to cast the title role in his upcoming film Piku.

Sircar is not to be blamed for having been taken in by her beauty, because even in her plain white bodice top and casual denims, Deepika Padukone, who is promoting the film with the director, looks nothing short of stunning. Deepika, however, doesn’t seem much amused by Sircar’s reasoning and throws him a questioning glance, to which he adds that he was also impressed by her recent performances.

Putting oneself in Deepika’s shoes, it becomes clear why it is indeed a task to get people to look beyond her beauty. “It is a bit weird when people go on and on about my face, hair, body and legs. I really don’t know how to react,” she says. “It is always so much more heartening to hear about my films and performances.” Ironically, the performance that turned her career on its head was one in which she flaunted her sculpted body in a bikini. But for the first time in her career, what turned heads wasn’t her long legs, instead all the chatter was about her power-packed wild child act as Veronica in Homi Adajania’s Cocktail. From being just another beautiful face to the most-wanted actor in Bollywood, she has come a long way from her Om Shanti Om days.

Proving her mettle

Having conquered the numbers game with her Rs 100 crore hits, Deepika also managed to make all her detractors eat humble pie with her performances in films like Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express, Finding Fanny and Happy New Year. The last two years have undoubtedly been the most successful phase of her career, and with Piku, Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani, even 2015 looks like a promising one.

With such huge success has come the freedom to do what she really wants, says Deepika. But nothing has changed when it comes to the way she chooses her projects. Her choices are more instinctive and emotional, than calculated. Even for Piku, it didn’t take much time for Shoojit and his co-writer Juhi Chaturvedi to convince her to jump on board. “They narrated and acted out one scene for me and I was floored,” says Deepika. “It felt so real and relatable, and I knew that the film was in safe hands. So I didn’t even need to think before saying yes to the film.”

The film revolves around the relationship between an ageing father and his daughter, which was another thing that caught Deepika’s fancy. “Most often, in our films, we show mother-son relationships,” she says. “I haven’t seen an endearing dad-daughter story in a long time and Piku will fill in that space.” In the film, she shares screen space with two stalwarts of the industry — Amitabh Bachchan, who plays her baba (father), and Irrfan Khan, who is rumoured to be playing her love interest. It was a riot on sets, reveal the ‘making’ videos of the film that are doing the rounds on social media websites. Agrees Deepika: “We all had so much fun shooting this film that we didn’t want it to end. I cherished the opportunity because I got to work with both Amitji and Irrfan in the same film.” It was nothing short of a masterclass in acting, she reveals. “There were times when I was not in a scene, but would still sit with Shoojit sir and watch them on the monitor,” says Deepika. “It was a rare opportunity and I used it to the best of my advantage by trying to learn all I could from them.”

On being Piku

Just like how Vicky Donor spoke about human relationships through the unspoken and taboo theme of sperm donation, Sircar explores the same in Piku, but this time through the unlikely subject of constipation. “It is funny that this is something everyone goes through at some point in their lives, but never actually speak about,” she says. “The beauty of this story lies in openly addressing a seemingly tiny issue, but one that has a lot of impact on our daily lives.” It was not a part that demanded a lot of preparation as “there is a bit of Piku in each of us”, she says. Although she is a Bengali, Piku’s character is quite universal as she is a stand in for every independent, working woman of today, who multi-tasks, trying to strike a balance between work and home. Piku has an additional dilemma in the form of her cantankerous father and his “motion” problems. The film takes us through Piku’s world and the changes it goes through when she embarks upon a road trip with her baba and Rana (played by Irrfan) from New Delhi to Kolkata.  

The sparkling on-screen chemistry that Deepika shares with her co-star Irrfan in the film’s trailer has become the talk of the town. She credits it to the fact that they were strangers in real life before they started shooting for the film. “I had never met him before the shoot,” says Deepika. “So there were these notions I had about him, that he would be strict, stern and serious.” As the shoot progressed, they started getting to know each other better and she believes that this process of “peeling away layers off each other’s personalities” might have rubbed off on screen.

Battling the mind

On the personal front, Deepika says that she is discovering “a new, happy side” to herself. After the infamous cleavage controversy last year, she surprised us all by talking openly about her struggle with clinical depression. It was unheard of for an A-list Bollywood star to publicly admit to suffering from any ailment, leave alone that of the mind. Some dismissed it as a publicity stunt, but such accusations haven’t slowed Deepika down. “At the end of the day, it is not about me,” she says. “What we should understand and accept is that clinical depression is an ailment like any other and one in every fourth person in India is suffering from it. I just wanted to throw some light on the bigger picture.”

Closely on the heels of this followed her viral video My Choice, which, too, got a lot of flak for championing the wrong causes under the pretense of women empowerment. Although she clarifies that she doesn’t support or endorse infidelity as was pointed out by her detractors, Deepika says she found it silly that “a few lines were pulled out of context and blown out of proportion”. “It is disappointing that a lot of people missed the whole intention of the video while trying to accuse us of things we didn’t even stand for,” says Deepika. “As a positive person, however, I would still want to look at and be happy about the other side of all those people who got it and appreciated it for what it was.”

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