Matter of chemistry

hot pair

Matter of chemistry

He is one of the action greats of Hollywood, and she is Hindi cinema’s frontline female star, who was invited to star with him. xXx: Return Of Xander Cage marks the teaming of Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone in a high-adrenaline action drama about a mission against megalomaniac terrorists.

So how were they cast together? The director, D J Caruso, has spoken of how he was “struck by the striking chemistry between them”, when the two had met for readings for a film that did not work out. But her co-star has a simpler answer: “We wanted a female version of Xander! Who better than Deepika? Deepika and I met long ago, and I have known her for years. Our chemistry is something special.”

Vin, who is also a co-producer in the film, was recently in India for the global premiere of the Hollywood blockbuster, a week earlier to its release back home. Why was the world premiere in India decision taken? “You know, Deepika once said that she wished to see a big Hollywood premiere in India,” he replies. “And I think we just delivered on that promise. This film is on global harmony too.”

Of global cinema

He also points out that cinema is no longer about talents from specific countries. “We are moving towards global cinema. In this film, it was a conscious decision to have every actor, all of whom belong to different countries, speak English with their own accents. We wanted a celebration of accents from around the world. In a global franchise, that was the whole point.”

Vin recalls that he was a five-year-old kid when his father took him to watch a film called The Thief Of Bagdad. “That was the film that made me confident that movie stars in Hollywood could look different,” he asserts. “In a way, my connection with India began then.” With a broad smile and a pause, he looks at Deepika and adds, “And this Indian queen, this angel, this blessing in my life, this beautiful soul Deepika is now a part of the magic on screen.”

Having spent such a long time abroad, how does Deepika feel about coming home on the eve of the film’s release? The actor smiles and says, “You know, I can’t tell you how happy I am to be home,” she says in a voice that is clearly not in peak fettle. “And now my voice, too, is coming back.”

What are her feelings about doing this Hollywood film? “After the earlier film did not work out, I was touched to see the faith D J had in me, and thankful and grateful to Vin for renewing the franchise. I think that it was destiny that Vin and I had to work together. And I am proud to represent my country on a global stage like this, especially as a female actor.”

Though they are very good friends now, was she at all intimidated by her co-star and his stature earlier? Deepika looks at Vin, grins, and slowly but decisively says, “Yes, I was! The first time I had gone to New York was for an audition with Caruso almost five years ago. Everything was a blur, as I was very nervous. I was awkward. I had a lunch date with him. We spoke for two hours, on almost everything under the sun. I began to feel comfortable. I had to catch an evening flight back home, but Caruso told me that Vin wanted to meet me in Los Angeles that night. So I went to meet him at his studio instead.”

Happily smiling at the memory, she adds, “And that’s when he tweeted that famous picture of mine. At that time, I did not even know if I was doing the film at all or even about the fact that he had posted the picture we had taken. And over here, a journalist saw it and asked me about it, and I was speechless.”

Deepika raves on, “I was amazed by how consumed he was about Serena, my character. But when we began filming, he was like this huge teddy bear, so the intimidation had gone.” Grinning, she says further, “Today, I know how much he worried about me, would watch my back, and would always be there with me. He has given me so much confidence to do the film.”

Vin returns all these compliments lavishly, his voice a bellow. “When Caruso and I met her, we were very honest about the demanding role in terms of high action. And her commitment was apparent right from the beginning. She would go to all lengths, come in, practice and do everything needed. In an action sequence, anything less from an actor can really mess things up. And she did it all with her thespian majesty.”

A dream come true

The Indian chapter, Vin insists, is a dream come true. A promise made to Deepika was fulfilled, but how did Deepika really influence them to come to India? “It was not difficult at all,” replies the actor, with a twinkle in her eyes. I was in Toronto for four months with them, and I always felt he was already in India. Vin would give me updates everyday about what the Indian media and my fans were saying on Twitter. Even then, he understood how special India was.”

Laughs Vin in agreement. “As I said, coming to India at last was a dream come true. Let me tell you something. I have never seen a reception like the one I got when I stepped off the plane this morning. It speaks a lot for your country’s people, culture and music. It’s great to see how Indians are happy to celebrate their culture. When I finally entered my hotel room, I looked into the mirror and said to myself, ‘Vin, you are smiling too much!’ That’s not happened to me before.”

He adds, “There is a story connected to India that I have not told anyone yet. I am not sure if you want to hear this.” When we nod emphatically in the affirmative, he smiles and goes on, “Well, India is so amazing. My father used to meditate every day, and one day a guru came down, and my family — my parents, brother and I — went to visit him. I was a kid, playing with my brother on the side, and the guru pointed out to me and told my parents, ‘One day, this boy will surprise you’. My parents told him, ‘We are very proud of him!’ but the guru told them, ‘You did not understand. What I mean is that he will do something beyond your wildest imagination’.”

The final question: How many of Deepika’s Hindi films has Vin watched so far? “I watched that last film (Bajirao Mastani), for which she won so many awards. It was insanely good.”

So when will he do a film with Deepika next, and would he want to dance in it like any Hindi film hero? “Look, this is her home country, but the world will soon get to claim her,” he says thunderously. Tongue-in-cheek, he adds his final punch: “And Deepika and I will be filming the next movie in the franchise by May, and yes, we will dance in it.”

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