WINNER TAKES ALL
Proving her acting skills by scooping up every award this year, DEEPIKA PADUKONE has emerged as Bollywood’s leading lady
Star of the moment, Deepika Padukone is turned on by excel sheets. The 28-year-old actress, unequivocally Bollywood’s reigning queen and bonafide A-lister, reveals that she’d be very good manning an office desk: “I find filing and indexing, making folders and drawing up contracts very exciting. Paperwork is therapeutic for me.” Well, that’ll have to wait. With film projects opposite everyone from Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh to Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Hrithik Roshan expected to keep her occupied at least until her 30th birthday, don’t expect to see her sorting through dusty correspondence cabinets anytime soon. In the last year alone, she’s banged out four blockbusters
( Race 2, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express, Ram
Leela), won Best Actress at every awards ceremony that exists, and seen both the industry’s and the media’s perception of her change dramatically. “I feel like people are genuinely happy for me. There’s this tremendous positive energy and genuine goodwill,” she says of the overall response to her recent success. But she won’t take it for granted. At a recent awards show, despite being nominated for two performances, Deepika says “there was this moment between God and me where I said to him, ‘This better be mine.’” Of course she won, “but those few seconds between the time they list all the nominees up until they announce the winner is unnerving.”
Having spent the most part of the last two years working round the clock, Deepika reveals that she rewarded herself by taking a holiday to the Maldives with her parents and her sister: “All I did was swim, eat, and sleep.” She’d been working so hard, in fact, that she outfitted her vanity van with its own generator, and hired the same Bengaluru-based interior designer who did up her Prabhadevi apartment to give the van a cosy, homely makeover. “I was spending 16 hours and sometimes more in the studios. There were days it didn’t make sense to go home after pack-up because I had to be back in a few hours, so I’d just sleep in my van. I needed it to feel as comfortable as home,” she explains. Step inside and you notice immediately that the place has a distinct woman’s touch, complete with candle stands and tasteful floral curtains. Divided into three sections—a little kitchenette, a waiting area with a cane couch, table, and stools, and her inner sanctum, which comprises a makeup mirror and a chair, a bed, a ladies room, and closets—the van is, by her own admission, “the best one owned by any actress”.
There’s no reason why she must settle for anything less. The Number One choice for every major film being conceived even as you’re reading this, Deepika has projects with Farah Khan, Imtiaz Ali, Karan Johar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and Shoojit Sircar in the pipeline. “There’s a real difference in the kind of roles I’m being offered,” she volunteers, indicating that writers and directors are more confident about tapping her for her acting chops instead of focusing on her legendary looks these days. “She’s evolved into the kind of wholesome star who’s a knockout on the red carpet, and a committed, dependable actor on the set. It’s exactly what you hope for in a leading lady but seldom have luck finding,” says Karan Johar.
She’s also refreshingly sporting when it comes to taking questions about her love life. Although it’s no secret in the industry that she’s seeing her Ram-Leela co-star Ranveer (the couple was spotted holidaying together in New York during her birthday week in January), Deepika doesn’t seem to want to jump the gun. “I can understand that there’s curiosity about actors and their personal lives. It’s true everywhere in the world. But I don’t want to be pressured into accepting or admitting to being in a relationship—or not being in a relationship—because of that curiosity,” she says gingerly. “I want to be able to date and get to know someone. But very often in our industry one doesn’t get to do that because of the constant scrutiny. And that doesn’t seem fair, because it’s better to get to know someone well, rather than rush into something that may end in heartbreak.”
There’s an unmistakable maturity in her words, and a clarity of purpose that few actresses her age can stake claim to. But just look at what she’s been up to lately. Ask her when she was last tongue-tied and she mentions it was when she was meeting the Prime Minister. Someone she’d have liked to spend longer chatting with? Martin Scorsese, whom she met in Marrakech in November. And although she won’t say as much, you sense she’d have really liked to squeeze in the seventh Fast & Furious film that she was famously offered last year, after bowling over the big ‘uns at Universal Pictures in Los Angeles. “The timing just didn’t match,” she says, shrugging those delicate shoulders.
Well, miles to go before she sleeps. And she does have promises to keep.
“She’s evolved into the kind of wholesome star who’s a knockout on the red carpet, and a committed, dependable actor on the set. It’s exactly what you hope for in a leading lady but seldom have luck finding.”