WIN­NER TAKES ALL

Prov­ing her act­ing skills by scoop­ing up ev­ery award this year, DEEPIKA PADUKONE has emerged as Bol­ly­wood’s lead­ing lady

Harper's Bazaar (India) - - BAZAAR - By RA­JEEV MASAND Pho­tographs by TARUN VISHWA

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.”

—Karan Jo­har

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