Known for her dimpled smile and acting prowess Deepika Padukone has always won over our hearts, be it as the fiesty 'Leela' or the adorable 'Piku', she has made sure that she played characters that would be etched in the minds of the people for a long time.
As the gorgeous lady's upcoming magnum opus 'Bajirao Mastani' hits the silver screens this Friday, she gets candid about the film, the box office clash, Ranveer Singh and her upcoming projects. ( Despite suffering from fever, Deepika was at her usual best and made sure that she gave us plenty of reasons to smile.) Excerpts from the conversation-
Q. Deepika, just few days left for the release and we are seeing you going all out to promote the film so what are you expecting from the film from Friday onwards?
A. I am expecting that people will come out speechless and I am very very sure that it’s going to be one of those films that people are not going to forget for a very long time. That’s the feeling that I am getting as an audience. The scale, the performances, the music; I think one viewing is not going to be enough. I think that the people will have to watch the film at least 2 or 3 times to just digest every aspect of the film, because there is so much happening. It’s such a big film, there is so much scale, so much drama, so much emotions; that it’s going to take people time. I can visualize that when people are going to come out of the theatre there is going to be stunned silence, you won’t want to see the person next to you, there will be so much to take back. Even in the car when people are going back there is just going to be that silence because you won’t realize what has hit you. And I hope that most importantly people are inspired by the movie because I think that as an actor when I was doing this role, I was very inspired by the characters Bajirao and Mastani for the kind of people that they were. I was very inspired by their journey, by their strength, by their conviction in whatever they did. So I think they are also very very inspiring characters and it’s a very inspiring film.
Q.What qualities do you take back from your character?
A. There’s a lot of Mastani that’s very relatable also. Inspiring because of what all she went through and what all she is stood for but I feel like other than the period itself I just found her character extremely relatable because of the kind of woman that she was. How brave she was, how strong she was, how determined she was and at the same time how fragile and vulnerable she was. I find that qualities of her are there in each one of us and that’s why I find that Mastani is going to be relatable yet inspiring at the same time.
Q.While you were playing the character, what did you find more difficult; like to perform the actions scenes or to emotionally emote whatever she was going through in the film?
A. I found the physically demanding scenes very tough. The songs I found the most difficult. In fact actually the songs are what I found the most difficult followed by the horse riding and the sword fighting. So whatever was physically demanding is what I found the most difficult. The scenes and all were fine. I was okay with the scenes but somehow the songs are what I really struggled with that.
Q.Recently at 'Dilwale's press conference Shah Rukh said that audience will take time out to watch both the films. He also said that 'Bajirao Mastani' is niche and historical. Do you agree with that?
A. I agree with the first part of his comment that the audience will take time out to watch both the films because I am 100% sure that I will watch both the films as an audience. While on one hand you know, one is trying to create controversy about the fact that two films are releasing at the same time I am someone who looks at it the other way and says wow, as an audience I get to watch two films that are so unique, very different kind of films. As for the second part, I wouldn't call it as niche at all. In fact I think that one of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's strength is that in a film like 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' or a film like 'Devdas' or 'Ram Leela', 'Black', he has his way of story-telling but still makes it globally appealing. I don't know what he (SRK) means when he says niche. I don't know what he meant. What I can definitely say is that they are two very different kind of films. I worked with both the directors and I know that what they both have to offer is very different. Even as an audience when you watch both the films, you won't be able to compare the two because you can't. It's a different kind of film.
Q.You will become a global phenomenon very soon. Would Hollywood be a different ball game as compared to Bollywood?
A. I don't know what you are talking about (laughs). To set the record straight as we speak I have signed no film as of 2016.
Q.At the MAMI Film Festival, Ranveer Singh was the one who said you should be trying in Hollywood and you expressed the desire that you would love to do it.
A. Of course, I am open to the idea. Creatively I am. It's the same way as I did a film like 'Finding Fanny'. You know I tried to do something different. So of course I would like to explore working in a different set-up and a different environment. But as of now to speak I haven't signed any film.
Q.So how do you plan to unwind?
A. I will take a long holiday and I think I deserve that. I have been working non-stop. I had three very demanding and very different films released this year. And the promotions are equally exhausting now for an actor. So I think I am happy with what I have been able to do this year. And now I look forward to a very long break.
Q.What about the other controversies that were surrounding the film? Are you worried about that?
A. No, not at all. I think that people should watch the film before passing any kind of judgement. I have always believed that. Watch the film first and then say whatever you have to say. It's a bit premature to be jumping to any conclusion.
Q.You have played varied fictional characters in the past. And now you are playing a Maharashtrian character dating 500 years back..
A. I think that as an actor it becomes a little restrictive in terms of what all you can do with a character that is not fictional. You have reference points, you have certain parameters and certain boundaries within which one has to perform, so in that sense, it becomes restrictive as compared to a character that is completely fictional that's born in a writer's mind and that's given to an actor to perform then the possibilities are endless. Both are challenging and exciting in its own way but now because I am playing a character that's not fictional I can say that it's a little more restrictive. There's that much and then you have to work within that.
Q.Talking about comparisons, six months back 'Baahubali' raised the bar of Indian cinema because of the huge scale it was shot in. Now that 'Bajirao Mastani' is coming, comparisons in terms of scale are bound to happen. Do you see this as a positive for the film because 'Baahubali' was a huge success or negatively because it will be a challenge to match up to the expectations as far as the scale is concerned?
A. Like I keep saying, whether it’s with films or actors, we don’t have to keep comparing all the time. I haven’t seen 'Baahubali', but from whatever I have heard and read about it, it’s one of the highlights of 2015 in terms of what one was able to do with visual effects, or it was until of course 'Bajirao Mastani' happened. But I feel that film is different. 'Bajirao Mastani' is very different, and you’ll see that in 3 days. You accept things for what it is and appreciate them for what they are. Yes 'Baahubali' was a huge turning point for the film industry, but so will 'Bajirao Mastani'. It is going to set a new benchmark at every level.
Q.Apparently 90% of single screens have decided to show 'Bajirao Mastani' and not 'Dilwale'. So how do you see that?
A. I don’t understand this honestly how many screens are there, who decides to show which film. The only thing I am looking forward to is when the film releases, what are people going to take back from 'Bajirao Mastani'. How special has the film been for them for all the hard work and effort we’ve put in, what the audiences take away from Bajirao and Mastani. I don’t understand number of screens, business and the clash. I don't understand that.
Q.You’ve had back-to-back box office success, and this year too you had 3 films, so how tough was it for you to manage doing it?
A. Very tough. In fact, for me, the preparation was a lot of mental preparation, and it was about telling myself that I am going to be juggling between three very different films, film-makers and characters. To constantly keep jumping from one to the other obviously was not the most ideal situation for me. I wish I could just do one film at a time and focus on that. But at the same time then that would've probably meant to drop out or not do some of the other films which I wouldn't have allowed ever. So of course when I look back now, I am very proud of the work I have done, but it was also mentally very exhausting.
Q.What are your future projects?
A. Nothing. I’ve not signed anything.
Q.But you were approached for 'Sultan', no?
A. I don’t think it’s fair for actors to talk about films they’ve been approached for. The only thing you should as an actor talk about is the film that you’re definitely doing, because eventually that’s the only thing that matters. Films are remembered for people who do them eventually. So 'Sultan' will belong to the people who do that film. It’s not my film because I am not a part of it.
Q.People have spoken about testing your chemistry with Salman when you went to Bigg Boss..
A. I have been with Salman on shows so many times, it could've been tested even back then.
Q.Will we see you working with Salman Khan?
A. Of course, I want to. Salman can create chemistry with anyone. After that episode a lot of directors messaged me after that saying I have to do a film with Salman. It just has to be the right film and at the right time.
Q.How tough was it to get the emotions right for 'Bajirao Mastani', especially since you've been doing other films too? Was it difficult to get that different blend of emotions?
A. I have something very interesting to say. In the way the relationship panned out, playing Mastani was very challenging, because it’s very easy for Mastani as a character to be disliked. So how do you find that balance or prove to the world or make the world believe that Bajirao and Mastani were just made to be and could do no wrong. I found that very challenging. In the trailer, there’s a fight sequence where I am holding a child in one hand and there’s a sword on the other hand. There are so many things that kick in at that point, because on one hand, your maternal instinct is to know that the child is okay and you want to give him that comfort of not getting scared and at the same time being able to attack these 5-6 people who’ve surrounded you. It’s been a very difficult film. One minute she goes on the battlefield, next minute she’s romancing him. So there is so many layers to the character.
Q.After 'Mastani' any other historical figure you want to portray on screen?
A. It’ll take me a while to do justice to another historical character at least as a woman, because there was so much she had to offer, because of which there was so much I had to give so much of myself that it’ll be a while till another character truly inspires me, or at least for me to be able to do justice as an actor.
Q.Did Ranveer play a prank on 'Bajirao Mastani' sets?
A. He’s not a prankster, at least not on the sets of this film. He’s someone who becomes the character, so I don’t know if he’ll appreciate that I am sharing this but when he walks onto set, he wants to be called Bajirao. He doesn't like to be called by his name. That’s how much he gets into the character. So if any of the ADs said Ranveer your shot is ready, he won’t respond. In this film or 'Ram Leela', there wasn’t much of fooling around or joking around. You can’t afford to because it doesn’t allow you that. In 'Ram Leela', we still had some fun in the lighter scenes, but in 'Bajirao Mastani', there was no scope for that.
Q.Did you and Priyanka do ragging with Ranveer Singh on 'Bajirao Mastani' sets?
A. Yes. I remember there’s one scene where Bajirao brings Mastani to Shanivaar wada for the first time. So Kashi is there to receive them. We were shooting that scene and I remember that the two of us were sitting with each other and we kept talking and he would feel really out of place because two women are looking at him and talking. He was getting all weird. But he has also worked with her, I have worked with him, I’ve known her from before, so it’s a very comfortable working equation.
Q.Have you been affected by Ranveer’s high energy aura that he always possess?
A. No, because I am very aware of me and his personality type. I think the difference is that I don’t try and keep up with him because I am very comfortable with where I am and who I am. I respect and understand his energy levels or why he is the way he is, so there’s a lot of comfort in that.
Q.Priyanka Chopra and you were very comfortable with each other and got along really well which Sanjay Leela Bhansali didn’t like. What exactly did he tell the two of you?
A. He actually narrated situations and said, “Why can’t you take four hours to get ready and then you don’t come out of the van.” He even told us how he wants us to fight. He said , “She comes out of the van and sees the other’s costume and asks for costume to be changed and goes away.” We burst out laughing. I found that really hilarious that not only he wants us to fight but he is also creating the situations and saying why don’t you all fight like this. I found that hilarious. That’s why in the making, we were sitting with our backs facing each other.
Q.Deepika, all the films you have done in the recent past have been game changers for you professionally and a testament to your versatility. Is this the reason you haven’t signed anything?
A. Let’s just say I haven’t liked anything. I have been reading a lot of scripts for the last six months and I haven’t been excited by anything. I think I am happy with where I am and whatever I’ve done so far. I have never signed films to keep my calendar full or to show that I have a release. If I’m not excited by a film, I won’t do it. Similarly, when I’m over excited by the films that I do, I can also have three films in the same year. That’s what is the most exciting.
Q.There’s no fear where there might be a situation where you’re not getting good enough scripts?
A. No, especially not now. You can’t ask for a better time to be in the industry; it’s the most exciting time for actors, writers, directors, musicians and new talent. So that’s not a fear in my mind at all. It’s just whatever I’ve been offered so far, I’ve not been excited.
Q.Would you like to do a Bond film?
A. It’s a very generic question. Yes, I would like to be in a Bond film but then again, I think what do I have to offer and what can I do in that Bond film is equally important.
Q.Today we see action films being made largely with the central male character. Today with changing times in the industry, we see that changing as well with you doing 'Bajirao Mastani', Sonakshi Sinha doing 'Akira', Priyanka Chopra doing 'Gangaajal', do you think that is shifting? Will you after 'Bajirao Mastani' take up a role where you’ll play a central character with an action setup?
A. Ya, why not? I have done an action film. I did an action sequence in 'Chandni Chowk To China'. In fact, we had done a lot of action but eventually they did not keep it for length or whatever reasons. I remember doing some solid training for that film and I’m very proud of that action sequence that I’ve done over there. We had people who had come from Thailand who had choreographed that whole sequence.
Q.You have being saying that 'Bajirao Mastani' has been a physically and mentally exhausting film of your career. Next film which you do, will that be in a lighter space?
A. Ya, my managers would like me to do a really light frothy rom-com but no, there’s nothing that I am specifically looking at doing.
Q.If you had to pick a genre what would it be?
A. Anything but a horror film. As a genre I don’t like horror.
Q.In one of the interviews, Nana Patekar had said that he is writing a female centric film which he would also direct and he would like to cast you in it.
A. He hasn't approached me for it yet.
Q.There were also reports that you were supposed to be a part of Sriram Raghavan's next film 'Accidental Apprentice'.
A. Again, something that I’ve been reading about through the papers. What I read last was that he would like to approach me but he is writing it. That hasn't happened yet.
Q.You are playing a multi-layered character in Bajirao Mastani but you said that the song and dance were the toughest part for you. Since you’re a very good dancer how was that not easy?
A. I don’t know. Somehow with Sanjay sir, especially on this film, I find the songs the most difficult. The minute there’s a song coming up, I get very stressed. Maybe it’s what he expects from me or how he visualises the song. I don’t know what it is but it’s somehow the songs that gets me all stressed out. Deewani Mastani was the last song that I had to shoot and after that I had the climax of the film left but as I finished the song I was very happy. I’m not saying only in this film, even in Ram Leela, I found the songs very difficult. In fact this time, I was mentally better prepared but still that wasn’t enough. When I shot for the Kathak song, I wanted to give up and didn’t want to shoot the film anymore. I was exhausted and couldn’t do it. I took up a lot of precautions this time. During Nagada, chunks of my skin had come off and I have done the whole song with tape on my feet. Because of the earrings that Anju Modi had given me, my ear lobe used to bleed. So on this film we made sure that the jewellery would give the same kind of effect but they were made with a different material so they were made lighter. We made sure that I taped my feet and wore proper shoes.
Q.What are your plans for the near year?
A. I am going home!
Q.Is there anything that you’d like to change in yourself in 2016?
A. I want to be fitter than ever before.
Q. Salman Khan is turning 50 this year, if you had to gift him something, what would it be?
A. (smilingly) I would gift him a bride.