Deepika Padukone made her foray into Bollywood with the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Om Shanti Om. She then belted out several hits including Love Aaj Kal, Bachna Ae Haseeno and Housefull at the very beginning of her career. Before she knew it, the star became every director’s favourite, becoming the most in-demand actors in the world today. In a recent conversation with Vogue, Deepika spoke about everything ranging from acting to aspirations and accolades.
The actor admitted that she had her share of insecurities when she stepped into Bollywood. Deepika said though she never had to struggle with gender bias in the industry, she had her own share of challenges. “I do see the obvious disparity between men and women in almost any aspect of life, but never in my journey have I felt the need to compare. And I think it’s to do with the fact that my sister and I weren’t brought up like that. We weren’t constantly reminded of the fact that we were girls, and so we had to go into the world thinking differently and fighting for what we deserved. But I did have to tackle other challenges,” she said, adding “Coming from a sports background meant I did not have a natural inroad into Bollywood. My South Indian accent was also frowned upon and I initially worried about being written off because of it.”
However, Deepika has achieved a lot in her film career and is all set to take her place as one of the jury members at the 75th Cannes Film Festival. Going forward, the actor, who has also turned a producer, is fervent to depict mental health in the right way in the films she features in and produces. She said, “Cinema is such a powerful medium of understanding. If mental health is depicted in the right way, it can have far-reaching consequences for a country like India, where the conversation around mental health has only just begun. Similarly, one wrong depiction could set us back by years.”
Besides making the right films on the subject, Deepika also wants to bring about a change on a film’s set by making a mental health therapist available at all times. “Something I personally hope to do in the next few years is to have a therapist present on film sets. We have a doctor on set, so I don’t see why we can’t have a mental health professional too. During Chhapaak (2020), I brought on a therapist for myself because there were days where I would have a panic attack or feel claustrophobic — it wasn’t easy carrying the emotion that came from playing Malti for so many months. To have a therapist hold my hand through that was important to me. In fact, I had a similar process for Gehraiyaan as well.”
There was once a time when big projects were made keeping A-list male actors in mind. As one of the country’s biggest stars and a successful producer, does Deepika now insist on having well-rounded female characters in the films she act in and chooses to back? “I’m having the opposite problem today, where I have to insist on filmmakers not keeping me in mind for just a certain kind of role. They are doing their own filtration and sieving process before approaching me. A lot of the time, I hear of a film going to someone else and wonder why it wasn’t me, and the filmmaker will just tell me that they thought I wouldn’t do it because it didn’t have a big enough part for someone like me. Of course, it could also just be an excuse for why they didn’t want me in the first place. But to answer your question: no, I don’t think I’ve had that issue in a while. People assume that I’m only going to do certain kinds of films and roles, so I only get offered those,” the Piku star said.
She then went on to speak about the pandemic and its impact on her life. “Navigating this pandemic from that perspective was easier because I already had control over my mind and body. And although parts of it were very hard, there were great days as well. Ranveer and I were newly married and we got to spend a lot of quality time with each other. We were also able to connect with our families for long periods of time, which we don’t otherwise get to do because of shoot schedules and travelling,” she said. Deepika noted, “I think most people have come out of it nicer. There’s value for health, value for the air we breathe, value for the people around us.”
Speaking about being conferred with the TIME100 Impact Award recently, she mentioned, “The award was to honour the work I’ve done so far, my contribution to the Indian film industry and the choices I’ve made as an actor. It just felt a lot more wholesome because mental health is a huge aspect of my life, but it’s not the only aspect of my life. All the ups and downs I’ve been through in my career—the learnings, the mistakes, the successes—the award felt like a culmination of it.
Currently, the actor has flown to Cannes for the 75th Cannes Film Festival. The festival will begin on May 16 and will conclude on May 28. Deepika is expected to walk the red carpet on all 10 days. Talking to Vogue about her style sense, she said, “I am the person who will wear a classic black dress, I am the person who will wear a neon green or fuchsia gown that can fit ten people in it and I am the person who will wear a graceful sari. They are all my personalities.”