Good things come to those who wait. Even better things come to those who harass celebrities and their publicists till they agree to do a shoot. That said Miss Padukone has the honour of being the first covergirl to have stood FHM up. There we were sitting in a big old empty studio in Mumbai waiting in anticipation, with the vanity van up and running when we heard that Miss Padukone would not be able to show up. She had been held back due to prior commitments.
You’d think that would scare us off, but no. That’s the gift Miss Padukone has – like all hot as hell girls who have legs that go on till eternity and a heart-melting smile – she has a powerful hold over men. And the scary part is that she knows it. She’s been on Twitter for a couple of years now and has some 25 lakh people following her, but her last tweet was sent out three weeks ago. Even then, the followers just keep on increasing. Four days later, in another studio in Mumbai, she shows up early on a Sunday for the shoot.
Even though her tattoo and her former paramour, a peculiar fella who goes by the last name Kapoor, their ensuing break-up and recent speculations of a rekindled romance have taken up more attention than most of her roles – Miss Padukone has not bitched, kicked or uttered obscenities in full media glare like many of her contemporaries would when wronged. Neither has she played the victim. On the contrary, she’s worn her scars (even if they were paid for and inscribed by tattoo needles) with a grin and has not had lasers go nuts on her nape when that particular relationship publicly crashed and burnt.
Some years later, she’s down to being chums with the fella and is doing a movie (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani) with him, saying all the right things in her interviews – ‘she was naïve then’ or ‘sometimes things are just not meant to be’ and insists that she is very much single, but still not looking for a relationship. Ask her if the whole working with a former lover thing was tough and she dismisses it. “People around us are comfortable and not awkward and that comes from us. Had we been weird with each other, people around us would have felt awkward as well,” she says. Of course things had gotten a little complicated considering that the director (Ayan Mukherji) sided with Mr Kapoor’s section after the separation. “Ayan has seen us through the best and worst parts of our relationship. When we broke up, I cut myself off from Ayan as he’s close to Ranbir, so Ayan could have cast anyone else for his film, but he realised we both have moved on in our lives and could do this movie together.”
Of course between then and now, she’s been linked to the heir of the beleaguered Kingfisher Empire, the mandatory cricketing superstar and her new co-star in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie – Ranveer Singh. The last one she dismisses as a mere outcome of the workshops they did together for the Bhansali film. Her reel life, whether she likes it or not, is following the trajectory of her real life – she is said to also be in talks to star in a remake of Silsila, a movie that is rumoured to star her, the aforementioned Kapoor and Katrina Kaif. But none of that seems to be bothering her. She’s quiet and dignified about things and says she prefers eating a simple home-cooked South Indian meal over going out to a club and drinking herself silly, while disclosing that she used to be unreasonably embarrassed of her feet (she really has no reason to though). Yet there is something different about her. There is no brouhaha about wearing a bikini – Miss Padukone has worn one in at least three movies and to great effect. There are no item song aspirations either. In fact, unlike some of her contemporaries, Miss Padukone does not owe the sexy tag to item songs at all (she’s done just the one in Dum Maaro Dum) but instead to movies where she’s played just a regular girl, albeit a hot one. There have been no boobs popping out of blouses and no pelvic thrusts. Sure there have been times when she’s been wearing a bikini, but even then, her brand of sexuality doesn’t scream out ‘Look at me’. Which is a big deal considering how bereft Indian cinema is of subtlety.
That, of course, does not take away from the fact that she looked drop dead gorgeous whether she was hanging out on the beach in Break Ke Baad, dancing in that dreadful movie called Housefull or just lounging around tanning and indulging in other allied activities in Cocktail. Sure, the bikini-worthy body doesn’t come without a positively nutters diet that requires her to check with her dietician even before she can take a bite of a pie, but we say it’s all worth it. Ask her about Cocktail and the sensible her takes over – she knows her performance was loved, she knows the film was dragged over hot coals and accused of being regressive, but she has taken it all in her stride. “There are scripts and scripts and then there is that one script you just completely relate to. Honestly, it isn’t a tangible thing. It is more of an emotional thing. I got emotionally attached to Cocktail the minute I heard the script.”
From the playful and carefree girl of Break Ke Baad to the sensitive and simple daughter in Aarakshan, Deepika has stepped into the skin of each role effortlessly. But it was for Cocktail, probably her boldest and most brazenly unapologetic role yet that she got the most attention since her debut. She played Veronica – a go-getter, sexy and carefree photographer, mostly always out on the town, who decides to turn good for a boy. She calls that over-simplification. “It is always a risk playing characters like this because you don’t want to make it caricaturish. At the same time, you also don’t want it to look like anything someone else has played on screen before. It has to look natural.” So post her signing the movie, she spent the next couple of months living the role of her character and admits getting out of that mode was pretty difficult. And it’s a process she follows for all her roles, de-glamed, dolled up or otherwise.
But going back to the subject of her being normal, natural and all that, Miss Padukone is also quite proud of the fact that she can cook. Now only if omelettes and roti ever made a balanced meal, we’d be very happy to be stood up by her again, all in exchange for a home-cooked meal.
- Kabeer Sharma