I don’t want to be in the limelight: Prakash Padukone

Father of Deepika Padukone, the highest paid female actor in the country, Padukone says money was never a priority for him.
(From left) Prakash Padukone with Lakshya Sen on his homecoming after his Commonwealth win.
(From left) Prakash Padukone with Lakshya Sen on his homecoming after his Commonwealth win.

BENGALURU: A badminton champ, coach and father of Deepika Padukone, Prakash Padukone wears many hats. The 67-year-old speaks exclusively to CE about his priorities in life, his father, and quest for the Olympic gold

In the last visit to the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, the room was crammed with people and everyone, probably, was patiently waiting to click a picture with Prakash Padukone, the badminton colossus, who was the world number one in the ’80s. He made sure to introduce himself when he met someone new. The humility and simplicity are contagious, and hard to miss.

Padukone and his wife Ujjala
with young Deepika and Anisha

Father of Deepika Padukone, the highest paid female actor in the country, Padukone says money was never a priority for him. It might sound hard to digest, but the way he explains it is quite convincing. “Over the past 10-15 years, my priorities have been fixed. I am not going to change. The first is health and second is peace of mind; third is money. I am happy with what I have, and I am not competing with anybody. If someone is making `100 crore or more, it does not affect me. I go where I am comfortable. I don’t want publicity and don’t want to be in the limelight,” says Padukone, who is currently focusing on Padukone Sports Management which is working toward bringing up talents in badminton from the grassroots.

He doesn’t claim to be infallible as a person, an athlete or even as a father, but he has given his two daughters – Deepika and Anisha – the freedom to choose what they wanted to become in life. Both have established themselves in different professions. “It was tough. Deepika moved to Mumbai when she was 18 years old. So it took time. For Anisha, I have shared my experience. It may not be related to golf, but something common like match preparation, how to accept defeats... these are common even in life. They have managed well,” says the 67-year-old, adding that it was enunciated at their home that the girls had to work up the hard way, devoid of any recommendations or influence from their father.

Playing any sport and being successful involves a lot of sacrifices, and he is thankful that his family, especially his wife Ujjala Padukone for the support. “When you are playing or even as a coach, you have to make a lot of sacrifices. You can’t be a normal person. You have to sacrifice a lot of family events and holidays. Ujjala and I have managed it well. She was extremely supportive,” he says with a smile.

He has won many laurels for the country. Padukone was the first Indian to win the All-England Open Badminton Championships. But like many great sports personalities, it was his father Ramesh Padukone who introduced him to badminton. “Not many people know that my father was the one who started badminton in the state in the 1950s. He moved from Bombay then, and there was the State Badminton Association. He was the first secretary of the Mysore State Badminton Association. Since he was a national-level umpire, and a club-level player, my brother and I would go to the nearby club in the Canara Union in Malleswaram to play. Whenever he had time he would coach us. That’s how the whole journey started,” recalls Padukone, adding that after that he has been on his own.

Still passionate about the game, he started the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA), in his quest for an Olympic gold. “When I started the PPBA, the whole aim was to get an Olympic medal. There were talented players even before, but there was an extent to which we could do it because of availability of funds either from the government or the sponsors and corporates. This kind of support was not available,” he explains, adding that although the situation is better now, the competition has become tougher. “It is no longer a one-man game. Earlier, one person would be on the top, and there was a long gap between one and two. So we know there are a bunch of players who are of the same level,” he says.

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