In the fiefdom of fame, she is the reigning queen. And glam is her go-to gear. So much so that her power dressing during the promo tour of Gehraiyaan, released this week, regularly hit the headlines. Last week, her all-white looks got a ‘beautiful’ shout-out from designer Victoria Beckham on Instagram. Bollywood star Deepika Padukone has arrived. Again.
She is one of the highest-paid female actors in India. And filmmakers queue up to sign her up, thanks to her bankability. More than Rs 300 crore is riding on her, as per media reports. In 2018, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. And rightly so: She has never shied away from speaking her mind—be it her mental health struggles or standing in solidarity with protesting JNU students.
The 36-year-old actor has always chosen out-of-the-box roles. In her last two releases, Padukone portrayed strong-willed women—be it as Kapil Dev’s wife Romi in 83 or the acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal in Chhapaak. In her latest, Shakun Batra-directed Gehraiyaan, she plays a troubled woman in love with her cousin’s fiancé.
Even as filmmakers are now writing scripts with Padukone in mind, the actor remains unfazed by her fame. “Stardom is a by-product of my work and that was never my motive. All I wanted to do was good work. I want to inspire youngsters through my work,” she says. As an afterthought, she goes on to add, “I was learning earlier and I am still learning. I do not belong to any film family so when I got my first film opposite Shah Rukh Khan, I was very excited.”
Padukone, who turned producer in 2020 with Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapak, surely has come a long way from the days of Farah Khan-directed SRK-starrer Om Shanti Om (2007) which won her the Filmfare Best Female Debut award. This was followed by a bevy of hits and critically acclaimed works, including Cocktail (2012), Chennai Express (2013), Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018). However, Shoojit Sircar-directed Piku (2015) swelled her fandom.
“A lot of my life went in figuring out what I want from life and whether I was talented enough. I have done a lot of right and wrong things and learnt in the process. I have evolved as a person and as an actor,” she says, as she moves on to talk about Gehraiyaan streaming on Prime Video. “As an actor, I never want to stagnate. I always hope that I get roles like Gehraiyaan. I never got an opportunity to play such a complex character earlier. After a long time, we have got a film about sibling rivalry and different kinds of relationships,” she adds.
Unlike Gehraiyaan, there’s no sibling rivalry with younger sister Anisha. “There’s a five-year gap between us. Initially, I was a mother to her and she used to always say, ‘I have two mothers to deal with’. However, in the last 10 years, our relationship has changed tremendously. We have become friends, and discuss everything. My mother now calls me up to find out about her,” she says, adding, “Anisha is completely unrelated to my stardom but she respects it. She’s my reality check.”
The actor, who made her Hollywood debut with the 2017 action film xXx: Return of Xander Cage opposite Vin Diesel, seems to have found the secret keys to a fine balance in family life. She maintains that marriage has not impacted her choice of roles. Her intimate scenes in Gehraiyaan with her co-actor Siddhant Chaturvedi have gone viral on social media. “My husband (actor Ranveer Singh) and I discuss the scripts and even the meetings we have had. The final decision of selecting a film is entirely ours. We don’t interfere in each other’s professional choices. I openly tell him what I like or dislike but Ranveer has a different way of expressing it.”
Padukone, who enjoys simple household chores, is a family-oriented person. “I am possessive about my husband, my parents, my sister, my in-laws and even my sister-in-law. The key to a good relationship is to be true to yourself, have good communication and discuss even the most uncomfortable things. That’s how I have been dealing with my life,” explains the daughter of badminton great Prakash Padukone.
And for the actor, who made her acting debut in 2006 with Kannada film Aishwarya, the stage is set for her next. She will share screen space alongside Baahubali actor Prabhas and megastar Amitabh Bachchan in Nag Ashwin’s sci-fi action thriller titled Project K. You go, girl.