When Deepika Padukone made her debut in Om Shanti Om opposite Shah Rukh Khan in 2007, no one thought she would go on to become one of the most successful actors in Bollywood. Her talent and popularity aren’t limited to India; she’s also a known face internationally. However, the path to this stardom was not an easy one. Padukone has never aimed to just make a mark in the Hindi film industry but has also worked on being compassionate, empathetic, and fearless off-screen. In recent years, she has emerged as a powerful voice in Bollywood. In an exclusive interview, the 36-year-old actor talks about her journey, creating a legacy, her recent release Gehraiyaan, her upcoming film with Shah Rukh Khan, and more. Excerpts: 

You are working on films that might leave a legacy behind. How important is that for you?

Thanks for saying that. I don’t think anyone sets out to leave behind a legacy, but at the same time, yes, I do wake up every morning asking myself what is my purpose and what can I give back to the world. I question myself and try to shift the needle; how can I do things differently? I am all for rules but I don’t follow them blindly. There is a thought behind everything I do – I want to live a life led by purpose. I want to touch and positively impact people’s lives through the work that I do. In the process, if I can impact the generations and leave behind a legacy, then why not? 

Om Shanti Om, Love Aaj Kal, Cocktail, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express, Ram Leela, Padmavat, Piku… You’ve completed 15 years in the industry. How has the journey been so far?

It doesn’t feel like 15 years. It feels like it was just yesterday that I began my journey because nothing has been taken for granted. The entire journey has been full of learning, ups and downs, growth, and evolution. I have constantly tried to learn from every experience I’ve had. I’m grateful.

Why is Gehraiyaan special for you?

Gehraiyaan is special more at a personal level – I am extremely fond of Shakun and wanted to work with him always. We met in 2015 at an award show and we just hit it off. There was an ease, comfort and I felt like I’d known him for many years. And here we are, working together. We are quite similar as people and he will always have an extremely special place in my heart.

In 2015, you started Live Love Laugh, an initiative to help people dealing with mental health issues. How did working on such an intense film play out?

As an actor, I do what I have to do. I walk on to set and I am true to that moment, that character, and the scene. Where it comes from, I don’t sit and analyze. Yes, I had different experiences in life, have been through my ups and downs and I live a life that is close to reality. The people around me keep me grounded. Maybe, subconsciously I am drawing from different relationships or experiences I’ve had in my life. However, when the camera is rolling, I am not thinking about what I had felt in my personal life. Acting is a culmination of several emotions and you learn what to keep and what to exclude. You just have to be true to the moment.

What was Ranveer’s reaction to Gehraiyaan?

He is extremely proud of the movie we’ve made. He is been a cheerleader of Shakun and my pairing even before the film was in the pipeline. He is as excited as the fans are. He loved the film and he gave me a big hug and said that he is proud of me. 

Any BTS moments from Gehraiyaan?

It has been a fun experience. I called Shakun and asked him that we should go to Goa a little early as the film is heavy and there are new actors. He was all for it. We used that time constructively and worked on the characters. We planned our days; it was like going back to school. We were able to create that comfort during those days.

It’s the first time that a Bollywood movie had an intimacy director on the sets. Tell us something about that.

It’s important for the journey of the characters and it helped us to stay true to the theme of modern relationship drama. You cannot take about physical intimacy from a film like Gehraiyaan. It was important to reflect on the journey of the characters.

The film is out on Amazon Prime, an OTT platform. Do you think OTT platforms are a game-changer, and women characters are being portrayed in a better light?

I am not going to co-relate the two, but OTT is a blessing. The more the merrier – it means more opportunities for directors, writers, camera persons, and everyone else. Gehraiyaan was always meant to release in theatres but we realized that it was best for the film to release on Amazon. There is no disparity between theatrical release and OTT platforms. 

You are working with Shah Rukh Khan again in Pathaan. How has it been back on set with him?

For me working with Shah Rukh is like going back home. It’s like receiving that warm hug from your loved ones or being in your comfort zone. It’s always great working with him and we understand each other very well. There are times when we don’t have to say much but we understand what we are thinking. I am waiting for the film and it’s going to be kickass. 

(Featured Image Credits: @deepikapadukone)