Deepika Padukone is on a high after the success of Race 2 and has her hands full with projects opposite the likes of Ranbir Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor.
Her latest release is Karan Johar’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani also starring her ex-beau Ranbir Kapoor. After playing the sultry Aleena in Race 2, Padukone will now be seen as Naina Talwar in Ayan Mukherji’s second directorial venture, out in UK cinemas this Friday.
Naina Talwar is a simple, good-natured and extremely focused girl. Frustrated by the restrictions she needs to put on herself to achieve her dreams of being a doctor; she impulsively decides to go on a trekking trip to Manali to give herself a break.
Through the film, Naina transforms from the restricted claustrophobic person she thought she was to a free-spirited woman with a newfound love for herself and comfort within her choices. She is strong and dependable and stands firmly for rooted family values.
In a chat with Bollywood Reporter Sunny Malik, the actress talks about Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and much more…
There was a lot of speculation as to why you cancelled your London trip to promote Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Would you like to clarify?
Ok. So what happened is that I was filming (for Chennai Express) in Munnar. It’s a hill station in the south of India near Kerala. I was supposed to finish that schedule and come back to Mumbai on the same night and then leave for London. But it rained and we had three days of non-stop rain where we were shooting. Our schedule was delayed by three days and I could’t leave a unit of two hundred fifty people waiting there. I had to sacrifice the London bit of the promotions to finish my commitment.
Do you feel it has been really difficult for you to manage everything because you are working on several projects simultaneously?
Honestly, now that that phase is over, I can definitely say that it was very, very difficult. But more importantly, more than physically, it was more mentally and emotionally draining for me. I am glad that the particular phase is over now, more or less as Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is up for release and I have also wrapped up Chennai Express (also starring Shah Rukh Khan) which will release on 8th August. The only thing I am focusing on right now is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram Leela.
You have always said that you wanted to work in a Dharma Productions film. What was your reaction when Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, produced by Karan Johar, was offered to you?
I was absolutely over the moon. I remember it started when Ayan Mukherji, the director, called me one night and said that he wants to take me out for dinner. We went out for dinner, just the two of us. I had been hearing from people that he was considering casting me but unless you actually hear from your director, you can never really believe these things. We discussed this project over dinner. He said that he was writing this film and was writing it with me in mind. He said that his ideal cast would be Ranbir and I and I was more than happy. I was sold. I told him that I will do this film for you. That’s the amount of faith I have in him as a director. I have known him from the time he was doing Wake Up Sid, actually even before that, when he was narrating the film to Ranbir. I have known him very closely throughout that entire process. I had decided back then itself that I would like to work with him if he ever offered me a movie. The script came to me much later. Of course, he gave me a one line of what Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani will be about. There was no bound script at that time.
Ranbir said that he wasn’t aware that the character was written keeping you in mind. There was also a lot of speculation that other actresses were being considered for the film. Was that amusing?
Of course it is amusing. But you know where you stand for a particular project. You know whether you have been approached or not. You know the other names that are floating around. So of course, one finds it amusing but at the end of the day, you have to have faith in yourself and in your director. I mean, it makes for good speculation in the news but at the end, the film belongs to the person who eventually does it.
Do you agree with Ranbir’s statement that it’s easy to hide behind characters and difficult to portray a more real person in films?
I know that he has been saying this in his interviews. For me that was a surprise because I prefer doing roles that I identify with. I feel that it’s a very, very interesting observation but even though he says that he finds it difficult, I really enjoy doing these roles. For me, Naina Talwar is me. I was the reference point. I did not have to research. I did not have to observe anyone else. I just had to be me.
Is it not scary that people may find out more about the real Deepika Padukone through such a role?
I don’t know if it’s a scary thing or not. In that sense, you have to trust your director. You have to believe that he will present you in the best manner possible. But no, not at all as I am very comfortable with the person I am. Of course, I have my flaws and insecurities but I was more than happy to use myself as a reference point for this character.
The film is also shown from your side of the story. I think the story is narrated through a diary your character wrote. Can you tell us more about that?
I don’t really want to get into how the story plays out and reveal more about the screenplay but the film is not just about the love story between me and Ranbir. It is about these four friends, how they meet, separate and meet again. It’s also about your relationship with your parents.
The film also looks very commercial and razzmatazz which is very different from what Ayan Mukherji has done before. Were you concerned or surprised?
I wasn’t concerned at all. As far as the film goes, even though it looks very commercial it is very real and the scenes are pretty much in the same space how Ayan had directed Wake Up Sid. The only thing that took me by surprise were the songs. I couldn’t believe that Ayan wanted to use such commercial songs in his movie. I had expected the songs to be slightly different a little bit like Wake Up Sid’s music. The trailer has been cut in a certain way where the film may seem very commercial and glittery with a lot of dance and music. But the film as a whole is very different from that.
Eros International is also releasing the film in new territories like Russia and Israel. Your film, Cocktail, restarted the trend of Hindi movies in Russia. How does that feel?
It feels really special. I never thought that my movie would restart the trend of Hindi movies in Russia. When I think about Hindi films in Russia, I think about Rajnikanth or Raj Kapoor movies. It feels great that Cocktail started the trend again and now Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani will release there too. I hope they show the film the same love.
As the film is being released in new territories, do you feel that Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is a film that will be appreciated by non-Hindi speaking audiences in the west and has the possibility of “crossing over”?
See, I don’t like terming films as commercial, art films or films that can cross over. I feel that if a film is well made, it will be appreciated. I also feel that Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is a universal film. I don’t feel that Hindi movies are just for a Hindi speaking audience. Our films are today reaching a wider audience because they are relatable and are being liked by people not understanding the language we speak in our films.
What are your expectations from the UK audience for Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani as your films have done better here than Ranbir Kapoor’s films?
(Laughs) I’m grateful that my films have done well in the UK. The UK is like home to me and I miss being there. I started my journey right in Leicester Square, London at the premiere of Om Shanti Om. Then I have shot for films like Love Aaj Kal, Housefull, Desi Boyz and Cocktail in London and in the UK. It’s a special place for me and it will always remain so. I hope the audience in the UK enjoys the movie and show the same love to the film as they have to some of my other films.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is released in UK cinemas on 31st May 2013.