It is fair to say that Deepika Padukone has had a lot of success this year with her latest release ��Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani�۪ (2013) gaining rave reviews for her portrayal of Naina. When she burst onto our screens as Shanti in Farah Khan�۪s ��Om Shanti Om�۪, who knew that six years later she would be paired up once again with her co-star Shah Rukh Khan in ��Chennai Express�۪. BizAsia were invited to the launch of the film at The Courthouse Hotel in London to meet the beautiful actress and learn about just how much work it took for her to play a South Indian character.
For this film, you had to be a character which is very South Indian. Did you have to get your voice dubbed?
We just finished dubbing for the film yesterday and I couldn�۪t do more than one hour a day, normally I do two to three hours a day. I had to change the pitch and it put a strain on my throat, so I had to do one scene day. It is something that I definitely struggled with the first couple of days. It is not something that I cracked on the first day. Luckily I didn�۪t have a very big scene or a very important scene in the first couple of days and I even remember reshooting some scenes. On the third and fourth day, Shah Rukh showed me a couple of videos to help me. We have a person from Tamil Nadu on set who is watching the accent and as I am not familiar with the language, I had someone who was teaching me it.
I remember turning up on set and suddenly everyone just started cracking up and found it very funny. It is not a realistic film, it is a comedy film so it is slightly larger than life but I did have a tutor and people from Tamil Nadu who monitored my accent. I think this was a difficult part but I do think comedies are difficult. It is easy to do romantic films, it is easier to do action films or drama but comedy is the most difficult.
How long were you working with your tutor for on a daily basis?
I worked with him a couple of weeks before we started shooting to get familiar with the language. Although growing up in South India, I have familiarity for it but for the big screen, the language has to be not the spoken Tamil, but like what it is originally. It is like with Hindi, we all speak slightly corrupted or slang Hindi, it is not as pure as it used to be. I had to get familiar with that and the pronunciation. I am someone who gets very stressed out on set when I am not ready with my lines and I need to know that and get that out of my mind so I can focus on my performance. That took a couple of weeks.
Do you get given a written script and how much time does it take to learn?
Definitely a bound script. I will never forget the narration I got for ��Chennai Express�۪, it is the most hilarious narration I have ever got. The writers would read it out with full sound effects so it was like Boom! Bash! Tadaah! I was cracking up, it was really funny. I felt like I was watching the film, not like I was listening to the script.
Would you describe this film as the ��lungi�۪ film?
Not really. I have grown up watching my father wear a lungi and it�۪s what everybody wears like you wear pyjamas here in the UK. It�۪s the thing to go to, like when girls say ��I can�۪t wait to go home and wear my nightsuit�۪. In fact in South India, it is not what is worn at night; it is what they normally wear. So it�۪s not trying to make fun of the culture or anything, it is the done thing and the film is beyond just a lungi.
The film is about the journey of these two people and what happens after they meet. The larger picture is about Indian culture and how our country is diverse culturally in terms of languages and how at the end of the day, love is the only universal language.
Do you think it is important that they have put a spotlight on South India in this film?
Maybe what is catching people�۪s attention now is that it is the first time South India has been captured so beautifully. Why is it people don�۪t ask the same questions when a film is set in Punjab? So many of Shah Rukh�۪s films are set in Punjab with Kajol and Madhuri, all of these actresses played Punjabi girls and similarly I play a Tamil girl as this is where the film has been set. I play a Tamilian girl and it is Shah Rukh�۪s character�۪s journey to Tamil Nadu so we shot a lot there and there are a lot of South Indian aspects.
Would you count your role in this film as one of your most difficult?
I think I am making it more and more difficult for myself. Post- ��Cocktail�۪ (2012) it has been hard; not consciously but ��Cocktail�۪ was a role for me that was so different from the kind of person that I am. Then I did ��Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani�۪ (2013) and now ��Chennai Express�۪ (2013), I am familiar with the culture but I have never done a film where I have played a South Indian girl. My role is not a caricature of what a South Indian girl would be, I�۪ve dressed the same way, I�۪ve spoken the same way so it has definitely been difficult. I did struggle the first few days in fact, it is not something that I got bang on straight away. Then I have ��Ram Leela�۪ (2013) which releases in a couple of months, and is a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film which is set in Gujarat so I play a Gujarati girl.
Do you think people will compare your character in ��Om Shanti Om�۪ (2007) to your character in ��Chennai Express�۪?
I am sure they will compare me to all my other roles as well. People will see me in more traditionally Indian roles so in ��Ram Leela�۪ I will play a Gujarati girl. I am not worried about the comparisons at all. At the end of the day, I give every film more than a hundred percent and I give every film that I do, everything I can give. At no point do I every worry about the end result. That is something that my father taught me that you don�۪t do something keeping the end result in mind. It is important to be focused, it is important to have a sense of direction but for example, I don�۪t do films keeping the award in mind. I do films because I want to do that film or I want to play that character. For six months of my life, I want to have fun working with these people and you give it your all and then whatever has to come of it, will happen.
Rohit Shetty films have trademarks with the car flips and the colourful screenplay and he has very strong female characters throughout all of his films. What attracted you to being a part of ��Chennai Express�۪?
It was a combination of too many things and honestly I don�۪t analyse the process too much at all. I don�۪t think that I had this release so now I am going to do this film or be this sort of a character, I don�۪t think so much. It really has to be something that comes from the heart, it�۪s an instinct. I have heard a lot of films and I don�۪t do so many films. If I am offered ten films, I do one or two of them and that�۪s because they connect slightly more than the rest. There is no logic to that. Some decisions might be right and some decisions might be wrong but that is what makes your career. It is your journey at the end of the day and you learn from your mistakes, you learn from your successes. It is purely on instinct and I wanted to work with Rohit and Shah Rukh again and was interested due to the fact I haven�۪t played a South Indian character.
What was it like working again with Shah Rukh Khan, five years after the release of ��Om Shanti Om�۪?
For me it was very much the same as it was working with him five years ago. His generosity, his kindness, his warmth, Shah Rukh is extremely giving whether it is professionally or personally. He always makes sure that I am comfortable on set; he will never make me feel as though he is the bigger star. None of that. If people appreciated me in my first film, it is because of how comfortable he made me feel. I never did a screen test, he just saw my pictures and told Farah Khan that I want this girl and I was on. They were taking a big risk at that point and I�۪m just lucky that things worked out for me. I feel like a large part of what I am today is because of him and Farah. Even on ��Chennai Express�۪, the character itself was very difficult but I still had a great time as Shah Rukh made me feel like I was doing the right thing. Even if I was messing up, he never made me feel like that so it was amazing.
BizAsia wish Deepika Padukone and the rest of the ��Chennai Express�۪ all the best for their release and look forward to seeing Padukone in her much talked about South Indian role.