Since making her debut in Om Shanti Om, Deepika Padukone has gone on to play a myriad of characters in films ranging from comedy, to drama, to hot item numbers, to even suspense and of course romance. The actress is now considered one of the hottest stars in Bollywood. Her upcoming release is the socio-political drama Aarakshan, directed by Prakash Jha. The film takes a look at the policy of reservation in the Indian education system, but more at a personal level and how it impacts the lives of families and friends. Describing her performance in the film, which opens on August 12th, Prakash Jha said, “She is going to surprise a lot of people.” In a quick interview, Deepika chatted with us about her experiences and thoughts about Aarakshan.
Talking about how she chooses her projects, the actress told us, “I think I completely go by my gut instinct when I go for a narration. I instantly know whether I connect with the subject or not and that’s it.”
For Aarakshan, it was the subject matter that drew her to saying yes to the role. “I think the fact that reservation today in our country is such an important issue and such a relevant issue, I think that’s why I felt the need to be a part of a film like this.” Of course, the chance to work with the director and the amazing cast was another big draw.
In the film, Deepika plays Poorbi Anand, who is Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter and also Saif Ali Khan’s love interest. She gave us some insight into her character, “She’s a girl who is confident; she has a mind of her own. But at the same time she’s a girl that because of reservation and the complexities of society she’s torn between her family and her relationship. She understands both sides, the advantages and the disadvantages reservation has on people, but unfortunately she’s caught in the middle of that. She’s in a situation where she doesn’t know whose side to take. It’s difficult because you know both sides and especially, like in the film, when you have such close ties with your boyfriend and your family and you’re torn between the two, then it is a tough decision.”
This is the first time the actress has worked with director Prakash Jha and she says it was a learning experience, “He’s definitely one of the senior most technicians I’ve worked with. One can learn a lot working with him especially on an issue and a subject like this. He’s a tough task master, but at the same time there is a paternal caring side to him as well.”
Prakash Jha holds several sessions of workshops with the actors and actresses in his films to really prepare them and get them to know their characters inside and out. Deepika says that rehearsal period is actually the harder than the actual shooting of the film, “I think that’s the most difficult part of making a film. The preparation part and especially for this film because it’s such a sensitive issue one has to be fully informed of the pros and cons of reservation; the complexities it creates in the society. Then getting to know the actors and learning your lines and all of that; definitely more difficult than the actual shooting process.”
Though the film does tackle a very controversial subject there are also lighter moments in the film including a romance with Saif Ali Khan. This is her second film starring opposite the actor and she says it was a pleasure to work with him again. “He’s a wonderful co-star. I’m glad that we’ve done two-three films now and that people like us together as an on-screen couple.” Adding that with such an intense film as Aarakshan, it was really helpful to have that comfort level and familiarity of having worked with him on a film before.
Now we get to working with the actor she calls a legend, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. Ask her how it is just to be on set and doing scenes with him and she replies, “I think I’d define it as an overwhelming feeling. To share screen space with him and just to see the way he works and the way he functions. I learned so much from him.”
Deepika says everyone will connect in some way with the stories in the film and that what they can expect from Aarakshan is, “A hard hitting impactful film. And the fact that today in our country it’s socially very relevant and is about the complexities that reservation is creating in society. Also how reservation has given birth to commercialization of education and that’s given rise to the tuition centers and the coaching centers, which is all a by-product of reservation. I mean what is the point of paying so much for your school and college if you then have to go outside and pay separately for your tuition.”
So what does she love about being an actress, “I guess the fact that I can play so many different characters and be a part of different kinds of films.”
Looking back over her career from Om Shanti Om until now; what would she say about her journey so far? “It all has been a learning experience for me. As an actor I think I learn with every film.”
After Aarakshan what will we see her in next? “I have Desi Boys, that releases in November. Then there is a film called Cocktail, which is a love story which releases in February.”
Finally, she leaves us with a message for all her fans, “Believe in yourself and be happy.”