(This appeared as the October 2014 cover story of Smart Life Magazine’s Beauty Special)
“Oh beautiful Angelina, the glow on your cheeks puts the sun to shame,” the lustful artist Don Pedro Cleto Colaco compliments the Goan village beauty in Homi Adajania’s recently released Finding Fanny. She responds with a shy, dimpled smile. Deepika Padukone does the same when we mention to her that she looks the most beautiful she has ever done on screen as Angelina, the virgin widow. She looks down for a bit, smiles to shrug off the awkward moment and thanks her genes for her beauty, especially her mother. “I am really bad at taking such compliments,” she later tells us. “It is awkward when people go on and on about the way I look, my clothes and my legs.”
Ah… her legs! There was a time in her career when people just couldn’t get over those long legs. Ever since she walked into tinseltown on the red carpet that Farah Khan laid out for her in Om Shanti Om, with a confident, yet measured gait, a wide smile and a slow wave, Deepika had made many a heart skip a beat. But with the films that followed, conversations that began referring to her as a “leggy lass” didn’t manage to pick up momentum and go any forward. She remained the girl with a beautiful face and a fabulous body, who couldn’t act.
And, then Cocktail happened. It was probably the first time that an actor’s performance in a film got talked about more than her sculpted, sun-kissed body in a bikini. Add to that her clean sweep at the box-office with all four of her films of 2013 becoming superhits, Deepika is undoubtedly at the top of her game now. Dressed in a lime green ikat and lace dress by Drashta, she doesn’t look much different from what she did seven years ago. But there is definitely an air of new-found ease and confidence that sets Deepika apart now. Is it success that has brought about this change? we wonder. “Not at all,” she quickly corrects us. “Last year was a very special year for me, a career-best. But I would be foolish to expect every year to be the same. I am just happy that people have started seeing a different side of me now and appreciating it as well.”
Confidence, says Deepika, has never been her strong point. Despite having faced the camera at the age of eight and walked the ramp at the Lakme Fashion Week at 19, she is not as confident as she would want to be. “Just because I attend a lot of events and act in films doesn’t mean that I am confident,” says the 27-year-old. “I have always been a bit socially awkward and find it very difficult to initiate a conversation with people I don’t know that well.” It is definitely getting better, but what she lives off is her belief in herself and dedication. Filmmaker Homi Adajania, who directed her in Cocktail and now in Finding Fanny, says that he hasn’t seen a more “ridiculously hardworking” person than Deepika. “Now she has got a good grasp over her craft, but that hasn’t slowed her down even a bit,” says Homi. “I know for a fact that every day in this week, she has worked 20 hours and slept for only four. I don’t think anyone can do that or does that after having achieved what she has.”
Even with all this appreciation pouring in and having bagged most of the popular awards last year, Deepika hasn’t let her success dictate her choices. The line-up she has for the coming year speaks volumes about this, as she started off this year with what is possibly the smallest film to have come out in 2014–Finding Fanny. She moves on to Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha next, followed by Shoojit Sircar’s Piku. Yes, there is also Farah Khan’s Happy New Year in between, which makes it clear that Deepika understands both sides of the game well.
Among other things she has picked up on her way, Deepika has also developed a fine balance between being diplomatic, yet dignified when interacting with the media. She is not one to bash anyone or spark off a controversy, but she has learnt to stand up for herself and make herself heard. Case in point is a new soft drink ad she appears in, in which she asks viewers to stop staring at her neck (for a tattoo that is still not forgotten) and look instead at the bottle’s to get info about what they were drinking. Or how she recently took to Twitter to express her unhappiness on a leading newsdaily’s story on her ‘cleavage show’. “YES!I am a Woman.I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??” she had tweeted.
A woman’s body or skin is not the only reflection of her beauty, believes Deepika. “To me, beauty goes beyond having a goodlooking face,” she says. “It is flattering when people call me beautiful, but I would be happier if they recognised the person I am and had good things to say about me.” Much in tune with this philosophy, she believes that ‘the glow’ that people keep referring to in her is a product of her positivity. It is something she has inherited from her mother, says Deepika. “It might sound spiritual, but it is true and works wonders,” she says. “The moment you free yourself from negative thoughts, your body and mind becomes fresh and free.”
Coming to specifics, her flawless skin and her well-toned body is clearly not the result of crash diets or cheat workouts. Blessed with both gorgeous skin and an athletic body, Deepika believes in maintaining both with a healthy lifestyle. Consistency is key, she says. “I have met people who slog it out in the gym but eat a lot of junk. There are also others who starve themselves but do not do any physical activity. Both are dangerous extremes,” says Deepika. “When it comes to health and body image, it is not necessary that someone who is thin is fit.” She goes on to explain that the thinnest of people may have zero stamina and very low fitness levels, while some heavy ones have great endurance. Hence, size does not matter in fitness, she says.
Having always been into sports, Deepika followed a fitness regime that came with being an athlete. It was after she moved to Mumbai that she started trying out yoga with her trainer Abhishek Sharma. “It was not pure yoga, but very functional stuff,” she says. “Alongside yoga, we used to play badminton in the building and Abhishek used to make me run up and down the stairs.” But ever since she started training under Yasmin Karachiwala, Deepika has become a Pilates convert. She started working with Yasmin during the making of Cocktail and continues to follow her Pilates regime even today. “It works for me, I enjoy doing it and I can see the results on my body,” she says.
It is hard to believe when Deepika tells us that she is the biggest foodie in her social circles. “I get this a lot, no one believes me,” she says. “But trust me, even now I am thinking of food.” What matters is not how much she eats, but what she eats, says Deepika. Eating healthy, balanced meals is her mantra. She does not endorse dieting as it is understood today, but feels that our bodies give us signals about what to eat and what not to. “A lot of people say that rice is not healthy,” says Deepika. “But I am a south Indian and I have grown up eating rice. I still eat more rice compared to rotis or any other cereal, and it has worked fine for me.” Blindly following diet fads without listening to and understanding what your body needs is a sure shot way to an unhealthy body, she says.
According to her, taking care of what you put in your mouth and by working out right, half the battle is won. A healthy person will always have radiant skin and shining hair, she says. “I have never done anything to my skin, other than cleansing and moisturising it well,” says Deepika. “If anything, I think you should protect your skin from the UV rays with sunscreen. That is the only thing I particularly take care of.” She resorts to the traditional south Indian hot coconut oil massage when it comes to her hair, to keep it healthy after all the harsh treatments and styling it is subjected to.
The unavoidable thing–the real secret ingredient–however, is me-time, says Deepika. There used to be a time when she was not in touch with herself, consumed by the world and people around her and “completely lost”. Now she makes it a point that every day after work, she spends some quiet time with herself, reading, listening to music, going for a swim or doing a quick workout. “It really helps to connect with your own self and only then can you start falling in love with the person you are,” she says.
From Karan Johar to Hrithik Roshan, Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, the biggies in the industry are showering praise over Deepika’s performance in Finding Fanny. However, she is one to keep her feet firmly on the ground. “I am never really satisfied with the work I do and am very critical of myself,” she says. “The fact that I very rarely appreciate my work is what I think keeps me going.” Her middle-class upbringing has also helped in keeping her grounded, the reason why she does not fret about the time when her stardom fizzles out. “I know for sure that all this glamour and glitter will disappear one day. It is a reality of life that today I am a star and tomorrow someone else will be,” says Deepika. “I am a very family-oriented person and do not expect to or want to be in the spotlight all my life. If at all anyone thinks that their stardom will last forever, the only thing I can say is that, they are delusional.”
Fitness, a way of life: “I think fitness is really about changing your lifestyle. It shouldn’t be an option. The days that I can’t work out, I do some kind of stretching, or suryanamaskar, using the staircase instead of the lift or walking to a nearby place instead of taking the car.”
Knock off the clock: “On normal days, one session of Pilates takes an hour for me. Having said that I do not think you should ever put a time your workout. I hear people say that I worked out in the gym for three hours and all. Actually it really depends on what you are doing in those three hours. You can workout for just 20 minutes and pack in a much more useful workout that slogging it out in the gym for hours.”
Know thy body: “Dieting is a misconception. People believe that it means to starve yourself. I think it is better to call it eating healthy or nutrition or balanced meals. It has to be a combination of both eating well and working out. I am someone who loves to eat. I love desserts. But I take care to balance it. I don’t eat desserts everyday. I treat myself to it maybe once a week.”
Diet diary: “Breakfast is the most important meal for me. I need to have a big breakfast, which is usually a typical south Indian home-cooked meal of idli, dosa, upma or sevaiya. Lunch and dinner, I alternate between continental, Indian and other cuisines. I throw in the egg whites as mid-day snacks. I do binge on certain days, I bite into a pizza, or burger or my favourite, chocolates. But that is just once in a while because I do not believe in denying myself what I love.”
Beauty regime: “I have no beauty regime as such. I just cleanse my skin and use a sunscreen during the day to protect my skin. The Garnier BB cream works well for my skin. At the end of every day, I make sure that I take off all the make-up and use a heavy moisturiser at night.”
Deepika’s make-up tip: “I like a very minimalist and clean look. Dark-coloured lips are my favourite and I always use mascara because I think it opens up my eyes.”
Style statement: “To me, being stylish is being yourself and wearing your personality. I think often we try and keep up with what is in fashion and lose out on the person we are. That’s when you end up looking uncomfortable and then you just make an even bigger mess. I think it is important to know what is in fashion. It is good to try it out also sometimes. But it is most important to make sure it suits your personality and you are comfortable in what you are wearing.”