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MAMI 2019: My acting process begins with the narration, says Deepika Padukone

The actress was on stage to talk about five of her most popular roles as well as the experience of acting alongside husband Ranveer Singh, at the MAMI Movie Mela on Sunday.

Shriram Iyengar

Deepika Padukone graced the first day of the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival's Movie Mela at the Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir, Bandra, on Sunday. The actress took the stage as hosts Anupama Chopra, MAMI festival director, and Rajeev Masand, film critic, discussed some of her most popular roles on the big screen.

"I have never really worked towards keeping a count on the number of films I have done, but more about connecting with the work I have done," Padukone said of her acting journey so far. "My acting process begins with the narration. While a great narration may not necessarily translate into a great movie, it helps me visualize the story and the character. It helps bring out the honesty of the script." The discussion revolved around five of the most popular roles Padukone has performed so far. 

Speaking of her breakout role, Veronica in Cocktail (2012), the actress said she actually wanted to play Meera (the role essayed by Diana Penty) but was convinced otherwise by Imtiaz Ali, the film's screenwriter along with Sajid Ali. "I reread the script to understand why Imtiaz thought that while I was drawn to Meera, I was actually ready for Veronica," she said. "After a point I was spontaneous in my takes; [director] Homi [Adajania] just stopped directing me. Veronica helped Deepika shed her inhibitions both as a woman and as an actor and explore a side of her that she did not know existed." 

Padukone obliges the audience with a selfie

While she has earned a name for herself with her dramatic performances, Padukone's role in Chennai Express (2013) was earmarked among her top five performances at the discussion. The actress admitted that she often struggled with her comic timing on the sets of the Rohit Shetty film. Speaking of the famed nightmare scene in the film, she said, "My energy was completely off that day. I could see that Shah Rukh Khan and Rohit Shetty were not happy with me and they were wondering how to make it work. You can’t prepare for scenes like these. It just happens spontaneously. But at the end of the day whatever you do with conviction becomes honest." 

In Goliyon Ki Raasleela: Raam-leela (2013), the actress revealed that her first scene for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was quite stressful. To add to the tension, the director rewrote the panchayat scene at the last minute. Padukone said, "While the writers were cajoling me how I could shoot it in parts, I almost broke down." 

The film was also her first collaboration with Ranveer Singh, now her husband. The key difference between them, Padukone said, was that "he likes to discuss work and take it home. But not me. I like to be in a different headspace on the set and at home."

Another film that earned Padukone rave reviews was Ayan Mukerji's Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013). While it was a fun film, the actress said Mukerji kept a disciplined set. "Ayan likes to have discipline on the sets,” she said. “The scene should be fun on screen, but the actors off screen shouldn’t be fooling around." She added that she still had a "lot of fun playing Naina" and saw a lot of herself in the character.

Speaking of the differences between her former boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor and husband Ranveer Singh, Padukone said, "Ranbir doesn’t really have a process; he is very spontaneous. I have never really seen him ‘prepare’ for his role as such. He is like me in that respect. Our approach is 50% rehearsed and 50% spontaneous. Ranveer, on the other hand, really gets into the process. He changes everything for the role — right from the car he drives to the clothes and the perfume he wears. He is a different person every six months, which is probably one of the reasons why our relationship has lasted so long; I never get bored!"

Padukone at the MAMI Movie Mela

While discussing movies that she was fond of, Padukone said she would be happy to do Shoojit Sircar's Piku (2015) all over again. "I miss the experience of making that movie," she said, reflecting that the whole cast was in a "good place" while shooting for the critically acclaimed and commercially successful film. 

The actress will be seen next on the big screen in Meghna Gulzar's Chhapaak next year. Padukone plays an acid attack survivor in the film, and described shooting for the film as "physically draining". She explained, "The characters you play don’t just go away at a snap of the fingers. They linger in your mind; they get pushed to the back as you start playing a new character; but they never entirely go away.

"Chhapaak was also a very physically draining movie; it would take at least three hours to put on the make-up every day and an hour to take it off. Even emotionally, it’s one of my most challenging roles yet and I’m looking forward to bring it to audiences."

Directed by Meghna Gulzar, Chhapaak will see Deepika Padukone team up alongside Vikrant Massey. The film is set for release on 10 January 2020.

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MAMI Mumbai Film Festival