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The Joker Coming October.

Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Deepika Padukone in MFF 21 Movie Mela: Pre-festival feast of conversations with stars, directors

Deepika Padukone in MFF 21 Movie Mela: Pre-festival feast of conversations with stars, directors

For the last few years, Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) has been holding Movie Mela as a forerunner to the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF). They skipped it last year because some of the likely male panellists were facing groping and molestation charges, but it came back this year with renewed vigour. Mela is Hindi/Urdu for feast/carnival. It is held in the shape of interviews/interactions between MAMI anchors and actors/directors at Rang Mandir, a non-cinematic auditorium in Bandra, North Mumbai, four days ahead of the start of the festival proper

Four sessions were held on 13 October, beginning shortly after noon and continuing late into the night. Each session lasted around two hours and was packed, mainly with film school students and film career seekers. Anupama Chopra, film-critic, Festival Director, who also happens to be married to producer-director Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and Rajeev Masand, film-critic with a TV channel, were the interviewers/hosts, and they kicked off with an informal, long chat with Deepika Padukone, who is also the Chairperson of MAMI. Who better to launch the event than one of your own, a star who does not normally get as candid as she did? The last session, the most eagerly anticipated, was conducted by producer-director Karan Johar, a MAMI trustee. You can always trust a trustee to do the honours.

For Deepika, the hosts had framed just one question, which, of course, led to many spin offs. “Let’s talk about your five milestone roles.” Deepika Padukone, who has acted in 25 films in her 12-year career, opened up on her memorable roles, on Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, the secret of her and Ranveer’s lasting relationship (they are married to each other) and a whole lot more.

“My acting process begins with the narration. While a great narration may not necessarily translate into a great movie, it helps me visualise the story and the character. It helps bring out the honesty of the script.” The conversation then veered towards her five career-defining roles. The first character the two critics had chosen was Veronica, in her breakthrough film Cocktail, and a clip from the film, which had paired her with Saif Ali Khan, was projected, a format that was followed in all five cases.

This role was offered to Deepika at a time when she was going through a lean period. Speaking about why she chose to play the character of the dynamic and complicated Veronica, Deepika explained, “I re-read the script to understand why Imtiaz (Ali, the co-writer) thought that while I was drawn to Meera, the other main character and Veronica’s best friend, I was actually ready for Veronica.” She further added that it was Homi (Adajania, the director)’s sensibility toward this complex character that empowered her to play it. “After a point I was spontaneous in my takes; Homi had 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.”

Next up for discussion was Meenakshi (Meenamma) from Chennai Express, a role in which Deepika channelled her comedic muscle. Speaking about playing the nightmare and sleep-talking scene from the film, Deepika 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.” Shooting was called off, and Deepika went home. Next morning, when she woke-up, she had cracked it. According to Deepika, comedy roles are tricky, especially when there are many actors on different wavelengths.  These scenes cannot be rehearsed. The entire crew has to be tuned in to the comic timing. “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,” she asserted.

In the same year, Deepika portrayed Leela in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela. The critics chose the Panchayat (village elders) meeting scene, which was Deepika’s first ever shot for Mr. Bhansali, and also her first film with now husband, Ranveer Singh (they were flirting, then). She spoke about how stressful and unnerving it can get working with Bhansali’s extempore ways of shooting, and how she gave her best to keep up with him. Given his fetish for changing things till the last moment, Bhansali re-wrote the script of the Panchayat meeting scene, just as Deepika was getting done with hair and makeup, “…while the writers were cajoling me on how I could shoot it in parts. I almost broke down,” she reminisced. On working with her husband, in films like Bajirao Mastani and Padmavat, Deepika said. “He likes to discuss work and take it home. But not me. I like to be in different head spaces on the set, and at home.”

Speaking on her experience of working for the runaway hit, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Deepika commended director Ayan Mukerji’s working methods. “Ayan likes to have discipline on the sets,” she said. “Even if it was a fun scene, the actors, off screen, shouldn’t be fooling around.” Playing the on-screen journey of Naina, who goes from being a reserved, bespectacled girl to a stylish, fun-loving one, was something that Deepika enjoyed. “I had a lot of fun playing Naina. I saw a lot of her in me, and lot of me in her. Naina’s evolution is, in some ways, like my own; so, portraying her transformation wasn’t all that hard.”

When asked about the how two of her co-stars–Ranbir Kapoor (her one-time boy-friend, with whom she had an ugly break-up) and Ranveer Singh–differ in their methods of working, Deepika was quick to respond. “Ranbir doesn’t really have a process; he is very spontaneous. I have never really seen him ‘prepare’ for his role as such. He’s 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’s a different person every six months, which is probably one of the reasons why our relationship has lasted so long; I never get bored,” she joked, leaving the audience in splits.

The conversation then moved to one of her most loved and acclaimed roles in Piku–a movie that holds a special place in Deepika’s heart. “Given the chance, I would do the movie all over again,” she sai, fondly. “I miss Piku, I miss the experience of making the movie. We were all in a really good place when we were making the movie. I had gotten out of depression and things were looking up. We had sets that were fully functional–the house, for instance. Shoojit Sircar (the director) told us to go about our parts as if we were really living in the house, and the camera would follow us. In that sense, we really ‘lived’ the film, and those moments were beautifully put together and presented to the audience.”

Speaking about her upcoming movie Chhapaak (directed by Meghna Gulzar for Foxstar Studios, produced by Deepika and Meghna), in which she plays an acid attack survivor, Deepika revealed that the character stayed with her for quite a while, even after the film was completed. It’s something, she said, that all actors experience. “The characters you play don’t just go away at the snap of the finger. 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 bringing it to audiences. In fact, I asked for an extra prosthetic which I burnt and saw it turn to ashes, before I could, at least partially, come out of the character,” she confessed.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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