Deepika on a dream run
The moment has all the drama of a fairy tale. The lighting is dramatic. The sweeping staircase is a throwback to all the splendid Baroque staircases that have always played host to fleeing damsels. The grandfather clock’s hands are ominously pointing to a little after 12. And even the jewelled shoe sits patiently on a stair, just waiting to be discovered.
The only discordant note is ‘Cinderella’ herself. Barefoot and dressed to devastate in a rich purple Suneet Varma gown, she looks every inch the princess. However, unlike the stately princesses of yore, this Cinderella is grinding her derrière to the beat of trance music. She’s so into the rhythm that she doesn’t notice the spontaneous smiles that break out on the faces of the watching light and cameramen, make-up artists and photographers.
That is Deepika Padukone for you. So real that, even in the midst of a buzzing bridal fashion shoot (even as eager hands fete and fawn as they zip her remarkable curves into corsets and lehngas from Couture Week), she has the ability to escape into a private sanctuary and just be.
So there she is, busy gyrating, as make-up artist Mickey Contractor waves his magic wand at her and photographer Dabboo Ratnani casts his spell. There is little doubt that Padukone knows she’s beautiful. But the knowledge sits lightly on her shoulders; she really hasn’t internalised it at all. Instead, she has the inherent pride of a wild thing, who instinctively knows its beauty.
However, it is also clear that it’s not just her magnificent looks that power Padukone. She draws her proud confidence from some other secret internal source, something as basic as a tremendous sense of security about who she is and where she has come from, and most significantly, where she wants to go.
That same sense of grounding comes to the fore as she tries on one opulent outfit after another, “I know that while I want a beautiful fairy-tale wedding, I’m not going to spend senselessly on it. I’d rather have a lavish honeymoon and go around the world,” she says dimpling.
She knows that her plunge into Hindi cinema and the subsequent fame it has brought, has forced her to forfeit a small wedding. “It’s not possible any more to have only 30 people at my wedding, but I know I want a very personal affair. I think I’d like a destination wedding on a beach, maybe the French Riviera, where the theme is white and gold,” she says excitedly and then exclaims, “Oh god, I’m building all these castles in my head. I hope they come true! You normally don’t get what you ask for.”
She also wants wide open spaces with greenery, which is no surprise considering she was raised in lush Bengaluru. The wedding she draws inspiration from is her cousin brother’s in Florida last year. “They had booked an entire resort and everyone stayed there. There were gardens and waterfalls everywhere. But what I liked the most was, that it was a lovely Arya Samaj ceremony where they had printed booklets with the details of what the mantras meant so everyone understood the sanctity of the vows,” she says earnestly.
However, Padukone isn’t going to settle just for the traditional saat pheras. And she isn’t particularly enthused about the Punjabisation of the Indian wedding. “Today, even a non-Punjabi wants to have a Punjabi wedding,” she says ruefully. She loves tradition and knows she will not stray far from her Mangalorean roots at her own wedding. But she also wants to have one ceremony in every religion, just so she can wear all the wonderful traditional outfits that go with each. “I want to wear an embroidered gharara for my nikaah with a stunning maang tikka in my hair, a flowing white wedding gown in a church and a rich lehnga for the sangeet. For the South Indian wedding, I will wear a traditional Kanjeevaram sari from Nalli with a gold belt on my waist and braid my hair with jasmine,” she says enthusiastically.
She has also thought through which designers she wants creating the wedding outfits. It’s important to her that each outfit is very different. “Tarun Tahiliani will make me a western gown style lehnga which will be my wedding outfit. I want Gudda (Rohit Bal) to create something in white, gold and silver for me because in my first year of modelling that was his Fashion Week collection and I remember thinking I wanted a wedding outfit like that. A dark maroon net sari by Sabyasachi (Mukherjee) with his Bengali aesthetic would also be lovely, as would a richly embroidered outfit by Anamika Khanna. My trousseau would be incomplete without a classic chiffon sari from Manish Malhotra because that’s what I grew up watching in his films,” she says, finally pausing to breathe.
While the wedding needs to be planned carefully and be aesthetically pleasing with lots of lilies and candles, what matters the most to Padukone is to not get so caught up in the banalities that you lose the emotion of the moment. For instance, it’s not important how the bridegroom arrives. “As long as he makes the sort of entrance where I sit up and know my groom has arrived, I don’t care if it’s in a plane or on a donkey,” she laughs, those magical eyes lighting up at the thought.
Similarly, she is unaffected by sweeping romantic gestures and gifts of her suitors. “It’s not about the bags he buys me, or the rocks, or the dinners, or the holidays he can take me on. I’m a self-made girl. I know I’ve achieved a lot already and I don’t need a man for those things. I can buy myself the most expensive bag or the biggest rock I want,” she says, adding, “For me, it has to be about being my best friend, spending quality time with me, being able to have amazing conversations together even while we are sitting in a house or a car. That he actually gets that I’m a quiet person. It would be irritating if he keeps asking me to talk and thinks I’m boring because I don’t. He has to be comfortable with the silences.”
Unfortunately, Padukone has had her share of very public relationships that have ended on a painful note. Her last, with the scion of Bollywood’s first family, is said to have ended because he was unfaithful. The inked ‘RK’ at the nape of her neck is indicative of both her optimism and her lack of cynicism in love’s impermanence. “I give a lot in relationships and don’t really expect much in return. I know it is idealistic to expect that you will get as much as you give. It rarely happens and I’m okay with that. But the man has to at least acknowledge the fact that I’m giving so much and respect me for it.”
For Padukone, who idolises her parents’ marriage for its longevity, mutual respect, balance and fidelity, cheating is a complete deal breaker. “For me, sex is not just about physicality; there are emotions involved. I have never cheated or strayed when I’m in a relationship. If I’m going to be fooling around, why would I be in a relationship? It’s better to be single and have fun. But not everyone thinks like this. Maybe that’s why I’ve been hurt in the past. The first time he cheated on me, I thought there was something wrong with me or the relationship, but when someone makes a habit of it, you know the problem lies with him. Yet I was foolish enough to give him a second chance because he begged and pleaded, despite the fact that everyone around me said he was still straying. I guess I really wanted to believe in him. Then I actually caught him red-handed. It took me a while to get out. But having done that, nothing can make me go back. That ship has sailed.”
For a 24-year-old, Padukone is wise beyond her years. It is obvious that her life experiences have shown her that making a success of a relationship can be an uphill task. “Relationships aren’t easy. They require compromise, work, patience and lots of maintenance, especially if you’re as busy as I am,” she says.
It’s not hard to imagine why some of her prior idealism seems to have chipped off, but amazingly, it hasn’t been replaced with negativity. Just with quiet determination. “I don’t believe monogamy is impossible,” she says carefully measuring every word. “And I’m willing to wait for however long it takes to find the right guy with the same values and beliefs. I never start seeing someone unless I think there is a real chance of it working out in the future and I want a person like that. Someone like me, who is in it for the long haul.” Let’s hope this Cinderella gets her happily-ever-after.
Deepika on men and must-haves
Dream guy: “There has to be physical attraction at first. He should be someone who is very confident but doesn’t have to try too hard to get my attention. I’m more a listener than a talker so I like extroverted guys.”
Shoes and bags: “Linking Road Kolhapuris. I’m going through a Tod’s phase in shoes and bags. I also like colourful Birkins in orange, pink and blue.”
Jewellery: “I love uncut jadau and traditional South Indian temple jewellery.”
Make-up: “Mickey Contractor. He understands my face and never puts too much make-up on me.”
Food: “I’m a big foodie. Everything from South Indian and chaat, to sushi.”
Clothes: “Ash’s (Aishwarya Rai) clothes in Devdas.”
Trousseau designers: “Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal, Anamika Khanna, Sabyasachi, Manish Malhotra.”
Honeymoon: “Around the world to all the places I haven’t been to.”