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Deepika Padukone shares the April 2019 issue of Vogue US with Avengers actress Scarlett Johansson and Korean actress Doona Bae. The issue, which celebrates global talent from across 14 countries, also features Widows actress Elizabeth Debicki, Baby Driver actress Eiza Gonzalez and more. Deepika spoke to us about why she sees the cover as validation, what she and Scarlett chatted about and the ‘out-of-body-experience’ of seeing her Madame Tussauds wax statue:

Anupama Chopra (AC): The American edition of Vogue is the holy grail of fashion magazines. What does it mean for you to be on the cover?

Deepika Padukone (DP): Honestly, I didn’t see it coming. Last year, the Time 100 happened, I didn’t see it coming my way. This year, it’s the Vogue cover and more importantly, it’s the manner in which they recognised the 14 of us. I think the world has become such a small, well-connected place. Today, you could be based in any part of the world and yet be able to create impact through your work. I think gone are the days when one had to move with baggage. This is a validation of that for me. It gives me the confidence that today, you can be sitting wherever you want. As long as you’re doing good and honest work, its impact can be created from anywhere in the world. They recognised that – you have people from China, Korea, Australia. There was a time when people said, ‘Listen, if you want to put your foot into Hollywood, you have to be based there.’ I don’t think that’s true anymore

Today, you can be sitting wherever you want. As long as you’re doing good and honest work, its impact can be created from anywhere in the world

AC: What was the experience like? What did you all chat about? Did you exchange notes on acting?

DP: Scarlett (Johansson), Bae (Doona) and I shot together in New York. They had two shoots – there was another extended cover, on which there are five or six girls. They shot together in London. A lot of people have been asking whether we shot solo and were then placed together. We weren’t. We made it happen, Vogue coordinated this date amongst the three of us. It was fun. We spoke about where we come from, the work. It was easy.

AC: I have to ask, did you chat with Scarlett about the Avengers: Endgame – the upcoming film is being touted as the movie event of the decade?

DP: I’m not a fangirl. I didn’t want to come across like that. When I meet other actors, I treat them like colleagues and people just like me, especially actors. Whenever I meet successful people, I’m never curious about the most obvious things that are out there for everyone to see. So I’m not curious about The Avengers and how she did that. I’m never really talking about characters. I’m more interested in getting to know someone beyond the obvious and beyond what someone else would have access to. Also, a large part of me does these things organically. I don’t have questions in my head or a plan in my head like, ‘When I meet her, it will be like this…’  It was very honest and organic. She asked me a lot about India. In fact, we didn’t talk much about film at all.

AC: The article describes you as India’s highest paid actress. What does that mean to you?

DP: It’s not something I can disown. It’s the recognition that’s important to me, it’s the fact that they’ve recognised the years of hard work, the talent, the contribution. It’s those things that matter more to me than the fact that they’ve called me ‘India’s highest paid actor’. But that also makes me happy. Of course, it makes me happy. Why would it not? It is a part of who I am and it’s not something I can dissociate from. It’s very, very flattering.

AC: What a week it’s been – you also unveiled your statue at Madame Tussauds in London. What was that like?

DP: The best reaction was from my parents. They all couldn’t get over the fact that it was so real. If your parents feel like they can’t tell the difference between their own daughter and a statue, we have a problem. My in-laws were there, my husband was there. They all couldn’t get over the fact that it looked so real. It is believed, and psychiatrists understand, that when you look at yourself in a mirror, or onscreen, or in a picture, that feeling is not very different from when you have an out-of-body experience. I didn’t react so drastically on that day. The Madame Tussauds team and I had been working on it for almost six months. They are extremely talented and also very open to ideas and suggestions.

I’d gone in a couple of days before to check on the statue. I wish that at that point the cameras were rolling because I have never felt that way before. Imagine walking into a room and seeing yourself. It was bizarre. When I said that, my psychiatrist understood me. The people who work there said it’s one of the best (statues) they’ve done. That’s also the feedback that a lot of people who’ve been going and seeing it have given. It’s also very humbling because the first time I went there – this is the second – I was like a tourist. We stood in line. (Princess) Diana was placed there. We walked in, I did a whole tour of the museum. It was so many things rolled into one. My mother said the sweetest thing over breakfast. My father took her there when they first got married, more than 35 years ago. It was the same process – stand in line, buy a ticket. They took my sister and I there when we were little girls. She said, ‘I never thought we’d be coming back here to see our own daughter’s figure being unveiled.’

While you see me at a red carpet, unveiling my figure or on the cover of a magazine, somewhere inside that character is still brewing. The process begins from the time the director gives her narration

AC: So how do you switch tracks and go from these happy, shiny things to playing an acid attack survivor in Chappak? Is it tough to get into that headspace?

DP: It’s something that’s constantly brewing within. While you see me at a red carpet, unveiling my figure or on the cover of a magazine, somewhere inside that character is still brewing. The process begins from the time the director gives her narration and you know you want to do this film. We (Meghna Gulzar and I) met for the first time in September-October last year, she gave me a narration, we did a couple of meetings and look tests. Then in the new year, we did readings, we did look tests again.

So you’re doing all of this, you’re going about your everyday life, doing what you have to do and then you’re dedicating a few days before you actually start filming to get into the character. It’s simmering. So if I’m driving, I’m looking out of the window, it’s something that’s still playing on your mind. It’s not something that comes to you the minute you walk onto set and switches on. I just want to be done with my previous commitments and just deep dive into it. But that deep dive is not possible unless you’ve started that process many months ago and have been living with it for a while. Suddenly I’ll have a thought about the film or the character and I’ll pick up the phone or send a message to Meghna. She’ll suddenly have a thought. So it’s a work in progress.

AC: When do you start shooting?

DP: We start shooting on Monday (March 25).

AC: Good luck and many thanks for your time!

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