From playing Shantipriya to Shah Rukh Khan’s Om in her debut film Om Shanti Om (2007) to playing Meena, a Tamilian girl, opposite Khan’s Rahul in Rohit Shetty’s Chennai Express, Deepika Padukone has had an eventful six years in the Hindi film industry. Excerpts from an interview about the new film and the already famous Tamil accent:

What attracted you to the part of Meena?

There’s wasn’t much thought behind it. I was approached and because of it being a Rohit Shetty and Shah Rukh film, more than anything else, I heard it with an open mind. The script is hilarious and the narration was so good I felt like I was watching the film. I was on, I was sold. Rohit told me I have to speak Tamil and knowing the language is a prerequisite. I felt it would be easy because I have grown up in the south but it took me four-five days to get a grasp of the accent. Speaking Tamil was not a problem because I am a Kannadiga from Bangalore who was surrounded by Tamilians. But, I was struggling with speaking Hindi with a Tamil accent. We didn’t want to make it spoofy, but it is a comedy so it has to be funny and endearing. We hope it does not offend anyone.

While there are some who are praising your accent there are others who say the representation is offensive to Tamilians.

I find it really strange that people start reacting without seeing the product. Also I am a south Indian, so why would I participate in a film that spoofs south Indians, which this film doesn’t. Besides me, my director is south Indian and 90% of our unit is Tamilian. My point of view is that girls in our films have always played the Delhi girl, Bombay girl, Bengali girl and the clichéd Punjabi girl, so why not a Tamilian girl? The background gives the character some character. The film is about the diversity in our country, cultures, and languages and shows it in good light. Irrespective of your culture and language, love conquers all. Even if you don’t understand each other’s language, you understand each other when you are in love.

You are having a dream run at the box office. Do you feel nervous about how long this hit phase will last?

Mainly it feels good. Having said that, I only hope that I live up to the expectations. There has been so much hype around my films and expectations that is this her year after Cocktail, Race 2, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. I hope that each film is bigger and better than the previous one. Yeh Jawaani… did amazing business and got some kind of love and appreciation that very few films get. It’s a sweet feeling when you have box office and critical acclaim, the film has repeat value and people call you by your screen name when you step out of your home. I hope Chennai Express does the same for me that my other films have done.

Was it in any way different working with Shah Rukh Khan again after debuting with him in Om Shanti Om?

This time I bullied him a lot. While on my first film I was like ‘Oh my god, I’m working with Shah Rukh Khan’. I am more or less a shy person; I take time to open up. But maybe because I have worked with him before there is more of a comfort zone. I will always feel slightly differently towards him than I do for my other co-stars because I started out with him. Also there is respect for him as an artist who has been at the top of his game for so many years. Compare this to, say, Ranbir (Kapoor). With him there is a taking for granted. We started in the same year, our films released on the same day, we are more-or-less the same age, and neither of us has to think twice about how we behave with each other.

Chennai Express starts with a train journey. What was the last train journey you took?

I can’t remember the last one but I travelled by train a lot when I played state and national level badminton. I have two most memorable journeys though. First was from Bangalore to Calcutta when I was in the 9th standard and we were going on a school excursion to Nepal. Nothing extraordinary happened on that train ride, but it’s the fun, friends and the experience that I remember. Second was a trip to Kumbakonam for a softball game during college when we won the South zone inter-state championship.

Chennai Express releases in theatres on Friday

Close