Deepika Padukone: ‘Fighter is our way of thanking the Armed Forces!’

Deepika Padukone in Fighter. Photo: Spice PR

Exactly a year after the release of Pathaan, comes Fighter, another patriotic saga directed by Siddharth Anand with Deepika Padukone as the female lead. On the eve of the release of the new film, here is an interaction with the actress. Excerpts from an interview follow.

What was it that made you choose the film? What makes it special?

When I sign a film, it is not for the end result, but with a purpose—of telling a good story. I think Fighter is a movie made with a lot of love and honesty.

You know, our first shoot, I do not know whether it was planned that way or it happened by default, was at an active airbase in Assam. That was really a great decision. And that’s what made Fighter very special. I will tell you why!

For 20 days, we lived and engaged with the families of the actual fighter-pilots. We ate with them, played badminton with them, stayed in their quarters and spent lovely evenings together. This really gave us the tone and the correct pitch. Around us, there were aircrafts actually taking off or landing every few minutes, come 2 a.m. or 1 p.m.!

Then there were those officers assigned to us so that we learnt to don the right uniforms in the right way, how to walk, talk, sit and have the right body language. They coached us on how to salute, fly a plane and navigate a chopper! And speaking of uniforms, they instantly instilled a sense of fierce pride in us all. I think that the exact moment that happened was when I zipped mine up!

Not just for a film, but as human beings, we learnt so much! Fighter is our way of thanking the Armed Forces, a tribute to the men who simply think of nothing but the safety of our country and risk their lives each day so that we all live safe.

In real life, how much of a fighter are you?

(Smiles) I have been a fighter all along! I came to Mumbai alone as a 16 year-old navigating a new city. I become a model, then an actor. I started from scratch, making mistakes, facing failures and criticism. But if I have to pick up one fight, it would be mental illness that happened to me in 2014.  That is the point from where each and every day has been like a fight…

One aspect of Fighter is that this is your first film with Hrithik, despite you being in the field for over 16 years. What is exciting or special about a first-time co-star, and how much was it so with Hrithik in particular?

A first-time co-star is always special as there is a lot of discovery, there are always expectations that one has built about a colleague as we have both seen each other’s work. What you get can be what you expect, more than what you expect or just not what you expect. With Hrithik, it was the last two.

To some extent, I had heard of the phenomenon he has been, his craft, honesty, process and lot more. But I got to experience it all at first hand. Let me put it on record that I have seen no actor put so much into every line and every movement and yet make it so effortless! And that makes work with him not just challenging but also fun, because you never know what to expect in the next take of the same shot! In short, I learnt a lot from him. I wish I had more time to ask questions and observe him, though I did get to ask some!

Hrithik has mentioned he was so impressed that he copied you and even mentioned all this to you.

(Grins) When an actor and dancer of his caliber says that, I don’t think it seriously. So never trust anything he says!

So would you call yourself an actress or a star?

Anil (Kapoor)-sir has said that stardom happens on the way for an actor. I agree with him. But once you become a star, how you use that stardom is important for me.

But now, with so many mega-hits, especially Pathaan and Jawan last year, you are a star, apart from your earlier blockbusters. At this point, with film business and the audiences being what they are, would you now consider doing smaller films or is that out?

I think I have already shown my liking for smaller films before as well as after the pandemic. I have done movies like Kheley Hum Jee Jaan Sey, Lafangey Parindey, Finding Fanny, Chhapaak that I also produced, and recently, Gehraiyaan. We actors service a script and a director and remain true to the process of investing in stories, character, people and their journeys. We don’t think big or small in movies.









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