Standing tall

Deepika Padukone in her first production venture plays Malti in Chhapaak – a woman who had her face disfigured in an acid attack. In an interview, she talks about the expectations from celebrities, her break from work after marriage and much more

Deepika Padukone is no stranger to addressing different forms of social issues through her work, both off-screen and on-screen. Her latest movie Chhapaak is the latest in such projects to bring awareness to an issue – the evil of acid attacks on women.

Celebrities these days are expected to be role models, off-screen and on-screen. How do you handle these expectations?

I don't expect myself to be 101 per cent all the time. You have got to acknowledge the fact that your body and mind are going to go through different phases. Eventually, it's all about how you're feeling and you don't try to pretend to feel what you're not going through. It's about being honest with yourself and acknowledging what you're going through. I never gave importance to how the public perceives me and I don't fight it. It's about being kind to yourself and allow every process to happen. Although it wasn't like that initially.

When you come from outside of the industry you tend to have perceptions of the glamour world or how an actress should conduct herself. These are all perceptions and you tend to warm up to it and you find yourself. Hopefully, I would want every girl to find her identity and her own comfort zone and to be true and authentic to that versus fitting into a mould that everyone expects you to fit into.

Chhapaak has been a movie that you have been more involved with than usual, even co-producing the film. What are your expectations for the project?

The idea behind the movie is to invoke empathy and understanding rather than paint women who have undergone the ordeal as victims. Beyond the gruesomeness, the violence and all of that, there is a story of the human spirit and hope. That's why we're telling the story. I hope we won't have to constantly tell stories on acid attack survivors for us to see change. I hope with our film we begin to see that change for ourselves as a society and for acid attack survivors. If we don't, then we've done something wrong as a society. Cinema in itself is such a powerful medium that hopefully just through this one film we will hopefully be able to see that kind of change and impact.

As for my decision to back the project financially, there was not too planning or thought involved in the process. Sometimes certain films need a little more hand-holding, a little more love and support. I felt like I would be adding a little more value as a producer. This is a film I'm very proud of, not just from the script point of view but even in terms of the story and its message.

This movie was also your first project after a work hiatus of nearly two years…

I used the time to creatively replenish myself. It was about finding a film worthy of putting out there. It's not that work at my end had stopped. I was constantly looking for scripts that challenged and excited me. I would look at it as the time for creative fertility. It's important to nurture yourself. The work that goes on behind the scenes....most often we're constantly on a film set, but whether it's meeting with writers and directors, looking for scripts... That is also part of the creative process and that's what I've been doing.

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