She’s only 23, but Deepika Padukone is already living a life millions would envy.
The model-turned-actress was spotted in a music video and then cast in one of the biggest grossing films in Bollywood history. She still only has three movies under her belt, but star status has already been bestowed upon her. With no family connections to the film industry and not being from Mumbai, Padukone traveled a route to movie stardom millions could only dream of. After deciding to become a model at the age of 16, she was picked out of a music video by acclaimed director Farah Khan and cast in her next film opposite Shahrukh Khan. “Om Shanti Om” went on to become not only a hit in India, but also gained wider acclaim among western audiences. “I completely didn’t expect it. When I met Farah I thought she was joking. And at that point it seemed too good to be true. Shahrukh is someone who I’ve grown up watching, and I didn’t think that I deserve being a part of such a huge film. It’s only later, when I met Shahrukh and when things actually started happening, when I realized that this is for real,” she told CNN. Despite her meteoric rise to fame and work on some big budget films she believes she’s learning the job of being an A-list Bollywood actress. “I had great debut, a successful film, but after that…I would think it’s quite difficult to choose the right film. You never know what’s right and what’s wrong,” she said.
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“Things for me changed quite overnight, actually. I remember a couple of months before the film release, not too many people knew me. In November 2007 when my film released and immediately after that I had to travel to New York, to Dubai and to London, and suddenly everyone on the streets started recognizing me, especially the Indians. That’s when I realized that things have changed.” With the public attention has come the inevitable media spotlight on her private life. She says she never experienced the “casting couch” but is consistently romantically linked with other Bollywood stars, and there were rumors about a relationship with Indian cricketer MS Dhoni. “As someone who didn’t know how to deal with it, yes it was really difficult for me initially to read about myself or to read about things that are untrue. But I think slowly you start learning to deal with these things.” Padukone’s father was a professional badminton player, and she played too as a teenager, traveling across the country to compete in tournaments. But by her late teens she decided she wanted to be a model and got the full support of her parents.
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“I trained, I lost some weight. I then got a portfolio done. I sent it to Bombay to a couple of agencies and waited for awhile. I think that period is really the most challenging. Because that’s really the time that one can really go wrong. The waiting period. You can really make some wrong decisions and go completely wrong,” she told CNN. “I had the support of my family. I didn’t get carried away. I think I was patient enough to wait for the right assignment to come my way.” As a model she appeared in commercials and music videos. Since her move into the movie business more commercial endorsements have come her way, but in an industry notorious for its high turnover of starlets she is aware that for actresses there is often a limited shelf-life. “For me my life now is my work. But I know that at some point I will have to have a life beyond my work. And I know that today there’s me, tomorrow there will be someone else. Maybe I’ll be here for 5 years, maybe I’ll be here for many, many years. “I’m definitely going to work hard and make sure that I can be here for as long as I can, but I’ll also make sure that people don’t get bored of me. And…yes, let’s see how it goes.”