‘Why do I need to move with bag and baggage to have an impact on the world?’ asks Deepika Padukone.

Even if it’s clear that Deepika Padukone is in her winner-take-all phase—two records-breaking movies in a single year, an invitation to speak at the Academy Awards, ambassadorships for renowned international companies, and growing her self-care brand to new heights—she is by no means sated. Cartier, an actress who is rapidly achieving fame, shares the key to her grounding herself with Vogue India as part of their cooperation.

Deepika Padukone Vogue India NovemberDecember 2023 cover

captured on camera by James Tolich

‘People who dislike you might refer to you as straitjacketed, but deep down, you’re a rebel.’ I stop reading as Deepika Padukone gives me a dimpled grin, widening her eyes in accord. I continued, reading, ‘This is the very superpower you’re being called to tap into right now. You’re someone who thrives on challenging the norms in your own unique style.’ ‘Capricorn, you didn’t come here to live a life of ‘what-ifs.” Padukone chuckles. She remarks, ‘It feels so accurate.’ ‘A natural rebel. I am that.

I am at the actor’s house in Mumbai, and we begin by looking at the daily horoscope from Vogue India. At lunchtime, the 37-year-old looks stunning in her wide-leg slacks and longline oatmeal kurta. Her complexion seems flawless, her hair is combed back, and her eyes are flawlessly clear—she looks really well. Without a question, Padukone is one of the most beautiful people in India.

She’s been working out a lot. ‘It feels so good to be working out so hard,’ the person said. Padukone has been adhering to a rigorous schedule and is set to travel to Italy to shoot two songs for her forthcoming film Fighter, which stars Rithik Roshan. She lets me think about the woo-woo of that day, and as she does, it becomes evident how disciplined and dedicated the superstar is to her work, ensuring that she is in complete control of her own fate.

We look back on the year and a half that has passed since we first met in Barcelona for her historic worldwide Louis Vuitton ambassadorship photo shoot for Vogue India. ‘I have been grateful for a year and a half. It’s been a long time since we met. That was, in many respects, the start of my new voyage across the world. We then enumerate the accolades she has received over the last 18 months, including ambassadorships from Louis Vuitton and Cartier, the presentation of the FIFA World Cup trophy, a cover story in TIME magazine, inclusion on the esteemed list of presenters at the 95th Academy Awards, and the addition of self-care brand 82°E to her ever expanding repertoire. Despite all of this multihyphenation, she managed to find time to feature in a few successful blockbusters, such as Pathaan.

Nonetheless, Padukone doesn’t take any of this for granted. ‘Yeah, whatever, they are just going to put it on their social media and use me like an influencer,’ I thought to myself when I saw the photographs with the logo on the monitor during Ethan James Green’s photo session for the Louis Vuitton campaign last year. I moved on from that thinking. A few months later, while driving to the red carpet in Cannes as a member of the jury for the film festival, I saw this enormous storefront with my face on it. That’s when it really dawned on me—this is real.”

And it is, in fact, occurring. The whole globe is focusing its attention on India. International companies are entering the industry with the intention of taking advantage of the next enormous potential in the luxury sector, including Apple and Saint Laurent. Padukone feels that this was a long overdue event. ‘India has always been; it has just taken the world this long to recognize our influence. We have remained true to our identity. She views this as more of a beginning than a turning point. ‘There is no bubble here. It is not something that was produced right away. The fact that this period of time when India is at last being acknowledged as a significant actor on the global stage is permanent adds to its significance.

When I question Padukone about cultural capital and the blurring of boundaries, she tells me categorically that she doesn’t have any intentions to migrate and that India is her home.’Why does moving with a suitcase and belongings make a difference in the world? I was offered a job abroad early in my modeling career, and all the fashion experts in India told me I should be in Paris, New York, or Milan, not here. I responded, no, they are not my home cities. ‘Home is in India.’

In fact, Padukone’s career has included a recurring motif of her choosing to follow her own path. At the age of 21, she made her screen debut in the 2007 film Om Shanti Om, which thrust her into the public eye and served as her entrée into a biased field. How did a young, non-nepo infant handle the fears of others around an alien occupying their space? ‘I had no choice,’ she explains, pausing for one of her famously thoughtful moments. There was no other choice fifteen or twenty years ago if you were an outsider. Any person attempting to establish themselves in a sector or career where their parents are not from has an uphill battle. It’s a recent development that we are beginning to discuss concepts like nepotism. It was there then, it is there today, and it always will be. That was my everyday life. She moves forward, dismissing the previous obstacles with a matter-of-fact tone. ‘I had a lot on my plate at the time, both emotionally and professionally. When I was a teenager starting a new job in a new place, I had no family or friends. I had to plan my meals (this was before Zomato and Swiggy, mind you), transport them, and carry my own bags everywhere. Back then, I never considered it to be a hardship. I would finish late at night, fatigued, take a taxi across town with my bag, and sometimes nod off on the way home. My mom would be really concerned about my safety when I got home. Looking back on that adventure now, I say, ‘Not bad, girl!’ This was something you accomplished on your own. However, there was no time to think at that point. As an editor who has worked with a good number of models, I note that modeling is quite demanding, something that most people are unaware of. ‘Modeling is another thing that teaches you life lessons if sports are one,’ says Padukone seriously. She still carries her kit, which is stocked with everything a stylist could possibly need for the talent they deal with. ‘New stylists I work with are astonished. You were taken aback,’ she chuckles. ‘Oh my god, you have your stuff!’ was your reaction. That is how I was trained to model.

I ask her whether she believes her straightforward upbringing contributed to her success, and she says, ‘Oh, 100%.’ I’m extremely proud and protective of what I’ve achieved since it’s all mine, and no one can dispute my work ethic. During interviews, it’s easy to use words like devotion, consistency, drive, and patience, but putting them into practice is quite another. That’s why Padukone, a national badminton player as well, embodies the essence of an athlete.

‘Do you work too much?’ The grandeur of her accomplishments and her obvious purpose are among the first things that come to mind when I inquire. ‘Yes,’ she confidently answers. ‘I’m a workaholic, but I’ve found that balance. Right now, I’m in that beautiful phase where I workaholic from Monday to Friday.’ Because of her open battle with mental health, Padukone carefully crafts a balance and strives to keep it. In 2014, I received a diagnosis of depression. After that, you come to the realization that maintaining your mental health requires labor as well. A portion of the daily labor is striking a balance. I’ve managed to strike a balance where I am a proud workaholic without feeling overworked, fatigued, or like I’m about to lose it.

What I respect most about Padukone are her candor about her own battle with depression and her unwavering support of mental health. Months after a bounty was set on her head after the 2018 film Padmaavat’s release, she demonstrated her support for Jawaharlal Nehru University students in Delhi. How can she, as a public figure, uphold her principles while preserving her personal space and self-preservation? After even another lengthy pause, she says, ‘I just don’t know any other way of being.’ ‘I don’t hesitate to express myself when I have strong or intense feelings about anything. I’ve developed into this person who doesn’t hesitate to tell the truth or accept responsibility for my errors. I have no problem apologizing, and it’s OK for me to be the only one in the room with a different viewpoint. I would want to question her about her politics, but I don’t.

I inquire as to her hobbies instead. ‘I like doing chores around the house and clearing up clutter. I now realize that this is also a mental purge on my part. Her disclosure is not shocking considering the tone-on-tone calmness of her home office, which includes her attire and her employees who work outdoors in a cheerful manner—a stark contrast to the flurry of activity that often accompanies Bollywood celebs. ‘Food is a comfort to me. I adore food. My spouse and I like dining out. She quickly answers, ‘Well, it’s been a while,’ reminding me of her training schedule for the two songs she’s going to tape, when I inquire about the last delicious meal she’s had. I’m a huge dancer. On the weekends, my spouse and I sometimes dance till four in the morning while playing music and showing off our playlists to one another.

Her time with her family and Ranveer Singh—whom Padukone only ever addresses as “my husband”—is very important to her. ‘I place a great deal of importance on spending time with my spouse. You must set aside the time, the woman advises. We both put forth the effort, I must admit. It can’t be done in one way. It has to be scheduled. Because of our jobs, one of us may have to travel for up to a month at a time, or he may have a late night and I have an early morning. Nevertheless, there are occasions when we are in the same city but seldom get to spend much time together. The quality of the time we spend together matters more than its quantity. Although we like our alone time, we also enjoy spending time with our family.

Her Instagram account makes it clear that Padukone enjoys being outside and that the sun, beach, and sea are her preferred vacation spots. She beams a beautiful grin and continues, ‘I love the ocean and I love diving because you can actually hear the silence.’ Other than her family and spouse, I get the impression that the performer only opens up to a small number of people about her personal life. The star does acknowledge that she only has a small group of close pals that live all over the globe.

Which gets me to my last query: is she content with her celebrity? I have a hard time reconciling the fame-related hype with the person in front of me. Padukone shrugs, ‘I don’t think I have a problem with it.’ ‘I associate with folks that don’t give a damn about celebrity. I have four roles in life: daughter, wife, sister, and daughter-in-law. After I leave that world, I become well-known. The thing I like most about being famous is that it gives you the ability to impact and affect the lives of others. That’s the exciting part, in my opinion. Being well-known for all those reasons doesn’t bother me.

Deepika Padukone “Why do I need to move with bag and baggage to have global impact”
Photographed by James Tolich
Written, styled by and creative direction: Megha Kapoor
Hair: Yianni Tsapatori/Faze Management
Makeup: Sandhya Shekar
Assistant stylists: Manglien Gangte, Agnes Solhall, Barbara Boucard
Production: Kitten Production
Bookings editor: Savio Gerhart

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