One of Bollywood’s most sought after faces, Deepika Padukone wonders, what’s love got to do with it, on a lonely night at home.
Film critic, filmmaker and writer Khalid Mohamed’s new book, Faction extracts stories from Rishi Kapoor, Karan Johar and 20 other Hindi film personalities, ‘stories attached to their own lives, their own immediate and distant experiences,’ as he says in the foreword.
Edited excerpts from actor Deepika’s Padukone’s story:
Sleepless in the moonlight
Thoughts, unending thoughts – bordering on anxiety? ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ or so one says. There’s some of that but plenty of slogging as well, which is why I can’t fall asleep – something that’s usually as easy as switching off the lights. Guess I am trying to exorcise the day from my system. When one is extremely tired, one can’t sleep easily. Never believed that…till today.
Ten hours at the studio, four spent on travelling — I should’ve been a zombie but my mind’s buzzing. Who am I talking to? No one, myself, and everyone. Questions don’t need answers.
It’s 3 am. The sea stretch visible from my room seems to be resting too. Not a ripple, not a wave. The half-moon is shedding a glow. Can’t see the stars distinctly, they are just freckles. Not one of those mega-watts moonlit nights which have been the staples of classic romantic novels. In fact, there is something tender about a night illuminated by a moon, suggesting romance, love, togetherness. But who knows, those picture-book drawings associated with a moon surrounded by stars, as its courtiers, may be a fallacy. A myth? Made-for-each-other — a catchy phrase but sometimes I wonder if there is anything like a perfect pair. Can’t be, that’s possible only in Robotland. Statistics seem to scream out loud, differences are slowly but steadily extinguishing those moonlit nights…
There’s something comforting about this house. I can be alone, I need that private space. I haven’t recruited any domestic help. Let’s see for how long I can zoom up in the elevator, unlock the door, walk in, cook myself a small dinner, go to sleep, like clockwork. Not sure it will last long. I may believe I need solitude but that could be a passing phase. I suspect I need people around me.
The security arrangements at this high-rise seem good but there’s always that fear. An intruder? A ghost — ha ha? An extra-terrestrial? But then why should any ET alight on my apartment, and not on someone else’s. Girl, next you’ll be imagining flying saucers descending on the sea right before your eyes. Take light; go to sleep. Pillow, pillow, here I come.
Sorry for the break.
It’s 4-ish am. Might as well phone a friend. She’ll be surprised, happy to hear from me after such a long while. Must be months.
My friend, pick up the phone, pick it up. Has she switched off her cell or what? Not fair. Isn’t she aware that all of us need a 4 am.
friend? Or has that species gone extinct?
‘Aieeeeee, who’s that?’
‘Who’d call you at four in the morning?’
‘Ohhhh hi. Are you okay? Is everything alright?’
‘Oh…so how’s everything going?’
‘Good, good, am good.
‘You sound strange.’
‘Do I? No, no. Just that I haven’t spoken to you for long.’
‘Yeah…and I’ve been reading all about your activities in the papers.’
‘Don’t believe everything you read.’
‘I don’t but you’re having a blast…who would have thought!’
‘Now you’ve got me wide awake.’
‘Sorry, sorry, I’ll talk to you at a decent hour.’
‘When is “soooon”?’
‘Come on, it’s you who hasn’t kept in touch. I’ll call whenever you like…tomorrow…now go catch your beauty sleep.’
‘Hey, you need to, I don’t. Apun to chakachak hai.’
‘Yeah, yeah, bye.’
‘Bye. Don’t forget to call.’
‘You too…you need to…ha ha.’
‘Ha ha, bye.’
My best friend too, sigh. She believes in the gossip stuff too. Guess it’s human. Still, I think she should know me better. Of course she does, she was just pulling my leg. She shouldn’t, she could’ve at least asked me about my day, how it’s gone. Would’ve given her an update. Would’ve told her about the interview I did in the afternoon with this senior journalist.
Thank god it didn’t get gossipy but I wonder what he’ll make of it…it went all over the place. Talked for an hour, maybe more. He was taking notes diligently but I wonder how on earth will he make sense of those squiggles and wiggles? Must be shorthand, must have learnt it. Whatever, yeah, maybe the interview’s got my head buzzing tonight. I’m in replay mode.
Now let me remember what I told him. Hope he gets it alright…hope so.
He wanted to know about love, yesterday and today. No clue how he’ll make that interesting because my take is nothing spectacular. Told him my idea of romance was formed after watching films like Dil, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Baazigar, all seen on video cassettes at home in Bangalore, oops, I mean Bengaluru.
Next, journalistji wanted to know the address in Bengalaru, my birth date and more details which he could have easily Googled but I didn’t want to be rude. Rattled them off politely — I was born in Copenhagen where my dad, Prakash Padukone, had gone for training.
Eventually, we settled in a three-bedroom apartment on Bengaluru’s Cunningham Road. Told him that my dad was on the jury of Filmfare awards once, and that there was this big carton of tapes of Gumrah, Damini, Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke in the house. Since Dad is a very correct sort of person, he wouldn’t allow us to watch the films with him, or influence him in the grading. We were permitted to see only the ones which he recommended, that too when he was out of the house.
I’d whistle when Dad and Mum left home for work. They’re such a good-looking couple, the two daughters aren’t a patch on Mr Prakash and Mrs Ujjala Padukone. I’d whistle only after they were out of earshot. I was a propah Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin girl studying at the Sophia High School. Wolf whistles were out of question.
I did start off by saying that perfection is impossible. This may be subjective but I would make an exception in the case of my parents. I love their love story.
Dad was the national badminton champion; he had an aura about him. Mum had her own identity, she works in the travel business. They first noticed each other at the wedding of Mum’s elder sister. They were very distantly related. It was love at first sight, wow. Engagement, a wedding, a reception, and then, ahem, I was born. Four years later, Anisha arrived. She’s a well-known golfer.
Journalistji nodded. Didn’t squiggle all this information. He had done his homework, after all…
Yes, so back to Dad, he was the super sportsman, also worked in an office. Mum, equally focused on her job, continues to be a neatnik, a perfectionist. I suspect I get those traits from her. Dad and Mum are so sweetly conservative. They’ve completed their 30th wedding anniversary but in all my 26 years, I’ve never seen them hug each other. If they argue, it’s over petty things like Dad leaving his plate at the breakfast table. Mum speaks her mind out, Dad is quiet and reclusive. Opposites who live on the same page.
Mum took leave when I was nervous before the 10th standard Board examinations. And to date, since the last four years that I’ve been in show business, Dad has never questioned me about the gossip he may have read about me. He’s accustomed to such kite-flying, being a sports star himself…
Naturally, I expressed my dream wish. ‘What I want is the harmony I’ve seen in my parents. I don’t have a clue how to go about locating that. All I know is that I can’t be calculatingly practical in achieving any goal. Surely I can be stupid in love. It’s my life. Right?’
‘What does love mean to you?’ journalistji’s question was predictable but apt. To which my response was, ‘It means losing your emotions.
Easier said than achieved, especially in my case, or in the case of most actresses. I have to be away for long spells, weeks and months, shooting abroad. I can’t meet someone I love every day. I don’t get possessive but yes, there’s this aching feeling of missing that person. And it gives rise to the doubt — can love be permanent?’
Journalistji almost spilled his coffee — a reaction at long last! — as I continued on the lines of, ‘And so when I’ve fallen in love, I’ve been consumed by it. I’ve been into it with all my heart. And I would say that there can be absolutely sensible reasons for falling out of love. Like maybe two people are just not meant to be with each other.’ Then I went on, ‘I’ve learnt a lot about myself in the last four years. I’ve come closer to myself. See, I can live alone in my apartment, where I can clock in and clock out whenever I want. I’ve matured. I’m independent, I know what heartache is. I’ve recuperated and recovered. Today I’m headstrong but not self-indulgent. I can be tough on myself.’
From my window, there’s no sign of daybreak yet. The half-moon’s still on. Wish it would leave politely the way journalistji did. Stop it, stop the day from replaying the turntable of your mind. Go on, count those sheep, try to snatch some sleep. Should I put on some music? Should have thought of that earlier.
Music! I’ve been avoiding talking about music. I might as well confess that’s what’s keeping me awake. I was sure romance, in the traditional sense of the word, was dead. But then last night, I got this text message from someone I had considered very special in my life. Our friendship had disintegrated, and that too somewhat acrimoniously. Last night, this friend SMSed me, must have been around 10 or 10.30 at night. I thought he was being cute. Cute and smart. The SMS message asked, with a smiley, if I nursed any secret desires. Typical of him to use such a word. Desire! Without thinking, I messaged back, ‘Yes. Desire to learn to play a musical instrument.’
Within a few hours, must have been a little past midnight, a grand old master piano was delivered to my doorstep.
I’ve been trying to ignore it…in vain. It’s sitting there, right there, right now, bathed in moonlight. There…I have said it. Now you know why I can’t sleep. I feel lovely, happy…er..desired.
Love knows no yesterdays or todays. It just is. Perfect…or almost there.
Faction, Short stories by 22 Film Personalities is edited by Khalid Mohamed, and published by Om Books International (Price: Rs 395)