Deepika Padukone, who’s acted in some of Bollywood’s biggest hits, confessed to a few nerves before proceedings got underway at the ET Awards night, giving strict instructions not to tinker with the agreed script.
“Please, don’t add a single line more!” In the event, not only did she perform her role as co-host with great poise, but she also responded to unscripted situations with the sort of spontaneous charm that comes instinctively to superstars, even those not gifted with Padukone’s deep dimples. Meanwhile, ET Business Leader of the Year Kumar Kumar Mangalam Birla showed himself adept at turning on the charm too. When Padukone referred to him as ‘sir’, the chairman of the Aditya Birla group said with a grin, “Just call me Kumar. If you call me sir, I’ll have to call you ma’am.”
His elegant wife Neerja Birla had a request for the young star. She wanted a picture of herself with the actress. “I need to send it to my daughter from my phone,” she explained as the two posed. One of the Birla girls, it turns out, is a huge Padukone fan.
The actress and model cut quite a figure on Saturday night in a black Sabyasachi saree, with a plain black sleeveless blouse. She decided to go light on the jewellery, highlighting her long neck by keeping it bare. She restricted the ornaments to a pair of long, gold Jadau earrings, with her hair stylist pulling her hair back in a severe, grunge bun, keeping in mind the open-air venue but also allowing a clear view of of the famed RK tattoo. Cool as she looks, Padukone prefers the warmth — she doesn’t like the air-conditioning turned down too low. Even her dark blue Audi A8 has the temperature set at a ‘comfortable’ rather than chilly level.
Padukone needn’t have been worried about how well the crowd would receive her as host along with ET Now anchor Sandeep Gurumurthi. At one stage, Nandan Nilekani, an ET Awards jury member, cracked wise: “Maybe a photo with you would add to my glamour quotient.” The chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India happens to be the actor’s uncle. Padukone’s starring role at the ET Awards come in a year in which she’s been part of four other hits — Chennai Express (which has grossed over Rs 200 crore), Yeh Jawaani Jai Deewani (Rs 170 crore), Ram Leela (Rs 100 crore and counting) and Race 2 (Rs 100 crore). Naturally, she was a big draw at the Saturday night event, with many invitees having met her before.
So what did the actor with more than Rs 550 crore in net box office collections across her four releases this year think about her experience at the ET Awards? “The ET Awards gave me an understanding of a world that I knew little about,” Padukone said later. “Everyone there was very warm and lively. To know about their achievements and to see them getting recognised made me more aware of the excellence that exists in our corporate world.”