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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - When Deepika Padukone teared up at the trailer launch of Chhapaak last month, the emotional toll the movie had taken on the actress, was there for all to see. Playing the lead character of Malti in the biography based on the life of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, the drama is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Deepika turned producer for the first time in her latest film project that follows the life of the young woman as she tries to rebuild her life after a man threw acid on her face on a public street in New Delhi in 2005.
After having done a varied list of roles like in Padmaavat (2018), Piku (2015), Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) and many more, playing the role of Malti was admittedly an emotionally challenging one for her.
An advocate for mental health awareness, the actress knows the impact body shaming can have on the mind. Deepika felt passionate about taking this role on because she realised the importance of having Laxmi's story taken to the greater audience.
The actress, who celebrated her birthday yesterday in Mumbai, has been a busy bee promoting Chhapaak.
Excerpts from our telephonic conversation with the actress ahead of the movie's release.
We last saw you in Padmaavat in 2018. Was this little break intentional or were you just holding out for the right roles?
I was waiting for the right script to come my way so I can channelise all my energy in the right place.
During the trailer launch of Chhapaak, you got really emotional. When was the last time you felt so emotional about a movie role?
Every film on some level is an emotional journey. But then your attachment to that varies based on so many different things; on set experiences, and the character that you're playing and the story. I don't think I've ever come across something as impactful.
Did you relate to the character or were you just emotionally invested?
A bit of both. It's a combination of having lived as the character for so many months and having invested in it emotionally. I think being an actor also allows you to empathise and live the life of somebody else. So both of those things have been emotionally challenging for me.
What helped you get into the mindset of Malti? Did you speak to Laxmi Agarwal before starting the film's shoot?
I've met her several times many years ago in a completely different context. And I've had the opportunity to meet her several times through the process of this movie as well. It definitely enables you as an actor when you get to meet a character you're playing.
In fact, this is the first time I'm playing a real life character. I've never played a real life character before and especially a living person. So that makes it all the more challenging. When you're playing real life characters you've got to do it with a sense of responsibility as well. But yes, getting into the character is so many things. The physicality is just one part of it; more important than that are the emotional formalities.
Chhapaak is not your everyday feel good entertainer. It's a hard hitting emotional ride. What attracted you towards it?
(I was attracted towards Chhapaak) at many levels. I think one is to create awareness about the act of violence not just in our country but globally and the crime rate is only increasing. But more importantly to shed light on it.
Bollywood essentially puts a lot of focus on beauty and good looks. What are your thoughts on the importance the film industry places on women fitting a certain mold?
I can't speak for everyone. Different filmmakers have different agendas, different filmmakers have aesthetic sense, different emotional understanding, and different directors and actors want to tell different kinds of stories. So I can't really comment on what has been done but I can tell you that Chhapaak as a film is here to do exactly what you've asked; to break that stereotype and to broaden our understanding of what our perception of beauty is.
As an advocate for mental health awareness what advice would you give someone going through their own share of body image issues that is affecting their mental state?
I think acceptance is key. While I think what Laxmi has been through in her own way has been extremely traumatic, but for someone like me, I've been through depression and that was a life altering experience for me. So while the two experiences cannot be compared and are so different from each other, I think the takeaway here is that both of us have chosen to not succumb and we've chosen to overcome our experience, and what we've made of our lives after that.
I think we're able to do what we do because we've accepted what we've been through. I think acceptance is key. And when I say acceptance, of course, of ourselves in terms of what we've been through but also acceptance from society.
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