Mom’s voice guides whatever I do, says Deepika Padukone

Deepika Padukone and her mother Ujjala Padukone in a first-of-its-kind conversation with Priyanka Sinha Jha about the deep influence mom has had on her illustrious daughter

Priyanka Sinha Jha March 15, 2019 14:07:22 IST
  • Beginning today, we launch an occasional series on the star mothers who shape the lives, personae and mindsets of their popular wards

  • Deepika Padukone and her mother Ujjala in a first-of-its-kind conversation with Priyanka Sinha Jha

  • When it comes to parenting, both parents should be on the same page, says Ujjala Padukone

Novelist Rudyard Kipling once famously said: “God could not be everywhere so he made mothers.”

A truer statement could not be cited when it comes to Ujjala Padukone, mater to actor Deepika Padukone. With a string of very powerful film performances to her credit, the recently-married Deepika Padukone is counted among the most powerful women in the movie business in India. By her own admission, the guiding voice that has steered her through the rigours of fame has been her mother Ujjala’s.

Moms voice guides whatever I do says Deepika Padukone

Deepika Padukone with her mother Ujjala. Photo: Amit Ashar; location: ITC Grand Central, Mumbai

When we meet at the appointed venue, she is impeccably turned out in an elegant peach sari. It is quite apparent where Deepika gets her poise and quiet elegance from.

Padukone senior, the most low-profile member of the family, is a far cry from the popular stereotype of a heroine’s mother. She is, in fact, a complete antithesis of the archetypal helicopter-mama meddling with her daughter’s work. Unlike several star mothers of the past, Ujjala represents the urbane post-modern mothers empowering her daughters with the right beliefs and value system rather than running their lives for them.

“I have always believed that a woman should be financially independent, have her own money irrespective of whether her husband is there to take care of her or not. That’s what I did,” says Ujjala. She has walked the talk, maintaining a career as a travel agent and been a dedicated homemaker for the sake of bringing up her daughters the right way. Deepika on numerous occasions has spoken highly of the values her parents instilled in her but she reserves a special place for her mother. “I have learnt a lot from her. I don’t think there is a single thing I can do without her voice in my head. Simple things like when I buy something, I remember that she has always told me, ‘find out how much it is for’,” Deepika fesses sheepishly.

Ujjala acknowledges her strict parenting style, adding: “My dad with his British boarding school background was a very disciplined person, so I grew up with strict rules that I didn’t know I was unconsciously borrowing from! I have been like a strict headmistress. I am sure there have been times when they (her husband and daughters) have wanted to throw me out of the house.”

Reminiscing about Deepika’s childhood, Ujjala recalls that she was hyperactive and a bit of a Tomboy till the time her sister Anisha was born, and then she became protective and motherly! Growing up, the girls had to adhere to simple rules — like family meals together, no breakfast in front of the television and so on. If anything, their childhood in Bangalore was the quintessential middle-class upbringing with nothing filmi about it.

Happily married to superstar Ranveer Singh now, Deepika credits her mother for being the backbone in the family, playing the consummate nurturer — managing a family of three very different personalities.

“We were all her priority. She allowed us to pursue our passion and, at the same time, disciplined all of us,” says Deepika with a dimpled, impish smile, adding: “Today if Ranveer says ‘my wife expects us to be home at a certain time, go to bed at a certain time’— all those things come from her.”

From their early years both the Padukone sisters were encouraged to participate in a range of extra-curricular activities including sports, music, and dance. In fact, Deepika did well in badminton under the tutelage of her father, former World number one  champion Prakash Padukone. She also did a few modelling assignments as a child, and she enjoyed facing the camera.

Fortunately for her, Ujjala, although strict, was no Tiger Mom. She encouraged her daughter to follow her heart’s desire, terms and conditions applied. “We could see she was passionate about modelling. But, there was a time during her 10th standard days when I told her model co-ordinator to ease off and let her focus on studies.”

Of course, even as Deepika began her early innings in glamour with ads for Limca and Liril, it was rightly predicted she would launch a thousand brands and be a movie star.

Deepika switched base to Mumbai at the age of 17 with stars in her eyes while her parents were in Bangalore. Although Ujjala worried about her, deep down she knew Deepika’s perseverance would see her through the tricky streets of showbiz. “Always feisty and a go-getter, Deepika is street-smart and strong. At the back of my mind I knew come what may, she will fend for herself,” avers Ujjala.

Deepika adapted well in her PG digs before moving into her apartment, going through the paces of stardom. Then, she got her big break. Shah Rukh Khan launched her in Om Shanti Om, and the film became a major hit. In the early days, Ujjala would go on the film sets just to familiarise herself with the team, and to ensure the work environment was safe for her daughter. Well aware of her firstborn’s ability to fend for herself, she never contemplated advising Deepika in professional matters.

Call it a mother’s sixth sense, Ujjala has an unerring instinct when it concerns her brood. Later when Deepika was undergoing depression, Ujjala instinctively spotted it and sought medical advice. However, like most parents she has had deep concerns. “There were times when I told myself, there is somewhere I have failed in the kind of parent I have been. Maybe I was too strict,” she shares.

Today her younger daughter Anisha is a pro-golf player. Deepika, apart from being a celebrated actor, is the first woman in India to make it to the Top Five Richest Indian Celebrities list, as per Forbes magazine. Besides, as Chairman of Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI ) Film Festival and the Live Love Laugh Foundation she has set up to create awareness and reduce stigma surrounding Mental Health, Padukone is working for the greater good too. Ujjala’s guardianship has done the girls good. She can’t help a proud smile while Deepika prudently holds forth on various matters.

As our conversation draws to a close, the Padukone ladies hasten to leave for a sporting event where Papa Padukone is being felicitated. There is a bit of a flurry as the hotel staff come forward with requests for selfies. Deepika obliges politely before a graceful exit.

Just another impeccably planned day for the Padukone family.

Quite evidently, there is enough for Ujjala to be content about.

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