Farah Khan on Deepika Padukone in Om Shanti Om: ‘Her diction was bad but…’

As we look back on the numerous starlets who have graced the silver screen, few have captured the essence of both beauty and talent as memorably as Deepika Padukone. Her journey to becoming an A-list Bollywood icon kicked off with a big break in the 2007 blockbuster ‘Om Shanti Om’, directed by visionary choreographer-turned-director Farah Khan. However, the path to stardom wasn’t without its initial hurdles, as Khan recently disclosed intricate details about Padukone’s early challenges.

Deepika Padukone, who is now revered as one of Hindi cinema’s exemplary figures, once faced the daunting challenge of honing her skills to meet the industry’s stringent demands. Farah Khan, during her candid conversation with media personality Komal Nahta, shed light on how Deepika’s diction was a significant obstacle during her auditioning days.

Despite the apprehension about her diction, Farah was captivated by Deepika’s inherent star quality; a glimmer of magic that turned undeniable whenever Padukone performed to music. Farah Khan candidly expressed, “Her diction was bad but when she did songs, her face would light up. She was very expressive with songs.”

The initial glimpse of Padukone’s potential came from an unexpected source—a Fanta commercial. It was there that Farah Khan realized Deepika had what it took to become a cine-world heroine. That gut feeling set the wheels in motion for what would become a turning point in both their careers.

Om Shanti Om required an actress who could embody the aesthetic and charm reminiscent of the classic Bollywood era. Farah sought someone who could parallel the grace of yesteryear’s dream girl Hema Malini, and it was in Deepika that she found those timeless qualities. To vividly test her compatibility with the period film’s requisites, Padukone was even auditioned in the traditional Amrapali outfit, similar to what she donned in the film’s iconic song “Dhoom Tanna.”

The revelation that another artist had to provide a voiceover for Deepika’s character Shantipriya sent ripples through the industry, but it was a strategic move made necessary by her then-nascent diction. The decision underscored the film’s commitment to quality, as the rest of Om Shanti Om was recorded with sync sound, ensuring an authentic and immersive viewing experience.

Farah Khan, determined to sculpt a star, enrolled Deepika Padukone in dance classes, diction training, as well as Anupam Kher’s renowned acting school, firmly saying, “We were properly training her.” This meticulous grooming proved fruitful as Padukone’s dazzling debut performance, though not lauded for its dramatic depth at the time, was the dawn of a new star who soon became synonymous with on-screen presence, versatility, and performance.

Deepika Padukone’s journey from debutant to diva was a tale of transformation that resonated with both critics and fans. Her evolution from an actor whose lines were once dubbed to one who is now celebrated for her articulate performances and compelling screen presence beautifully illustrates the power of perseverance and passion in the glittering galaxy of Bollywood.

Her role in Om Shanti Om opened numerous doors, leading Padukone down the path to stellar roles in critically acclaimed films and commercial hits alike. Today, her craft is refined, her performances nuanced, and her diction flawless—Deepika Padukone epitomizes the dream many young actors harbour in their quest for cinematic glory.

Farah Khan’s belief in Deepika’s star potential, despite the early setbacks, played an instrumental role in shaping one of Indian cinema’s leading lights. It served as a testament to the fact that with the right guidance and an unwavering commitment to self-improvement, raw talent can indeed be shaped into greatness. Padukone’s remarkable rise from a fledgling artist with pronounced diction problems to a celebrated icon with an undeniable command over her craft is not just a success story, it’s an inspiration to aspirants across the film industry.

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