Deepshikha Deshmukh, one of the leading female producers in Bollywood is the silent force leading Pooja Entertainment in its new avatar.
After bankrolling movies like Sarbjit, Madaari, Jawaani Jaaneman and the recent Coolie No. 1, Deepshikha will also be backing Akshay Kumar's Bell Bottom and the remake of The Burning Train which is yet to go on floors.
This Women’s Day, the “boss lady”, who also dons the role of a wife and a mother, speaks about her journey in the production house, taking on new challenges, addressing failures, and balancing her personal life.
You ventured into production just like your father Vashu Bhagnani – is it something you always wanted to pursue?
I have grown up seeing my father build Pooja Entertainment from scratch with sheer will-power and hard work. My father never got anything on a platter and neither have we. I have seen how the magic of cinema unfolds when actors, directors, and the producer work in synergy. That was an experience I always wanted to make a part of my life as well.
As one of the few female producers of Bollywood could you describe the challenges you face at work?
Choosing a script, zeroing in on the cast are decisions that go through a lot of brainstorming collectively, and then we decide the roles we will play individually. Pooja Entertainment is a heritage production house and we take that very seriously and make sure that we take every decision only when we are all on the same page. The challenges are unique to each film. With our film Bell Bottom, the challenge was to start and finish a film during a pandemic with a 200 strong crew keeping their health and safety in mind, and I'm so grateful that we pulled it off.
While working in a male-dominated arena, how do you place your opinions while portraying women in cinema, given how things have changed in the past couple of years?
I honestly feel that in the last 10 years, things have changed dramatically. This is of course because of the way women have increasingly risen to occupy various powerful positions in boardrooms, behind the camera, in decision making, and in creative roles across every industry. I think women have broken a lot of glass ceilings in every industry but their success now has paved the way for many others. I may not have faced discrimination personally, but I am sure the dynamics of the conversation about equality have changed from then to now.
What is your take on female actors being paid less than their male counterparts?
I am a firm believer that it is the talent that should determine one's remuneration in every industry. We have a long way to go, but I think we are on our way.
You’re married to a politician, and are a mother to two kids – with back-to-back projects, how do you balance it out despite a hectic schedule?
Let me start by simply admitting that trying to strike a balance between all aspects of life isn’t easy but is not impossible as well. I make sure I begin and end my day with my kids. I tuck them into bed every night and I am the first person they see when they wake up. I manage their breakfast and the morning routine and only after they have gone to school does my working day start. And being a mother has made me a whole lot more organized so I delegate what I can and usually meet my deadlines before time. I make sure I finish my work on time so that I can go back to my kids early. Dhiraj, my husband, who also has a very busy schedule makes it a point to facetime the children all the time
As a businesswoman, when you witness failures, how do you push yourself to move ahead and rise higher?
Failures are really important because they teach us a lot. I have had many, and I feel that I learnt something from each one of them. Every disappointment is a learning experience and will only take you forward and will make you more enriched and successful. Being a woman always gives you an edge as you think from a different perspective which has an element of emotion. As a producer, I understand the importance of authenticity on and off the camera and believe that unless your intention and emotions are pure, people will pick on the note of dishonesty. My advice to all the women is, just keep going and love what you do. Be honest and that’s how you can overcome any challenge that comes your way. And don't be afraid to fail. And to rise again and again.
This Women’s Day what would you say to young women entrepreneurs who plan to make it big on their own?
Just follow your dreams! Set your targets and make sure you are honest and pure when you undertake the journey to achieve them. Don't let anybody tell you that you can’t do anything. You have the power to do anything you want in life, and you must do it. Always believe in yourself. It's never too late to start achieving your dreams. If you think, as a mother of two babies, the boat of opportunity has sailed, you're wrong. You can start anytime, anywhere. Nothing is impossible. Just pick up from where you left and keep moving forward.
What's your life mantra or a go-to phrase to keep you inspired?
I don’t believe there is any one mantra for everyone. But I strongly believe that if you set your eyes on something, and work hard towards that passionately, success is bound to come.
Can you tell us about your experience working with the mega cast in the film Bell Bottom?
It was a remarkable moment for us when in the middle of a global pandemic, we managed to begin and end the entire shoot of our film. We took the entire cast all the way from India to Scotland while observing the strictest of safety measures. It seemed unimaginable but we did it with the unstinting support of everyone who rallied around us. This was an experience I will always cherish. The entire cast and crew bonded with each other and became one big happy family during the 60-day schedule.
Your upcoming project Karna seems to be akin with a magnum opus. With several movies that have already set a mark in that genre, how different and captivating do you think it will be?
Mahabharata has been a part of all our lives and Karna, I feel, is one of the most unsung warriors of the epic. We know so much about all the characters and their motivations but we haven’t seen anybody tell the story from Karna’s perspective. So it's going to be an interesting journey. I can't divulge more but we will share more details soon.