Vin Diesel fits the image of a quintessential Bollywood hero perfectly. He's over-the-top, extremely charming, enjoys quoting Indian gurus out-of-context and his conversations are interspersed with dramatic pauses. When his gorgeous co-star Deepika Padukone refers to him as 'an adorable teddy bear' and his 'xXx: Return of Xander Cage' director DJ Caruso admits 'he walks around with a wide smile all the time', Vin dramatically rises from his chair, flaunts his Peshwa styled suit-kurta which he spent all afternoon hand-picking, and asks, "Do I look regal in that beautiful, Indian-way? Do I look majestic? Do you really see the teddy bear Deepika talks about? Or do you see the grizzly bear!" There's more, when he has run out of words for Deepika who he has eulogised a "goddess", "angel" and "the most beautiful woman in the world", he says, theatrically, "She's a thespian majesty!" DJ is the first to burst into splits, pointing out that he's going to gift Deepika a T-shirt with those exact words embossed on it, soon.
The trio is in India for the premiere of their high-voltage action thriller, which marks Deepika's Hollywood debut as Serena, the feisty love interest of Xander Cage. The film opens in India first, a week before its international release on January 20. They landed in Mumbai at 6 am on Thursday for a two-day promotional round and were welcomed by 30 turbaned women on bullets, draped in fiery red Nauvari saris and combat boots.
"Being in the city is a dream come true and I had wanted to work with Deepika since we met many years ago and saw that the chemistry between us was something special," Vin admitted, turning to smile at the desi girl whose hand he held for most of the day.
He went on to reveal that when they started filming 'xXx', Deepika had just one request – she wanted a huge Hollywood-style premiere in her home country. "The fact that we're here means we delivered on the promise. And the love you see between the two characters played by Deepika and me is evidence of the multi-cultural global harmony that you see in our film," asserts the action hero.
The conversation kept veering back to Madam D who was all dimples. She'd first met Vin in 2011 when they shot for a film's audition video but the project never took off.
Cut to October 2015 when after noticing the sizzling chemistry between the two actors from the four-year-old audition tape, DJ asked Deepika to fly to Torontoovernight for lunch with him while he was on recce. The meeting was two hours long but nothing was finalised. "I was to fly out of Toronto the same night when Vin learnt that I was in Canada and asked me to immediately fly out to Los Angeles. I got on a plane and reached LA at night. That's when he tweeted that first picture of the two of us together and everyone was asking me if I was doing 'xXx'. I did not know if I was but since Vin had put out this picture, I thought maybe I was," Deepika flash-backed.
Vin was quick to add that given how demanding the role was, everyone wondered if Deepika would be able to pull off all the action. "But she made us feel like she would go to any lengths to personify this daredevil of a character. We needed a counterpart to Xander and it wasn't just her beauty and grace that we could rely on but also the commitment to the action. You can't mess up, because bad things happen during dangerous stunts. She came in every day for four months and practiced her stunts," he reveals.
Buzz is, there is a sequel in the pipeline which will kick off this May with Vin and Deepika. DJ jokes, "How many days of shooting are we talking about, Vin?" He shoots back, "How soon is the question. I think that what DJ is saying is that we are filming the next 'xXx' in May, it is evident how much I like working with Deepika" and DJ adds, "It will be titled Serena's Revenge."
Deepika has retained her Indian accent in the film and the trio reiterates that it was a conscious decision. "What we are trying to do is deliberately not stay within the confines of Hollywood, we want to go into different film markets and invite them into a film's franchise. Everybody's accent was celebrated. We wanted the diversity and that's what makes this movie special," insists Vin who will be interacting with fans live, exploring the city and attending a bash with the who's who of Bollywood over the next 24 hours, before flying off with Deepika for the film's LA premiere.
He gets emotional as he recalls his close connection with India, admitting that he's been dreaming of visiting the country since he was a child. "The first movie that my father took me to see was the 'Thief of Bagdad', starring Sabu (Dastagir), and from that moment as a five-year old, I've always imagined that movie stars could look different than the ones we saw in Hollywood. So I have a long-standing connection with India with reference to my stardom and success. I was just waiting for the opportunity to come to India," he states, going back to rhapsodising about 'this queen', "this blessing in my life", his "very special Deepika".
"India gets to claim her because this is her origin, but she is the queen of the world, so the whole world will get to claim her now – someone with such a beautiful soul…" Vin trails off, before adding, "…If you just let me kiss her…" And saying that he plants a kiss on Deepika who is all smiles. The crowd hoots and cheers on, "Once more, once more…" Fade-out… Did we just see a movie or was it for real?