It was at one of Madhuri Dixit’s press meets many months ago when I first spotted Deepak Singh. Standing over six feet tall, Deepak had stationed himself like the Rock of Gibraltar behind Madhuri, keeping a hawk’s eye over proceedings. And looking at his well-chiselled physique, one could have easily mistaken him to be a ramp model. But what made him stand out was his impeccable sartorial sense — a formal grey coloured blazer teamed with a skinny tie and aviators sitting perfectly on his clean-shaven face giving him the overall air of a handsome secret service agent straight out of a Hollywood flick.
And much like in movies, the rod-steady security man swung into action as soon as the press interaction was over, escorting Madhuri back to her personal space. And it’s then you realise he is the man without whom a star wouldn’t venture out in public — a bodyguard. Today, the dressed to kill Deepak is regularly seen accompanying top names of B-town — from SRK to Katrina Kaif — as their human shield in public spaces. He also runs his own agency but guarding the rich and the famous of tinsel town was not on Deepak’s mind when he first set foot in Mumbai 17 years ago.
Born to an Air Force officer, Deepak was raised in Agra where he completed his schooling before shifting to Mumbai in 1999 to pursue his dream of becoming a cricketer. “I came to Mumbai to attend a cricket summer camp. I trained under Chandrakant Pandit. Unfortunately, I only ended up playing in college level cricket and couldn’t break into the big league. I had started off late whereas boys here start while in school.”
With five years of training in cricket and no big achievements under his belt, Deepak felt it was time for a change in guard and some timely advice from brother-in-law, actor Ronit Roy, came in handy. “Ronit is married to my elder sister Neelam. He is very frank and told me since nothing is happening in cricket, it’s perhaps time to try something else. So after finishing my graduation in 2004, I joined his security company, Ace security.”
Deepak’s first on-field assignment was as a doorman on the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black. “I started from scratch as a doorman where I used to stand at the door and open it for people. I learnt a lot by observing seniors in the field and within one year, bagged my first big assignment of guarding Rani Mukerji at Zee Cine Awards in Mauritius.”
Soon enough, he moved into the big league and started handling high-profile weddings of cinestars like Aamir Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Riteish Deshmukh. In between, he landed an opportunity to guard Paris Hilton and John Travolta while they were in India and also the chance to handle security for Hollywood film, The Fall which was being filmed in Agra.
From among the galaxy of stars he has guarded, he lists out SRK, Madhuri, Jacqueline Fernandes and Katrina Kaif as some of his favourites. “Actors like SRK and Katrina do notice when their bodyguards are going through a tough time while handling fans and do their best to alleviate it. When we were in Ladakh shooting for Jab Tak Hai Jaan, a few teenagers were following us in a gypsy. When we stopped for coffee at a location, they still kept following. All they wanted was pictures with Katrina. Realising that, she came out and posed for pictures and autographs with her fans and soon they left us. So stars do go out of their way to make sure fans are attended to and once they have given their pictures, they tell them to stop following or else they could get hurt.”
While it’s common to expect stars to dress fashionably at all times, bodyguards have mostly been a safari sporting lot. But not Deepak who is always consciously dressed to the nines. “I need to look different from other guys. Dressing well also gives you an edge. If you wear a normal safari, it gives everyone a notion that this guy is a security guard. So you need to look presentable if you are travelling with a VVIP. You need to blend in,” explains the man.
And has his good looks ever landed him acting offers? “I have been told by filmmakers, designers, choreographers and actors to try acting. But I am not keen. I want to be the Shah Rukh Khan of my field, ” announces Deepak proudly.
While shadowing a superstar may be a tough job, Deepak is also not oblivious to the attention he enjoys by being under a star’s spotlight. But the bodyguard would rather enjoy the attention showered by his lovely wife and baby back home. “Mine was a love marriage and we have a two and a half-year-old baby too. I try to make time for them whenever I can. It’s their attention I enjoy the most.”