A badminton player, a model, an actor, a performer, an activist - Deepika Padukone has worn quite a few hats in her 29 short years. You know what stands out about this Bollywood superstar? Her hunger to excel in whatever she does.
In a time and age when Bollywood female actors don't hide their brains behind their beauty (Sonakshi Sinha weighing in on the weight issue, Parineeti Chopra giving a biology lesson to an erring journo and Vidya Balan being categorical about her sexuality), Deepika still stands out for the issues she takes up and the grace and poise with which she does it. And then she goes ahead and delivers hits after hits, earning acting accolades in the process. Filmmaker Ayan Mukherji, who has directed her in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, sums up her journey in this testosterone-fuelled world of male actors, "Deepika isn’t just an accessory in her films."
Here are a few instances when Deepika Padukone took the stereotype of Bollywood heroine, threw it right out of the window, and emerged stronger for it. Here's looking at her choices - cinematic and otherwise - which make her the superstar of tomorrow and a social voice to reckon with.
1 A new feminist heroine, a truly emancipated Bollywood role model, a woman everyone will identify with - these were just a few of the accolades that came Deepika Padukone's way once the dust settled over this Friday's release, Piku. With performers like Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan sharing the screen space with her, Deepika proved that she has it in her to become the numero uno leading lady of the industry who can act as well as she looks. Shoojit Sircar, director of Piku, said in a recent interview, "Deepika Padukone has emerged as the latest feminist heroine in Bollywood. I was always confident about her. Have you noticed how she has evolved in every type of films?"
2 Rs 100-crore club? Check. One of Bollywood's most bankable stars? Check. A leggy lass who has proved her acting prowess? Check, check, check. Unlike most of her colleagues who are limited to being the eye candy in multi-crore vehicles, Deepika Padukone has managed to hold her own even in blockbusters. Think Chennai Express, Happy New Year, Cocktail, Love Aaj Kal and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. All of them starred bankable male leads but Deepika was as much of an attraction as the Khans and Kapoors. She was not in them for song-and-dance and that's more than you can say for most Bollywood leading ladies.
And none of it just happened, the actor worked hard to prove herself. Depika said in an interview to HT, "Post Om Shanti Om (her debut), a lot of stuff got written about me. All of it wasn’t always nice. In fact, there was this critic who loves pulling people down. And she wrote very critically about all of us who had made a debut that year. But I didn’t let it upset me. I cut that column out, highlighted what she had said about me and looked at it every day. I used negativity to work harder and improve whatever I could."
3 She is among the top rung of brand endorsers in India with over 15 brands in her kitty. Celeb endorsement data from TAM Adex named her as top celeb endorser of 2014. If buzz is to be believed, she got Rs 6 crore for endorsing a cola brand, probably the highest any female actor has got till date. She has endorsed brands like Nescafe, Asian Paints, Tissot and Parachute among others.
4 The world may or may not have agreed with Deepika Padukone's choices in Homi Adjania-directed #MyChoice video but you have to give the gutsy actor credit for being part of a video that takes up important issues which women face in the society. The actor later clarified, "When the script was shared with me, there was not one but a couple of lines that even I didn't agree with at a personal level but I realised they needed me more for the larger message the film was trying to make. I went ahead and was more than happy to be a part of it because I realised myself that there was a larger issue that we were dealing with and that we are dealing with." Now, that's for women empowerment and a star who stands for what she believes in.
5 In a world full of artifice where actors go at length to even hide their relationship status, it came as a welcome surprise that a leading Bollywood star would come on record and accept that she had battled depression. Deepika came out and discussed her bout with the mental illness in clear details on national media.
At the time Happy New Year was being shot, Deepika said she found it a struggle to even get out of the bed every morning. She resisted taking medication in the beginning, she says, but eventually realised counselling alone will not help.
Deepika wrote in HT, "My personal experience as well as my friend's death (due to depression) urged me to take up this issue, which isn't usually talked about. There is shame and stigma attached to talking about depression. In fact, one in every four people suffer from anxiety and depression." She has started a mental health care foundation called The Live, Love, laugh Foundation.
Watch: Deepika Padukone's advise to fan on battling depression
6 Bollywood is a dog-eat-dog world, or rather cat-eat-cat. Famous for its catfights, the female acting fraternity got yet another shot in the arm when Deepika Padukone received the award for Best Actor Female Popular Choice at a recent event. She got it for Happy New Year and Kangana Ranaut didn't for her superlative performance in Queen. So Deepika did what any fan of fair play should do - she dedicated it to Kangana. "Thank you for this award but I really believe this year belonged to Kangana. So Kangana, this one's for you," she said on stage. She followed it up with an emotion-laden phone call to Queen K. This sis what Kangana had to say about Deepika later, "It was an emotional and heartfelt conversation. I appreciate that she called me; she is truly courteous and very emotional, and I just love that."
7 "YES!I am a Woman.I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??" That was a tweet which went viral last year. The writer was Deepika Padukone and at the other end was a national daily. As the world debated and took sides, Deepika went ahead and ended the war of words with a Facebook post - "Sure, dissect my characters if you wish-if it is of so much interest then discuss the character's cup size and leg length if it is relevant to making the role convincing. All I am asking for is respect as a woman off-screen." And you got it, Deepika.
Read: Piku review