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Home / Bollywood / Happy Birthday Deepika Padukone: Here’s why the Bollywood diva is India’s sweetheart

Happy Birthday Deepika Padukone: Here’s why the Bollywood diva is India’s sweetheart

On her birthday, here’s look at what makes Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone, India’s favourite girl-next-door.

bollywood Updated: Jan 05, 2018 13:38 IST
Nivedita Mishra
Nivedita Mishra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Deepika Padukone, who is the daughter of India’s badminton legend Prakash Padukone, made her Bollywood debut with Om Shanti Om.
Deepika Padukone, who is the daughter of India’s badminton legend Prakash Padukone, made her Bollywood debut with Om Shanti Om.(AFP)

When the first poster of Padmavati released, spotting it on the front page of a leading Indian daily, one was struck by the magic of Deepika Padukone. I remember asking myself: just when did this girl from a middle class Indian family transform into this goddess-queen? May be, it was her director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s conviction, perhaps it was getting into the look and feel of the character she is playing... I couldn’t put a finger to it but something was just so compelling. One saw a strong woman -- warm and forgiving yet unrelenting and brave in the face of adversity.

Deepika’s journey in Bollywood (and as much in public life) has been a story of self belief. To those who haven’t an idea of what she did before her entry into films, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that she was already among the top models in India. She made her formal debut when she walked the ramp for designer Suneet Verma at the Lakme Fashion Week 2005.

So many models have come and gone but just a handful of them remain in public memory. Even during a brief career as a model, Deepika’s name was often taken in the same breath as Mehr Jessia, Aishwarya Rai, Nayonika Chatterjee, Sonalika Sahay among others. All models are tall and slender, but I distinctly recall Deepika flashing her 100-watt smile even then.

Her Kingfisher Calendar pictures still remain a benchmark, so popular was the 2006 print campaign. Celebrated designer Wendell Rodricks is said to have remarked, “Since Aishwarya Rai, we haven’t had a girl as beautiful and fresh.”

What most would also not remember that she was also a Liril girl -- her Uff Yu Maa! became quite a famous catchline.

These early successes were perhaps the reason why Bollywood director Farah Khan decided to give Deepika her Bollywood break (she made her film debut in a Kannada film called Aishwarya) and cast her opposite Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om.

Her very first film needed her to play a double role - a girl of today and the other, set in the ‘70s. Raw as she was, Deepika still managed to pull it off, thanks to her director. A reincarnation drama, Om Shanti Om, was a huge hit. That was 2007.

However, her career slumped soon after. It wasn’t as if she didn’t get the roles, she did two high-profile films in 2008-09 -- Bachna Aye Haseeno (with Ranbir Kapoor) and Chandni Chowk to China (with Akshay Kumar). While one earned profits, the other received a cold response at the box office.

With Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal, where she played the love interest of Saif Ali Khan (who played two characters across generations), Deepika found her mojo. Playing a strong-headed art conservationist, she fitted the role to the T. The film made impressive collections world over (according to Wikipedia, it made Rs 120 crore, budget being Rs 48 crore). It sealed her position as one of Bollywood’s top-billed actresses.

Deepika Padukone with Saif Ali Khan in Love Aaj Kal.
Deepika Padukone with Saif Ali Khan in Love Aaj Kal.

However, what came after that is something nobody had quite anticipated -- a massive career low. Karthik Calling Karthik, Housefull, Lafangey Parindey, Break Ke Baad, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, Dum Maaro Dum, Aarakshan and Desi Boyz did little to further her career. Of the lot, Housefull made money but all she did was a play a bimbette. And while films like Karthik Calling Karthik and Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey didn’t fit the bill of the regular run of the mill fare, her performances in them were lacklustre.

Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone shared scintillating screen chemistry in Imtiaz Ali's Love Aaj Kal.
Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone shared scintillating screen chemistry in Imtiaz Ali's Love Aaj Kal.

Then, in 2012, Homi Adajania cast Deepika in what would become her career defining film. Named Cocktail, the film was the first ‘point of view’ character Deepika would play in her career. Playing an impulsive party girl called Veronica, Deepika excelled as a free-spirited woman, fond of sex and drug, who later gets jealous of her best friend and becomes self destructive. Cocktail was a major hit.

From here onwards, Deepika would play a wide spectrum of characters from ones that needed some heft to those that need just her glam avatar - equally comfortable in both. Only this time, the glamorous roles came with much better packaging and concepts.

Post Cocktail, her next big releases included Race 2 and Chennai Express. While the former, a sequel to Abbas Mastan’s 2008 Race was a successful action thriller, the latter was a romantic comedy. Needless to say, Deepika, played both the diametrically opposite roles were great ease. Race 2 demanded little of its heroines, but Chennai Express showcased her comfort with comedy. This Rohit Shetty film featured Deepika as a south Indian girl, on the run from her father, a local don, who wants her married to a man she doesn’t love.

This was yet another ‘point of view’ character, where much of the story unfolded from her perspective. While the film had Shah Rukh Khan in it, it was Deepika who was lauded for her perfect comic timing.


Her next power-packed performance was Piku, where again Deepika was at the centre of story. Playing a head-strong architect who lives with her ageing hyperchrondiac father, she nailed it from the start. With two seasoned actors - Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan - for company, she excelled in all departments and matched their skill with her instinctive response. Truly, the woman of substance had arrived. A small film, Piku, went on to make Rs 141 crore (budget being Rs 38 crore).

The no-nonsense Piku...
The no-nonsense Piku...

However, around the same time she did Farha Khan’s Happy New Year, a film that didn’t really demand much of her. She nonetheless pulled it off as a gauche bar dancer, who is often laughed at and is pitied. Her character was of little importance to the story. The film, however, went on to gross Rs 397 crore (budget - Rs 150 crore) in worldwide gross collections.

With films like Yeh Jaawani Hai Deewani and Tamasha, she kept adding to her craft, playing a “shy wallflower” in one to an emotionally drained lover in Tamasha. Deepika took on characters with a wide spectrum and aced them.

In 2015 she worked with Sanjay Leela Bhansali a second time in his historical, Bajirao Mastani, having already worked with him in Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. As Mastani, Deepika was a picture of ‘grace and dignity’ when in fact the story was centred around Bajirao and his world. As a warrior doing her own stunts to marking her silken presence as a beloved, Deepika endeared herself to the audience even further. The film was, of course, a resounding box office success.

In 2017, Deepika ventured out to shores outside India, and signed her first Hollywood film, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, where she was part of an ensemble cast, led by Fast and Furious star Vin Deisel. Appreciated for her controlled performance, the film was a big international hit.

Her next film, the ambitious Padmavati, now named Padmavat, has been mired in controversy. In November Rajput groups opposed it, in what they claim, is a distortion of history.

(All figures from Wikipedia)

Author tweets @mniveditatweets

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