Happy Birthday Deepika Padukone: As Deepika turns 33, here’s looking at the journey of India’s sweetheart


It would not be wrong to call Deepika Padukone India’s sweetheart. In the last couple of years, she has emerged as the prima donna of Hindi cinema. In fact post 2013, there has been absolute no stopping Deepika – anything she has touched, has turned to gold at the box office. From Chennai Express and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani in 2013 to Padmaavat in 2018, there has been hardly an appearance where she hasn’t made a mark. What’s more is that Deepika is also among the most honest and candid stars in Bollywood. Be it her relationships or her illness, she has spoken about it in the public.

While she and Ranveer Singh, who began dating during the making of their film Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram Leela (2013), have both been very discreet about their relationship, but in the past, she has never hidden her relationships, either with Ranbir Kapoor or Siddharth Mallya (whom she briefly dated). Around the time her career was going great guns, she was also diagnosed with depression. This was sometime in 2014. For her to speak openly about it, despite being a huge star, was remarkable. She not only spoke about her own battle but has become a champion for the cause with her foundation.

Then came her marriage. In November this year, Ranveer and Deepika decided to seal their six-year old relationship and get married. It remained an intensely private affair but the country was absolutely in love with whatever was happening in far away Italy, where the two decided to get hitched. From endless speculation about her wedding, months before the actual day, first pictures after her marriage to their many wedding receptions, Deepika and Ranveer were the toast of the crowds and fans. All this when Deepika had had just one release in 2018 – Padmaavat, given how cine viewers can switch loyalty every Friday. Deepika is a star because of her staying power.

On her birthday today, here’s a look back at her career.
Deepika’s journey in Bollywood (and as much in public life) has been a story of self belief and some luck. 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 one distinctly recalls 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 will not recall are the Limca and Close Up ads she did during that period.
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 Bollywood film needed her to play a double role — a girl of today and a film star of 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 5 crore {Rs 50 million}). It sealed her position as one of Bollywood’s top-billed actresses.
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, Aarakshan and Desi Boyz did little to further her career. Of the lot, Housefull made money but her character was limited by the writing. 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.

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 drugs, 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 42 crore).

However, around the same time she did Farah 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 being 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 Padmaavat, was controversial from start – sets being set ablaze and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali getting assaulted by goons during its shooting schedule. However, worse was still to come – days before its release in December 2017, Rajput groups, who were opposed to the film saying it was distortion of history, began a violent multi-state protest against its release. Much worse, they threatened to harm the cast – one group reportedly said they would cut off Deepika’s nose. So much so that at one point, Deepika and her family, was provided security. The fact remains that the film did release a month later and ended up being a resounding success.

Deepika, in many ways, has shown that the path to the top need not be an arduous one, being a star does not need one to put up appearances and that being honest is the best way to be.


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