Ramleela (Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s adaption of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet) promos are all over the place and the cynosure of all eyes in town today is Deepika Padukone. Right now considered the girl who classes up anything, today there is no one lovelier than Deepika in Bollywood – and no one who is on an upswing such as her either. Such is her current rise that there are some quarters that are crediting her with the success of both, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Chennai Express. Her contribution in both the movies is not small, but heroines seldom get the credit for hits of reigning super-heroes. That there are folks giving her the credit for these movies is an achievement in itself – and an indicator of the young girl’s rocketing career.
The 20-film old star was close to losing her shine four years after her Bollywood debut (her film debut was in 2006 with a Kannada film, Aishwarya) in 2007 with Om Shanti Om. By 2011, Deepika had 15 releases (including guest appearances and item numbers) and just about three hits. She seemed so, so over. In fact in 2010 and 2011, it was only her song appearances like Uff Teri Ada in Karthik Calling Karthik and Dum Maro Dum from the movie with the same title that drew attention. Thought critics were kind to her and she had all these regular, forgettable releases, it seemed like Ms. Padukone was going to be best remembered for her involvements and affairs (most notably Ranbir Kapoor and Siddharth Mallya) rather than her film career and acting prowess. The Filmfare Award that she received as the Best Debutant (she was even nominated as Best Actress for this movie: Om Shanti Om) seemed as misguided as Obama’s Nobel Prize for Peace.
Fortune’s Favorite Rebel
But this girl was born for success. No matter what she would’ve done, she was fortune’s favoured child. As a little girl, Deepika started playing badminton (what else would Prakash Padukone’s daughter do?) and by her teens she was a National level player. Had she continued in that field, we’d probably hear of her conquering courts across the world and bring home prestigious trophies. She and Saina Nehwal would be neck-to-neck. Fame was hers for asking. But she chose to chase fame via glamour. It didn’t take her long to get modelling assignments and then films. She debuted in Bollywood with Shahrukh Khan in his home production. Her first publicity appearance for the film was in that year’s Sa Re Ga Ma along with director Farah Khan. Wearing an off-white saree with a sleeveless blouse, she floored most the viewers with this appearance. The tall, lissome, lovely lass was quite the toast of the nation even before her first release.
Om Shanti Om did well. Her next outing Bachna Ae Haseeno gave her and Ranbir another success. After that, except for an odd Love Aaj Kal, her career was going nowhere. Although, through the flops, Deepika managed to typecast herself as a modern girl with few socio-cultural limitations and confines.
Success Comes Looking
Cocktail in 2012 changed everything for her. Veronica in Cocktail was the extreme end of the modern-girl-image envelope that she was already pushing – but there was a magic in her portrayal. She suddenly seemed to have found her groove and the craft of acting. Since Cocktail, besides her massive hits, she has had Hollywood come looking for her, she has had major product endorsements, award nominations, stage shows, social cause affiliations – you name it, she has it.
Just 27 now, she is supposed to be highly disciplined and dedicated. However, the most outstanding feature about Deepika is that she is a young lady, making it on her own and living her life guiltless as she wants to with no explanations or apologies. She is a winner all the way.
By Sujata Garimella