10 years ago a timid 23 year old was all set to make her dream Bollywood debut. We can call it dream – since not many have had the opportunity to star opposite one of India’s biggest superstars and that too in an epic, reincarnation romantic saga. Her soft-spoken, naive nature mixed with a performance which needed some obvious brushing up made the audiences and critics write her off as a one, or at max, 2 film wonder.
But boy we were wrong. Here we stand today waiting for one of Hindi Cinema’s most ambitious films in recent times which stars the same lady playing the lead. Over 30 films old now, Deepika Padukone had a journey which would envy any actor today. She has had the biggest names cast opposite her, directed by the finest and noticed by all.
All of it which is achieved purely based on her fine talent and the conscious choices. Her chameleon acting and body language works, as she has done everything – from being a carefree, modern and sizzling Veronica to a shy and nerdy Naina to now playing a gracious Queen for the second time as Padmavati. It is a given then, that no one questions why she is one of the highest paid actors in the industry today.
Tracing her journey right from the roots, here are the roles that shaped Deepika to be one of our most admired actors. Listing down my favourite Deepika roles. Here we go!
10. MEERA, LOVE AAJ KAL (2009)
As a modern, independent, matured yet confused girl finding her true love, Deepika showed her initial signs of how she has grown up as an actor and learnt the craft. She has a lot to thank to Imitaz of course, who gave her that space and meat to perform.
9. ANGIE, FINDING FANNY (2014)
Finding Fanny was her only release in 2014, a time when she was yet to recover from the high of delivering 4 consecutive hits in the previous year . For her to do a small ensemble English language film is in itself admirable. She plays Angie by giving in all the weirdness and heft the role required, without a hint of effort.
8. SHANTIPRIYA/SANDY , OM SHANTI OM (2007)
With radiant smile and the signature hand-waving gesture, Deepika made her debut by walking on a red carpet with the biggest names (Shah Rukh and Farah Khan) surrounding her. And, as luck would further have it, play a double role as well!
You could see the innocence in her performance, how she was probably playing the role just as instructed with little to no spontaneity. How Shah Rukh’s naturally eased performance and larger-than-life sets might have affected her.
7. MEENAMMA, CHENNAI EXPRESS (2013)
Can this girl, who is seen mostly in elegant roles, flex her muscles in a Rohit Shetty film,who always follows a different grammar altogether and expects his actors to be unapologetically hammy?
Well, turns out, she can. And she nails it as Meenamma, a character certainly more edged out than any other female leads in Shetty’s films. She’s so good that she clearly overshadows Shah Rukh who seemed more of a misfit in the Shettyverse.
6. NAINA, YEH JAWAANI HAI DEEWANI (2013)
It’s not everyday that you meet a girl like Naina in films, even though you see a lot of them around you. She takes us through the excitement of discovering love and friendship. But yet, later into the story we see her transform into a strong-headed girl who enjoys being grounded and living into the slice of life. It’s a full-blooded character that is relatable and personal. Which Ms. Padukone plays it to her gallery.
5. MASTANI, BAJIRAO MASTANI (2016)
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s last film became more known for the performances by Ranveer and Priyanka than anything else. Only some could see the grace and understatement that Deepika brought as Mastani. Emoting mostly through her eyes, she didn’t get any standout scene which made her performance more noticeable, but she brought nuance and played the empress to perfection.
4. PIKU, PIKU (2015)
Standing amongst two of industry’s most reputed actors, Deepika played the titular role sans any hesitation or reservations. She didn’t go on to be a show-stealer, but instead played off the other two actor’s energies and brought the father-daughter quirkiness that was never seen before. Her Piku was brought with all the complexities and texture to make the character as real and relatable as possible.
3. TARA, TAMASHA (2016)
Tamasha was Ved’s story. His transformation and reaching out to his passion. His struggle in contemplating the truth, the fact that he’s a storyteller.
But Deepika as Tara Maheshwari serves as a catalyst in introducing Ved to his dreams. As an optimistic, cheerful and head-over-heels in love with Ved, she brings life to the story and makes us care for Ved and their future together.
It was a film that polarized many, but it’s a hard denial to the fact that the best moments came when Padukone was on screen.
2. VERONICA, COCKTAIL (2012)
She may have debuted in 2007, but it was in 2012 where she actually debuted as a star. As the careless, spoilt party animal Veronica, Deepika shuns her decent-girl image and goes all in with the character. By the end of the movie, we could see the talent in her fully blooming. A star that is set to shine everytime it’s on screen.
1. LEELA, RAM-LEELA (2013)
With spectacular dance sequences, high pitched drama and seductive scenes, the Bhansali version of Romeo-Juliet was a true-blue Bollywood package. The film would have been nothing though, without its leads Ranveer and Deepika. The couple elevated the film to a whole new level, giving a chemistry which beats the best of its likes.
It is perhaps this chemistry that made Deepika as Leela stand out among her other performances. She dances, moves, looks and emotes like her life depends on it. Ram-Leela can be revisited just to witness this operatic performance again!
Where will her Padmavati stand amongst these performances? We will find out soon!