That moment - in Om Shanti Om(2007) when Deepika Padukone walks out of her car, and waves to hoards of people in the audience, flashing her dimpled smile - has now become routine for the actor. Her debut was the stuff dreams are made of - opposite Shah Rukh Khan, directed by Farah Khan where she’s presented as the quintessential Bollywood heroine. Post that, there was Imtiaz Ali’s hit Love Aaj Kal, followed by a whole series of duds like Chandni Chowk to China, Lafangey Parindey, Break Ke Baad and Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se. Critics had written her off as a non-actor, one even said that her screen presence was like that of a ‘statuesque mannequin’. But to her credit she bounced back with Homi Adajania’s Cocktail and has never looked back since. She’s the first choice for the top brand endorsements and also on every director’s wish-list.
We look at her most memorable performances over the last 11 years:
While the film may have been slightly problematic because of what it presented an ‘ideal’ Indian woman to be like, Homi Adajania’s film proved to be a turning point for Deepika.
"Deepika came with a bunch of not-so-successful films behind her. So she was hungry to break the mould. At our first meeting, I told her, ‘Let’s forget your pretty face…I want people to leave the theatre knowing that Deepika Padukone is a reliable actor." - Homi Adajania, Director
Deepika has said that she couldn’t relate to the character at all, but took it up as a challenge. She has also said that Cocktail made her realise that no amount of interviews, shows, appearances matter - what matters is to consistently give good performances.
2. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
Deepika had described her role as Naina in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani as closest to her real self. Naina had this almost wall-flower like quality in the first half of the film, and Deepika conveyed that beautifully. In the second half, her character slowly becomes a more confident, self-assured person and she has often compared that to her own trajectory in life.
"I find it strange because I completely identify with the character of Naina Talwar. People who don’t know me feel that I have acted in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. For me, I was just being myself. That’s the way I am. That’s the journey I have actually gone through. From the shy, introverted, under-confident person to coming into her own... I have gone through that journey myself." - Deepika Padukone, Actor
" It’s difficult to stand out in the same frame as Ranbir, but Deepika Padukone knocks it out of the park as Naina. She brings a lovely innocence to the early scenes, and then an understated sexiness when we meet her again in the film’s second half." - Rajeev Masand, Film critic "Deepika, on the other hand, plays it beautifully. She acts within herself and eschews exaggeration, and the results are impressive.Her Naina is intelligent and eager, impulsive yet tentative, and, while mostly timid, also a girl who can whack a ladder with gusto. This may be her most self-aware performance so far, and here’s to more of the same." - Raja Sen, Film critic3. Piku
I remember watching Deepika in Piku and feeling like I’ve seen women like her- who love easily, laugh easily, cry easily, are vulnerable and basically, just human. Full marks to writer Juhi Chaturvedi and director Shoojit Sircar for creating a flesh-and-blood woman like that on paper. But Deepika brought that sense of calm to what might have been an irritable character and held her own against stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan. The film of course went on to do very well at the box office but also won Deepika a host of awards, including her second Filmfare Award for Best Actor (Female).
Critic Anupama Chopra had heaped praises on her performance and said,
" Deepika is absolutely lovely as the prickly Piku. You can see her frustration and exhaustion but also her determination and unshakeable love. Deepika goes up against two brilliant actors and doesn’t hit a false note. Without the props of glamour or song and dance, she quietly commands the frame." - Anupama Chopra, Film critic4. Chennai Express
While Chennai Express lacked even an ounce of logic, and got away with poor cinematography, direction and Shah Rukh’s hammy performance - what stood out was Deepika’s act as Meenalochini. While certain sections criticised the accent as being a mockery of South Indians, Deepika’s comic-timing was impeccable. There’s one scene particularly that is rib-tickling where she gets possessed by a ghost and proceeds to do a dance. Her performance in the film is also testament to her journey in the movies, from starting out with Shah Rukh Khan to then overshadowing him in a film. If there’s something that Chennai Express gave us, it was a few good laughs, mostly thanks to Deepika.
Imtiaz Ali’s film may not have been kind to her, giving Ranbir Kapoor the better character arc, but Deepika was wonderful as Tara - a realist trying in love with a man who is uncomfortable with himself. The film was essentially Ved’s (Ranbir Kapoor) story but Deepika practically steals the film, particularly in heart breaking scene at a restaurant. Watch the scene to see just how good she was,
Here’s hoping that this list will only expand, and Deepika surprises us time and again with some incredible performances.
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