It’s hard to believe that someone like Deepika Padukone joined the industry more than a decade and a half ago, but here we are. 16 years later, the superstar has cemented her name as one of, if not the most successful female Bollywood star in the industry.
After all, while the world rightfully praises Shah Rukh Khan for his epic INR2000 crore triumph in 2023 alone, we cannot forget that Deepika has a monumental part to play, and bask in the glory of that very success.
As we celebrate 16 beautiful years of the star, let’s look at some of the roles she slayed with zero hesitance:
Om Shanti Om (2007)
While this isn’t her first credited appearance in her filmography, it is the film that put her in the limelight. Farah Khan knew what she was doing when she cast the timid, shy, wide-eyed Deepika with THE Shah Rukh Khan. It is true that Om Shanti Om was a cushy, coveted pushing point for Deepika. But she held her own in the film and, in a world that wanted nothing more than to see Shah Rukh and Kajol together, Deepika carved a niche for her pairing with the global megastar.
Love Aaj Kal (2009)
Perhaps one of her more underrated performances, Deepika stunned as Meera in this offering. An Imtiaz Ali love story excels in that sweet grey area between realism and mysticism, and in being a part of such a film, Deepika got to showcase various facets of her acting skills. Through Meera, we fell in love with Deepika’s simplicity, and her ability to essay a beautifully flawed character.
Considered by many as her breakthrough performance, Deepika had the world doing double takes as she took on the role of the spunky, chaotic Veronica. Essaying the role to perfection, and giving many Veronicas out there a voice, this is easily one of Deepika’s strongest roles. And, if Ranveer Singh is to be believed in his Koffee with Karan appearance, it may just have been the role that sparked flames of romance between her and her husband.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013)
Scholar Naina will forever remain in our hearts. Whether she’s nerding out over her books, fixing her glasses, or taking them off in a makeover sequence where she transforms into the “hot girl,” Naina is a character that has stayed close to the audience’s hearts. Moreover, her Badtameez Dil saree was a game-changer in terms of a fashion statement. Long live scholar Naina.
Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013)
Ah, yes. The film that started it all. What happens when two ridiculously good-looking people come together on-screen while they’re also newly discovering their affection for each other off-screen? An explosion of intense chemistry that was this Sanjay Leela Bhansali offering. Deepika, as Leela, was audacious with nerves of steel and incredibly sensual. One simply cannot leave out this ode to Romeo and Juliet whilst listing her achievements.
The versatility of an actor is best proven when the mask comes off. To give a raw, vulnerable performance that speaks to one’s human side is a cumbersome, laborious task. However, Deepika managed to achieve the same with immense grace as the titular character in the offering. Playing the everyday girl-next-door, Deepika proved that she could shoulder such a narrative with absolute giants like Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan, leaving behind an unforgettably vital footprint in the path charting her body of work.
Bajirao Mastani (2015)
Mastani was a character inundated with dichotomies. She was tender as a lover but fierce as a warrior. She acknowledged her position as the second wife but knew that her right paralleled that of Bajirao’s first wife. She loved endlessly and had an entire dance sequence where she was the whirling dervish presenting her art before her sun. The love Bajirao and Mastani shared bordered on madness, and for Deepika to essay that to perfection was, by this point in her career, an expected and welcome move.
Rubai set the world on fire with Besharam Rang. That song alone had a performance that people could not stop talking about. However, the role itself was a challenging one, showcasing Deepika in a different light. She took on the task of action sequences and was, quite literally, all one could look at as she fought off the villain’s henchmen. Even at her most aggressive, Deepika was poetry in motion.
It would be unfair to not include Deepika’s emotionally wrecking appearance in this offering. Without giving too much away, the star ends up becoming the very spine of the film, and her performance is moving, impactful, ferocious, and endlessly brave.
All in all, the megastar is worth every ounce of the fame she has accumulated and the praise she receives. Here’s to many more years of constant growth and evolution for Deepika.
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