Life in Gurgaon

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

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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.