Born in 1986, Deepika Padukone celebrates her 28th birthday on 5 January. This professional, disciplined actress has won numerous awards for her work and 2013 proved to be a great year for her - she opened 2013 with the hit film Race 2 and closed with the superhit Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. In between she delivered two megahits with Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Chennai Express.
If you are new to Bollywood, here are five films starring Deepika Padukone that should be on your must-see list.
1. Om Shanti Om
Special Note: This was the Deepika Padukone's first Hindi film, and second film overall (her first film was the 2006 Kannada film Aishwarya).
Description: In 1970s Bollywood, junior artiste Om Prakash Makhija (Shah Rukh Khan) dies soon after witnessing the murder of the woman he loves, actress Shantipriya (Deepika Padukone). 30 years later he discovers he has been reincarnated, and sets a plan in motion to avenge her death.
Why I Love This Film: As both the elegant superstar Shantipriya and the awkward, hero-worshipping young actress Sandhya, Deepika Padukone's grace and style draws you in and keeps you riveted to her - even as she plays opposite superstar Shah Rukh Khan. For example, she holds her own in the "Dhoom Taana" item number and makes each dance step look easy even as SRK exuberantly (and unexpectedly) leaps into the dance sequences with her. This item number also pays homage to her expertise as a competitive badminton player - a sport she was preparing to pursue professionally until she decided to become an actress instead. She is a strong and beautiful presence in the film and as Om falls deeper in love with her, so do we.
Recogition: Won, Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut; Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
2. Love Aaj Kal
Description: In modern day London, Jai Singh (Saif Ali Khan) and Meera Pandit (Deepika Padukone) are very happy together but do not believe in tying each other down. In 1965 India, Veer Singh (Rishi Kapoor) sees Harleen Kaur (Giselli Monteiro) and falls madly in love with her, swearing she will become his wife. But life pulls these couples in different directions ...
Why I Love This Film: "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" - Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi". Deepika Padukone is delightfully fun as she meets, becomes good friends with, then falls in love with Jai. It is heartbreaking to watching Meera's joy slowly fade away, as the path she is on leads her further away from Jai. Even in her silence, you can sense her struggles. When the two part ways the fallout from that decision takes a while to manifest, but when it does it is devastating. The juxtaposition between the two stories in the film reminds us that love demands that we follow our hearts. Near the end of the film, Meera takes her frustration out on Jai physically - and we totally understand where her pain is coming from. The film reminds us that the process of building a relationship might be different in different eras, but the experience of being in love remains the same.
Recognition: Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Actress
DVD Warning: The description on back of my DVD turned out to be complete rubbish compared to the actual storyline of the film.
Description: Rich but impulsive wild-child Veronica D'Costa (Deepika Padukone) meets shy Meera Gupta (Diana Penty) who has just arrived in London from India. Veronica offers Meera a place to stay while she sorts out her life - and they become friends. Veronica starts dating Gautam Khanna (Saif Ali Khan). Meera dislikes Gautam intensely, understanding him to be a womanizer and someone who will use Veronica. Gautam spends more time with them and soon Meera and he are drawn to each other...
Why I Love This Film: Deepika Padukone as Veronica the party girl seems to be loved by all. When Meera enters her life, she begins to experience love and friendship on a different level. Throw in Gautam and you have a story full of fun and eventual mayhem. In a BollywoodLife.com interview, Deepika explained her role. "My character in Cocktail is the kind of person that everybody wants to be, but are not because they are concerned about being judged by society. Veronica doesn’t care, she just speaks her mind. She has had a troubled childhood and now she has found her comfort zone in her friends, Meera and Gautam. Cocktail is a film that will always remain special to me." These characters truly love each other and when times get difficult you see them initially lash out but then try to work through their relationship with honesty and respect.
Recognition: Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Actress
Description: The story centers on the relationship between Kabir "Bunny" Thapar (Ranbir Kapoor) and Naina Talwar (Deepika Padukone) at two separate but defining times in their lives. They meet at crossroads in their lives holding on to fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams. How these two characters affect, change and learn to love is the journey...
Why I Love This Film: Deepika easily takes on the role of the shy and discontented Naina. In a TheAsianToday.com interview she said, "For me, Naina Talwar is me. I was the reference point. I did not have to research. I did not have to observe anyone else. I just had to be me." Deepika describes herself socially awkward as a child, someone who didn't have many friends. This is the experience she brings to the character of Naina. In YJHD, we see Deepika carry Naina from a shy, awkward student to a beautiful, confident, hard-working woman that we admire. Just like Deepika herself.
Description: Rahul Mithaiwala (Shah Rukh Khan) embarks on a journey to a small town in Tamil Nadu to fulfill the last wish of his grandfather: to have his ashes immersed in the holy water of Rameshwaram. En route, he meets Meenalochni "Meenama" Azhagusundaram (Deepika Padukone), a woman hailing from a unique family down South. They journey together through South India on a life-changing adventure.
Why I Love This Film: Deepika Padukone adopts a Tamil accent and delivery style which seems to this non-Hindi, non-Tamil speaker like Meenama could have just as easily have come from Brooklyn, New York. With that in mind, her interactions with Rahul - who only understands Hindi and the northern India culture - provide many opportunities to amuse. Impromptu singing by Rahul and Meenama adds to the entertainment. Deepika has had humorous moments in films before, but a full-fledged successful comedy film was a new experience. In a HindustanTimes.com article she explained, "Comedy is the most difficult. Comic timing is something which you either have it in you, or you don't. You have to have a good sense of humour to be able to understand it. A split second can make you lose the punch." In Chennai Express, she toys with Rahul and manages to punch on through and deliver a delightful comedic performance from start to finish. And when a serious note is required - as in the Temple Scene - her transformation from smiling to solemn is sincere.
Don't know which Deepika Padukone film to watch first? The following video playlist features the trailers for each of these five films.
If you haven't seen the theatrical release of Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela - loosely based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - consider obtaining a DVD or Blu-ray copy when it is released. Whether or not you appreciate the storyline you should experience the item numbers, costumes, and set design - which are extraordinarily beautiful.
Also check out Race 2 which features an ensemble cast. Deepika Padukone plays a rich con artist who comes across as more of a supermodel type with questionable connections.