Deepika Padukone is set for the big time
Here are the facts about Deepika Padukone. She was born on January 5, 1986. She’s one of the highest-paid actresses in India and is often cited as one of the nation’s most popular and attractive personalities. She has received many film awards. She is very beautiful.
All of those facts are gleaned from Wikipedia, aside from the last one, but which I can personally attest to being 100 percent accurate, since I sat next to her at the Esquire Man at His Best Awards dinner. At one point, a member of her team stood behind Padukone, gently running her fingers through the Bollywood star’s long hair. She was like a princess at court. It seemed entirely appropriate.
Padukone is the daughter of a famous badminton player, Prakash Padukone. Born in Copenhagen and raised in Bangalore, she also rose to national level in the sport before leaving to become a model, which led to film roles: her acting debut in 2006 as the title character in the kannada film, Aishwarya; a dual role in the 2007 Bollywood blockbuster Om Shanti Om and an award for Best Female Debut.
There were more films. Some were praised highly, others less so. But Deepika kept at it. “Back then it was a predominantly male-dominated setup,” she has said of that time. “I realised I’d have to take care of myself.” And so she did exactly that, steadily learning the craft until the really big roles came in. Her portrayal of a character based on Juliet in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013) and a headstrong architect in Piku (2015) won more awards. In last year’s Tamasha, Padukone was described as “so potent it’s almost as if you can hear her heartbeat across the screen”.
It’s worth re-reading that quote because it might just be the key to Padukone’s success. Yes, she has appeared in stage shows and art films (endeavours you wouldn’t associate with many Bollywood stars) and she dabbles in fashion and writes newspaper columns. But way more important than these sidelines is the work she has done to raise awareness of depression, a subject she cares deeply enough about to have founded the Live Love Laugh Foundation and the More Than Just Sad campaign.
Padukone has admitted to being socially awkward as a child. She has admitted to previous battles with depression. Perhaps that’s why she relates to those who struggle with adversity. Even today she has a tendency to sit back and watch rather than participate. She told Filmfare: “When I go to a party… I’m okay watching people and sitting quietly on the side. And yes, people do come up and ask, ‘Are you not okay?’ I’m not off, this is me. This is who I am.” More power to her.
While the search for happiness never ends, Padukone has a lot going for her at the moment. Last year she filmed her first Hollywood role — in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage — as the lead female opposite Vin Diesel. That’s a hell of a way to make an entrance to Tinsel Town.
But still there is this curious dichotomy of the all-conquering movie star who never quite let go of her vulnerability. An example: on the nape of her neck is a tattoo that displays the initials of Ranbir Kapoor, her ex-Significant Other. The breakup was not a good one but she’s never hid from the experience. It’s a mark of experience. A signifier of life’s joys and tribulations.
There has been talk of relationships since then, including aspiring actor Siddharth Mallya and, more recently, Ranveer Singh. Whatever. It is her business and her business alone.
Suffice it to say that she has lived alone through this journey. “I’ve been through the grind where I’ve come home and there’s no dinner,” she told Filmfare. “I’ve forgotten to order it and I’ve slept on an empty stomach. I can proudly say that I own my home today and I’ve worked bloody hard for it.”
So this is where she is today. The most-liked Indian actress on Facebook (32.89 million); over 13 million Instagram followers. In 2016, Forbes ranked her as the tenth highest-paid actress in the world, with an annual income of $10 million. And yes, she regularly tops the world for most beautiful woman. Those statistics make her a more than worthy Esquire International Woman of the Year.
But why exactly now? We’ll leave it to her co-star Vin Diesel to explain. “My love for her can’t be put in words,” he said recently. “She is so special. I feel blessed to be a part of introducing her to the whole world because the next global superstar is coming from India.”