More Glamour Than Acting: A Critique Of Deepika Padukone’s Recent Choices

It is to the credit of Deepika that she took a big risk with her glamorous image when she produced and acted in ‘Chhapaak’ (2020).
published in southfirst

Deepika Padukone has always been a glamorous star. But earlier, she used to balance glamour with acting.

But of late, it has been more glamour and less acting.

Starting with Gehraiyaan (2022), Pathaan (2023), Jawan (2023) and now, Fighter (2024), all followed the same route — all in two years.

It is not that Deepika did not have her share of good performances.

For instance, in Shoojit Sircar’s Piku (2015), the actor shared the screen space with the legendary Amitabh Bachchan and the late Irrfan Khan. And still, she held her own opposite these stalwarts.

Lost in Bhansali’s grandeur 

Deepika Padukone in Padmaavat
Deepika Padukone in ‘Padmaavat’. (X)

In her first collaboration with Sanjay Leela Bhansali — Ram Leela (2013), Deepika Padukone delivered a performance that had the right mixture of spunk and vulnerability.

In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) and Tamasha (2015), there was both glamour and acting.

In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, her character goes from being a nerd to a more confident woman.

Deepika pulled off the different shades with finesse.

In Tamasha, the actor had less screen time. Nevertheless, she did make her scenes count.

The song sequence “Agar Tum Saath Ho”, in particular, deserves a mention.

But Deepika Padukone was disappointing in two of Bhansali’s big films — Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018), where she was central to the plot.

The Bollywood actor could have done so much more but confined herself to looking glamorous.

In both these films, Deepika was overshadowed by Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh respectively.

Her choice of roles

Deepika Padukone in ‘Chhapaak’. (X)

It is to the credit of Deepika Padukone that she took a huge risk with her glamorous image when she produced and acted in Chhapaak (2020). The Bollywood film was based on a real-life acid attack survivor named Lakshmi.

Performance-wise, Deepika was good, and credit has to be given to her for taking a risk like Chhapaak. However, the movie suffered from a documentary-style approach, and the key flashback portion required more heft in terms of writing and acting.

The financial failure of Chhapaak seems to have had an impact on Deepika’s selection of roles. This is visible from Gehraiyaan (2022).

Directed by Shakun Batra, Gehraiyaan was a keenly anticipated film, given the critical and commercial success of his Kapoor and Sons (2016). It was a complicated relationship drama. In the name of performance, Deepika Padukone was mostly seen doing only intimate scenes with Siddanth Chaturvedi’s Zain.

The focus was more on glamour rather than delivering a solid performance. In fact, Ananya Pandey was much better in the few emotional scenes that she got. The characterisation of Alisha also did not help Deepika Padukone. The best example of this is the portion involving the pregnancy drama.

Lost in action

Deepika Padukone in Pathaan
Deepika Padukone in ‘Pathaan’. (X)

In Pathaan, Deepika  Padukone made for a good action heroine. The actor was fluid in her movements as the Pakistani agent named Rubai. But there was no stand-out emotional scene. Even the love story between her and Shah Rukh jumped out of nowhere.

The highlight of Deepika’s presence remained the controversial “Besharam Rang” song. In Atlee’s Jawan, Deepika Padukone comes only in the second half as the wife of father Shah Rukh Khan.

In that extended special appearance, she has only two moods — one is anguish, and the other is sadness. On top of that, Deepika’s portions majorly slowed down the proceedings and brought the screenplay to a grinding halt.

Now, in her latest outing Fighter, Deepika Padukone’s character is supposed to represent women’s empowerment. She goes against her father’s wishes to become a fighter pilot.

However, for most of the flick, she is required to flirt and look at Hrithik Roshan’s Patty with adoration. She is supposed to heal him. Even the strained relationship with her father ends only because of Hrithik’s character. There is a glazed look that Deepika Padukone carries, throughout Fighter, which is painful to watch.

Even the scenes of her operating the fighter plane resemble a man driving an auto. Glamorous characters can also have substance, a case in point being Deepika’s Cocktail (2016). In the film, she plays an angst-ridden rich girl. The actor looked stunning as always and was impressive performance-wise.

Deepika Padukone and the power position

Deepika Padukone is in a position where she can pick and choose roles that showcase both her beauty and acting. The actor need not settle with the likes of Pathaan and Fighter. It is high time that the Bollywood actor gives more importance to the role she plays rather than acting with big male stars.

For example, when Vicky Kaushal acted with Alia Bhatt in Raazi (2018), he was not such a prominent name as he is now. Similarly, Shantanu Maheshwari was a rank newcomer when he worked with Alia in Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022).

In both films, Alia Bhatt gave more importance to the part and the story rather than focusing on the commercial viability of her male actors.

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