Ms. Representation: Deepika Padukone is the hero we don't deserve but need
This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema and this week we take a look at Deepika Padukone who plays the titular Padmavati
Perhaps never before has such a dark spell chased an actress in Indian cinema. There is now a bounty on Deepika Padukone’s head with tacit support from the powers that be. For portraying a fictional queen. Deepika has been targeted in the most vicious manner as if she were the mythical Shoorpanaka (someone has said they will chop her nose off) and through it all she has been admirably calm. And admirably firm. And when asked about the controversy and if she's worried, she placed her trust on the judiciary. What a hero. Could there have been a better response?
She also caught our attention when she broke the silence around mental health, talking about her own battle with depression, and coming out of it. She also does some stellar work to promote good mental health. Another rarity especially for someone at the peak of their career, for she is undeniably among the biggest stars today.
On and off screen Deepika has almost always been an admirable actor to watch. From being the Dreamy Girl in Om Shanti Om, to the really relatable Piku and playing the stunning Mastani to Ranveer's Bajirao, she has built up an enviable repertoire – reminding one suddenly of Hema Malini and then of Rekha and Meena Kumari and then dazzling us with her own inimitable self – like she does in Piku and Tamasha.
Deepika lights up every frame she enters – her screen presence especially post Love Aaj Kal, making every film she is in worth watching. Here’s another interesting thing about her. Within the confines of commercial Bollywood cinema, Deepika has managed to stray as far away from the staid 'heroine' role. Be it as Veronica in the infamous Cocktail, or as the stalkerish Tara Maheswari in Tamasha, she comes across as someone who isn’t really carefully building up some kind of image. Rather, as someone who brings a new outsider energy to a Bollywood that is all but kind to outsiders. Though she is someone’s daughter, someone important, one doubts if that’s helped her in any way.
Here's what I love most about Deepika though (apart from her amazing sense of style and all those beautiful earrings I so admire)… It’s how she comes across as being a sincere woman, working hard for her place and then claiming her space. Can the many Senas lay off?
P.S.: In many versions of Ramayana, Shoorpanaka is indeed a woman wronged. Her only crime, admiring Rama.