5 Things That Make Us Fangirl Over Deepika… And No, It Isn’t What You Think!

With her influence and lived experience, Deepika being vocal about mental health is crucial. Especially when you hear irresponsible statements from other celebrities. 

Deepika Padukone is everywhere. Whether she’s nailing her look at the Cannes as the jury member, scorching the covers of the Vogue magazine with her fierce looks, making heads turn at the Paris Fashion Week as the global ambassador for Louis Vuitton, or talking about her marriage and mental health on Meghan Markle’s podcast, Archetypes on Spotify. I’m sure she’ll keep going places with her fortitude.

Deepika shows us how just being YOU is beautiful

Like Sridevi, Deepika Padukone has a thick South Indian accent. In her initial years, Shobha De publicly derided Deepika, calling her an average looking “Verni” (vernacular speaking person).

“Deepika Padukone is the sexiest woman on earth? Are you kidding me? She would not win a Miss Dombivali contest. I mean look at her closely. Go-on jawline? Too wide eyes? Bulging hairline? Untidy speech? Verni.”

Even though the article is ancient, I’m yet to get over De’s atrocious statement in it—that sweet Deepika is like kori roti, which needs fiery chutney to spice up the taste. De doesn’t even know that kori roti is spicy on its own, that it doesn’t even need a hot chutney as accompaniment. Even if it did, the objectification is crass.

While beauty is subjective, there was no need for De to be unnecessarily mean, especially to someone who’s starting their career. Shobha De took advantage of her privilege and today sings a different tune for Padukone, now that she’s successful. Isn’t it divine justice that Deepika Padukone is now the only Indian in the mathematically most beautiful celebrities Top 10 list in the world?

While there’s no judgement on others who opt for cosmetic procedures, Deepika Padukone remains among the few who refuse to go that route. In her initial years as an actor, people advised her to do breast implant surgery. “I was all of 18 and I often wonder how I had the wisdom to not take it seriously.” She also called out the rumours that she did skin lightening surgery as bizarre and untrue.

Deepika made conversations on mental health go mainstream

Padukone was the first who broke the silence around mental health in her interview with Barkha Dutt after being diagnosed as clinically depressed in 2014. She didn’t just talk about it, but started the LiveLoveLaugh (LLL) foundation to shatter the myths and taboos surrounding mental health.

I was scrolling YouTube when I came across a film journalist who recalled his interview with Deepika Padukone for her movie promotions. His co-host asked Deepika about Ranbir Kapoor, which allegedly triggered her to sob uncontrollably. It had been two years after their breakup, and before she dated Ranveer Singh, her husband. Everyone on the sets was shocked at Deepika’s breakdown and didn’t know how to handle the situation.

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After her marriage, people questioned the need for her to be depressed when she has it all. But like physical illnesses, mental conditions like depression can happen to anyone at any point in time.

With her influence and lived experience, Deepika being vocal about mental health is crucial. Especially when you hear irresponsible statements from other celebrities. Salman Khan has said that he didn’t have the luxury to be depressed, implying that it was a choice. Kapil Dev has said he doesn’t understand American words like pressure and depression.

Then there’s Kangana Ranaut who attacked Padukone for running a ‘depression ki dukan’ and doing ‘depression ka dhanda’. While I like Kangana for her candidness, and resilience, she’s been abusive on so many other counts. Even if we boil this down to professional rivalry or incompatibility, trivialising someone’s pain publicly is vicious, even out of ignorance on the subject.

In her interview with Meghan Markle on the Archetypes podcast, Deepika opened up,

“I woke up one morning and everything was going well: my films were a success, I had a beautiful relationship, a supportive family but it just sort of came out of the blue. I woke up and felt my blood pressure drop and then the next thing I knew my life just felt meaningless. I didn’t want to live anymore, you know. I just didn’t want to get out of bed and I struggled with this for many, many months.”

Deepika credits her mother, Ujjwala Padukone, for noticing the signs of depression in her, and urging her to consider professional help. “There’s not a single day that goes by without me thinking about my mental health. Every part of my life today is to ensure that I don’t go back into that dark place again.”

Today, Deepika advocates normalising mental health conversations. She’s expanding the LLL foundation’s rural community health program and also focusing on the caregivers for people battling with mental health.

“The emotional well-being of the caregiver is as important as the emotional well-being of the person experiencing mental illness.”

Standing up openly for what she believes in

Whether it was getting a tattoo of Ranbir’s initials on her nape (which she’s removed), doing unconventional roles or her marriage with Ranveer Singh, Deepika has always been true to herself.

She became a polarising figure in the country, when she stood in union with the JNU students in their protests against the government. While people called it a publicity stunt for her maiden production, Chhapaak, I called it a movie suicide. Which producer would self-sabotage their movie by going against the majority? Little do people know that Deepika Padukone’s political choice has always leaned towards secularism.

Her political choice, like ours, is her personal right. Irrespective of what her spouse or anyone believes, she is not answerable to anyone for her political leanings and actions.

She received flak for her outfits and kissing scenes with Siddhant Chaturvedi in Gehraiyaan as it’s not expected from any decent married woman. There were also sympathy calls for Ranveer Singh, as many wondered how he ‘allowed’ his wife to kiss her co-actors in a film. But Deepika has done something similar in Tamasha with her ex-boyfriend, Ranbir Kapoor, when she was dating Ranveer Singh.

Why should anything in an artist’s life change after their marriage? Nobody raises their brows when married actors do intimate scenes with women half their ages on screen? As for a thorough professional like Deepika Padukone, she’s always maintained being true to her ‘role’, whether or not she believes in it.

She broke stereotypes and ceilings despite being from outside the industry

Deepika Padukone has come a long way since I saw her debut in the Kannada movie, Aishwarya. She’s been a trendsetter. The first to shatter the myth that models cannot act.

She’s only been improving and mastering the craft of acting ever since her blockbuster debut, Om Shanti Om with Shah Rukh Khan, directed by Farah Khan. Every time I see her on screen, she keeps getting more natural in her performances. She’s shown us anything is possible if we are sincere and committed to learning.

In the insider vs outsiders debate on nepotism, it’s funny how we don’t talk enough about Deepika Padukone’s gritty success story. But her story stands tall alongside the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Anushka Sharma, or Akshay Kumar. She had no film connections, godfathers and godmothers to attribute her success to.

Proving kindness is not weakness

As much as I like Shobha De for her candour, she does carry a condescending tone at times. I’m glad Deepika Padukone proved her wrong on all accounts. You don’t need to be a certain cup size or type to be sexy or beautiful. You don’t need to speak in a certain accent to communicate with people or be successful in life.

On that note, it’s high time we stopped mocking people for speaking any language in their vernacular accent. Have you noticed Deepika makes no efforts to change her accent to adapt to an international audience?

I’ve never seen Deepika respond negatively to De, Ranaut, or anyone. I wonder if it’s because she feels things more deeply than others do and knows how words can hurt. Perhaps, she believes in saying nothing than saying something that’s unkind.

But yes, Deepika stands up for herself when she wants to. Like the time when Shobha De remarked that Deepika’s cleavage was as important as SRK’s eight-pack in one of her columns. Deepika responded, “I am a woman. I have breasts and a cleavage. Do you have a problem?”

Thank you, Deepika, for showing us that one’s strength can lie in their vulnerabilities, and is not a weakness!

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About the Author

Tina Sequeira

Tina Sequeira is an award-winning writer and marketer. Winner of the Rashtriya Gaurav Award in association with the Government of Telangana, Orange Flower Award by Women’s Web, India's leading website for women, read more...

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