Deepika Padukone's phenomenal rise from top model to Cannes festival juror and global star

The Bollywood actress and new Louis Vuitton ambassador is one of the most influential stars in India today

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After naming Bollywood star Deepika Padukone as one of its 100 "most influential people in the world" in 2018, Time magazine this year honoured the actress again at their inaugural Time100 Impact Awards. The event, held in Dubai in March, recognised those who have made a significant impact on their industries and the world at large.

It's a testament to Padukone's stunning rise in the film industry, and how she's using her name as a force for good, particularly in her work for mental health issues.

That storied French label Louis Vuitton would name her an ambassador, the first from India, only days before she attends the Cannes Film Festival as a member of the jury, is just added bonus to the career of this former sportswoman and model Vogue India calls "the most influential actor in the Indian film industry right now".

“Padukone has been touted as one of Indian cinema’s most loved and successful actresses to date, and her achievements have made her an icon of recent times," Louis Vuitton said when announcing their collaboration last week.

An early start

epa01207905 Indian model and bollywood actress Deepika Padukone holds a new LG Viewly, LG-KU990 mobile phone during its launch in New Delhi, India, 24 December 2007. LG launched this mobile phone with 5 mega pixel camera with the 120fps video recording function.  EPA/STR

The daughter of Indian badminton star Prakash Padukone and his wife Ujjala, Padukone decided at a young age that she wanted to follow in her father's footsteps, and began to play competitively while still in high school in Bangalore. During this time, she was also taking on the odd modelling assignment, having started as a child model at the age of 8.

By the time she turned 18, she had bagged her first major advertising campaign, something that would spur her to drop out of school, ditch badminton and pursue modelling full time.

"I realised that I was playing the game only because it ran in the family. So, I asked my father if I could give up the game and he wasn't upset at all," she told The Times of India in 2004. "He has always told my sister and I to do what we are wholeheartedly interested in and to do it well."

Padukone's younger sister Anisha is a professional golfer.

In 2006, Padukone appeared in the annual Kingfisher Calendar, then known for launching some of India's top models. And by the time she was 21, she'd moved to the entertainment capital of Mumbai, the home of Bollywood.

A star is born

During her first year in Mumbai working the modelling circuit, Padukone was cast in a music video for singer Himesh Reshammiya’s song Naam Hain Tera. Filmmaker Farah Khan, who was then looking for a fresh face to cast in her next film, spotted Padukone in the video and invited her for an audition.

The 2007 fantasy musical, Om Shanti Om, starring superstar Shah Rukh Khan and Padukone, would become a critical and commercial hit, turning her into a star overnight.

Padukone next appeared in 2008's Bachna Ae Haseeno, alongside then up-and-coming actor Ranbir Kapoor, with whom she was in a relationship for about two years. Yet, despite her high-profile Bollywood debut and a few big-budget films, including 2009's Chandni Chowk to China and 2010 Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, major success eluded her.

It was 2012's Cocktail that would prove a turning point for Padukone, who won acclaim for her performance in the romantic comedy. Her role as a party girl headed down a path of self-destruction was lauded by critics and the film was a major box office success.

Padukone then followed it up with major hits such as 2013's Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Chennai Express, in which she reunited with her Om Shanti Om co-star Khan.

Later that year, Padukone appeared along with her future husband Ranveer Singh in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, which was another commercial success. The pair's crackling chemistry would inspire director Sanjay Leela Bhansali to cast them in two more films, Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018), both major box office successes.

Padukone has also proven her versatility in films such as 2015's Piku, a dysfunctional but heartwarming father-daughter story, in which she starred with veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan and the late Irrfan Khan. In 2020, she played acid-attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal in Chhapaak, in a retelling of her tragic and ultimately hopeful story. This year, Padukone won rave reviews for her role in Gehraiyaan, which explores complicated relationships seen through the lens of familial trauma.

In 2017, Padukone made her Hollywood debut, starring in Vin Diesel's xXx: Return of Xander Cage. In his profile of her for Time's 100 most influential people list, Diesel writes that he had wanted to cast Padukone in the Fast & Furious films, but her schedule did not permit it.

epa05713278 US actor Vin Diesel (L) and Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone (R) pose for pictures during the promotional event of their upcoming movie 'xXx: The Return of Xander Cage' in Mumbai, India, 12 January 2017. The movie releases in India on 14 January 2017.  EPA/DIVYAKANT SOLANKI

"When Deepika Padukone came in to read for one of the Fast and the Furious films, I knew instantly I was in the presence of someone very special. As soon as she entered the room, there was a synchronicity, a synergy, a chemistry — it promised great things to come," he said. "She was the first role we cast in xXx: Return of Xander Cage. She said, 'I want to do this movie, but if I do, you have to come to India.' Thank God I made that deal."

Scroll through the gallery below for some of Deepika Padukone's most memorable roles:

Activism beyond the movies

Padukone is one of the few stars whose social activism goes beyond only lip service — something that's earned her praise and respect. Diagnosed with clinical depression in 2014, she's spoken extensively about her experience and in 2015 launched The Live Love Laugh Foundation, which works to destigmatise mental health issues and raise awareness. It also runs a free counselling service and trains primary care physicians to better identify and treat mental health conditions.

Padukone's sister Anisha serves as the chief executive of the foundation.

“I had such a deep experience with mental illness. Not talking about it felt dishonest,” Padukone told Time magazine.

In 2020, the World Economic Forum honoured Padukone with the Crystal Award for her work in spreading awareness about mental health.

"Depression is a common medical illness. It is important to understand that anxiety and depression are like any other illness and are treatable. Acceptance is the first step to recovery," she said, while receiving the award.

How much is Deepika Padukone worth?

Bollywood star and India's first Louis Vuitton ambassador Deepika Padukone in the brand's latest campaign for Dauphine leather goods. Photo: Louis Vuitton

Padukone's list of endorsements is almost endless, including top global brands Tissot, Maybelline, Coca-Cola and L'Oreal Paris. In 2019, she was second in India on the most powerful celebrity brand list of Duff & Phelps, the global valuation and corporate finance advisors, with an estimated brand value of $102.5 million, coming only behind former Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli, whose brand value is estimated at $170.9m.

According to Forbes India, Padukone is also one of the biggest celebrity investors, placing her bets on several start-ups, including Bellatrix Aerospace, BluSmart, FrontRow and Atomberg Technologies. She has also appeared in advertisements for Epigamia, for a line of chocolate and ghee spreads she co-­created for the brand. Padukone is also a ­strategic investor in Drums Food International, the makers of Epigamia, through her company Ka Enterprises.

Meanwhile, she's been busy behind the camera, too, as her company Ka Productions produced two hits — Chhapaak (2020) and 83, the cricket film starring her husband Singh in the lead, which had its world premiere at Jeddah's inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival — last year.

The decision to turn producer was not financially driven, she told Deccan Chronicle in 2019.

“The only bone in me that is number-driven is when it comes to being conservative in spending money. But I have not turned producer to make more money,” she said. “The reason is to have a more creative involvement or creatively enable a film.”

That said, the productions, acting fees, brand endorsements, business ventures, properties and investments, as well as an enviable collection of luxury cars that reportedly includes a Mercedes-Maybach S500, all adds up to a pretty penny that's been estimated at about $40m, according to various reports.

If her recent success is anything to go by, that figure is only set to get bigger in the years to come.

Deepika Padukone's style evolution — in pictures:

Updated: May 28, 2022, 9:24 AM
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