Bollywood megastar Deepika Padukone was last seen in Farah Khan's 2014 action-heist comedy Happy New Year. Singing, dancing and larger than life in typical masala-movie form, Padukone delivered an excellent performance in what was otherwise a mediocre film.
Her latest film, Piku, pairs her with two of India's best-known actors, and strips her of every iota of glamour – but if the trailer is anything to go by, Padukone has done a fine job.
Portraying the dutiful daughter of a rather eccentric man, Padukone, 29, stars as architect Piku Banerjee, and veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan, 72, plays her father, Bhashkor Banerjee (whose life revolves around his unpredictable digestive system).
Director Shoojit Sircar's latest project also features 48-year-old Irrfan Khan – the crossover star lauded for his versatile roles in films such as The Namesake and Life of Pi – as Rana Chaudhary, who takes on the job of driver when father and daughter decide to go on a road trip from Varanasi to Kolkata. Predictably, Rana begins to fall in love with Piku.
Padukone has played the role of Bachchan's daughter once before, in Prakash Jha's 2011 drama Aarakshan. This is, however, the first time she has appeared alongside Khan, an actor who many find intimidating.
“I also expected him to be very serious,” Padukone said. “I thought that he would look down on me as ‘just a commercial actress’. But I didn’t find him like that at all.
“I met him for the first time on the set and our relationship in real life went through the same process as it did in the movie – we gradually got to know each other.”
Khan has been full of praise for Padukone.
"What Deepika does is she adds a kind of beauty into Piku," he said. While any actress could have played the role, he said, what Padukone brought to it was "a loving element. It's because of Deepika Padukone that everyone will be able to connect with Piku".
Although Khan and Padukone make an unlikely pairing judging by stereotypical Bollywood standards, Sircar says that Khan was always his first choice for the role.
"When we were writing the characters, we knew Irrfan would play Rana," says Sircar, whose 2012 film Vicky Donor won a National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.
The director draws a parallel between Vicky Donor and Piku, and explains how "family bonds and relationships are at the heart of" both.
“What makes a relationship between this father and daughter different from the way you have seen it on the silver screen is how freely they talk with one another and how progressive they are, individually and as a family,” says Sircar.
"Just like in Vicky Donor [where] the relationship between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law was unique and yet real, similarly in this film we hope that the way we have dealt with different relationships will stand out."
Bachchan describes his character as a “conventional, independent, thought-ridden and habituated Bengali”, while Padukone’s is a “modern, forward-thinking, multitasking, strong, opinionated yet conventional, conservative young girl”.
“I truly believe that there is a Piku in all of us,” said Padukone. “Piku is a very relatable character and every girl today will identify with what she goes through. It’s the story of all our lives.”
• Piku is out in cinemas on May 7