NEW DELHI :
Deepika Padukone doesn’t need a hero, on screen or in life. Much lauded for carrying massively critically-acclaimed films, such as Cocktail (2012), Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (2013), Piku (2015) and even Padmaavat (2018), on her slender shoulders, she is part of the new Bollywood brigade that likes to keep it real, relatable and grounded, instead of appearing aspirational and larger-than-life. That is why it comes as no surprise that Hindi cinema’s highest-paid female actor has chosen to not just tell the real-life story of an acid attack survivor for her latest outing, but also abandon the conventional tropes of gloss and glamour (essentially de-beautify herself) to draw people to theatres and have them shell out a minimum of ₹300 for a ticket and at least two-and-a-half hours of their lifetime.
Also read: Deepika’s JNU visit: She has character and conviction
Padukone’s Chhapaak is unfortunately slated for theatrical release in the midst of much political turmoil and, like every other person in India at the moment, it’s impossible for either film stars or the movie business to remain insulated from the chaos. Especially in this era of intense social media engagement, it becomes almost imperative for celebrities, such as Padukone, to take a stand, particularly when the movement is being driven by the youth of this country, which also happens to be the primary movie-going audience. That is why the actor’s visit to Jawaharlal Nehru University on Tuesday night, to express solidarity for those brutally attacked on Sunday, is brave, but also incredibly smart and well-timed. We will never know if Padukone would have visited the campus had she been a year away from a movie release, but the truth is nothing she or her producers have done for the film’s marketing campaign so far has generated even half the positive buzz that her visit did. Colleagues from the movie industry, stand-up comics and political writers, usually intensely critical of Bollywood’s spinelessness, have collectively heralded the dawn of a new era where populist faces will stand up for what is right, a move that goes perfectly with India’s millennial population that does not believe in taking it lying down. For more proof, check #HumDekhengeChhapaak trending on Twitter.