Deepika Padukone Landed Her First Movie Role Without Even Auditioning

Before Deepika Padukone became Bollywood’s biggest star, she was just a local runway model living in Bangalore. Her claim to fame came in the opportunity to star in Om Shanti Om, a film about an aspiring actor who falls in love with the biggest star in India, set in the 1970s. Speaking to for our fall digital cover, Padukone talks about how she landed her first lead role.

Choreographer and then-breakout director Farah Khan, who previously met Padukone for a project that ended up getting shelved, called in the actress for a few meetings and a “look test,” which would transform her into the style of a 1970s star. “When she wore that costume and that hairstyle, she looked stunning,” Khan tells Afterward, Padukone was offered the role without auditioning.

“Everybody said, ‘What’s wrong with you? Any top actress in the country would give an arm and a leg to do this movie,'” Khan said. “I said, ‘No, I want to launch her.’

Om Shanti Om ended up earning 12 Filmfare Award nominations, the highest honor for film in India. Padukone won the Filmfare Award for Best Newcomer.

The now-renowned Bollywood actress says, “I should go back and ask them, ‘What were you guys thinking? Why did you not audition me? Why did you risk crores of rupees on me?'” To which, Khan says, “I just had a gut feeling.”

Khan also recalls that although Padukone had little professional experience, she remained poised and eager to improve. On her first day on set, she remembers seeing Padukone visibly shaking. “For the first time I realized, ‘Oh, my God, she’s nervous,'” the director says. “Because she always took everything in stride. If she had butterflies in her stomach, it never showed on her face.”

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