I have been mesmerised by Deepika Padukone since the first theatrical experience of my life – Om Shanti Om. But my favourite performance of hers, that I've watched countless times has to be Ayan Mukerji's Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. The movie is everything it promises to be, a rom-com and a dramatic, fun, coming of age entertainer.
Watching Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani as a preteen in 2013 was quite an experience for me because for the first time in my life I saw a beautiful, intelligent female protagonist who was shown to be focused and sorted. Deepika Padukone as Naina enamoured me, with her dedication. Be it studying or to having fun, whatever Naina did, she did it well.
Naina taught me that it's okay to take things slow when you feel overwhelmed, it's okay to fall for a man who doesn't like you back and it's also okay to not fit in. When Naina decides to go on a holiday in a spur of the moment decision, you root for her to get the vacation she yearns for. When she realises she has feelings for Bunny you want a happy ending for her and when she's not able to express her feelings to him you feel her pain. She manages to capture all these emotions and many more within the first half of the movie.
In the second half you see a mature, experienced, laid-back woman who has a successful career and content life. The dialogue "Aath saal beet gaye hai. Usne kabhi mudke nahi dekha aur maine intezar bhi nahi kiya" gives you all the context you need for her character. Although personally I find 'the girl meets boy who teaches her how to live life to the fullest' trope a little cheesy, I can't deny how well it works in the film! You want to be Naina throughout the duration of the film- at least I did- and as she figures out her feelings for the second time you can't help but feel for her once again. You go through the same feelings she does, you see the pain in her smile in 'Kabira' and you see her come to terms with the reality of her unattainable relationship with Bunny.
She navigates complex emotions throughout the course of the movie and handles every situation gracefully much like the actor who plays the role. Deepika as Naina captures the spirit of every girl who longs for an escape from the monotony of everyday life while appreciating everything she has. From an actress who gave us serious characters like Mastani and Padmaavati and light-hearted ones like Meenamma and Piku, Naina Talwar still occupies a special place in my heart.