It has been almost nine years since the release of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and I still remember watching it for the first time and being completely obsessed with it, so much so that I kept watching it again and again for the next one week. The best thing about that film for me was, and still is, Deepika Padukone's character – Naina Talwar.
Naina is introduced to us as a shy introverted girl, who likes studying medicine and keeping to herself. Her studious first-bencher personality is quite unlike the stereotypical nerdy character we are used to seeing – her studious nature is just a part of her personality. She is not having fun like her peers because she has no time, not because she does not like to have fun. Sometimes, we are so in love with what we are pursuing, be it work or studies, that we completely forget that we need a break from that too. The social media platforms are flooded with motivational quotes about pursuing work that seems like work to others, but actually feels like play for us. Even that can feel frustrating. Naina, irrespective of how much she likes studying medicine, realises that she needs a break and takes one.
The trip not only helps Naina discover new facets to her personality, it also makes her fall in love with who she already is. It helps her find joy, be it in the way she leads her life or in her silent unrequited love for Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor). When we meet her after eight years, we realise that she has imbibed the free-spirited nature of Bunny. Just like him, she lives in the moment and takes each day as it comes. On the other hand, he becomes who she was when they first met. He has the same list of all the places he wants to visit, but he no longer has the same passion and madness he once had. It has become more like ticking off boxes for him, not really living it. It is his meeting with Naina, after eight years, and her evolution into who she is, that reminds him of himself and how free-spirited he used to be. He is fascinated by her simplicity and her being at peace with herself, just like she was fascinated by his love for life, travel and adventure.
Naina is also the most compassionate friend. Over the course of eight years, she finds a close friend in Aditi (Kalki Koechlin) and becomes her support system when Bunny leaves for his higher studies and Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) fails to realise Aditi's unrequited love for him. Naina understands her silent heartbreak. When Bunny returns, she comforts him and and does not make him feel guilty about leaving his friends and family behind. She understands his drive to pursue his dreams and aspirations.
Growing up in the 2000s, I was obsessed with Hindi-language romantic comedies and Naina Talwar, in my opinion, is one of the most fleshed out and wholesome characters in that universe. She starts out as a shy, under-confident person who thinks she is not cool enough but evolves into a person, who is unapologetically in love with herself and her regular dal-chawal life. Deepika's command over her craft and her inherent charm makes the character, both aspirational and relatable. Although I have immensely loved Deepika's characters in Tamasha, Piku and so many others, but Naina occupies a special place in my heart as she has always been my go to fictional friend, on both good days and bad days.