Deepika wins IIFA's 20 Years Special Award for Chennai Express! Are we serious?

Deepika Padukone receiving The IIFA 20 Years Special Award

It’s been 12 years since Deepika Padukone’s big screen debut; looks like it was just yesterday that we got introduced to the young debutant beaming in a blush retro outfit, balancing the bulky bouffant hair-do, casting a spell through her dramatically elongated winged eye-liner. Violins went off in our heads as we joined Shah Rukh Khan in his ode, “Aankhon mein teri, ajab si ajab si adayein hain…”.

It isn’t easy for a new comer to share screen with King Khan, but the 21-year-old was determined and got her caliber acknowledged by conversant industry gurus and basic cine-goers alike. Bollywood finally found its next female lead, who could fill the void created as actresses like Karisma Kapoor, Kajol and Rani distanced themselves from the industry, accepted fewer roles and turned home-ward.

In this past decade, Deepika scaled the steep heights of Bollywood success, quite a dream indeed, for an “outsider”. Cocktail, Piku, and Tamasha are just a few titles on the never-ending list of her high-grossing movies. She has left her audience hunting for their jaws on the floor of the multiplex umpteen times. And yet, we witnessed her collecting the award for Best Performance In A Leading Role-Female For IIFA 20 years for her performance in Chennai Express. CHENNAI EXPRESS. What a disappointment!

When she was accorded the IIFA award for Best Actor (Female) for this very movie in 2014, even the most hopeless fanboys of Deepika had a tough time stomaching that Meenamma of Chennai Express had defeated Rani played by Kangana Ranaut in Queen the same year.

Fast forward to 2019, and judges at the International Indian Film Academy Awards pass off the depiction of Meenalochni “fake Tamil accent that sounds more like a sad rip off of Daksha ben of Kyuki saas bhi kabhi..” Azhagusundaram, as the best performance by a female actor in 20 years. And, they expect us to buy this bluff? How about, ‘NO’?

The industry is no more a male dominant one. Glamorous divas, these days, are not limited to a tight perimeter around a leafy tree to prance around. Strong and independent characters for Bollywood’s meritorious women have been written prudently, enacted impeccably, and applauded generously in the past 20 years. We have lauded numerous movies led by female protagonists in the recent years and have not shied away from recognizing the mastery in their craft

To say, Tabu as the housewife in Astitva, struggling to find an identity beyond the four walls of her matrimony, Karisma Kapoor as an ill-fated queen in a newly-Independent, conservative India in Zubeidaa, Raveena Tandon as the victim of a violent marriage in Daman, Konkona Sen Sharma as a timid young Brahmin mother caught in sectarian violence in Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Rani Mukherjee as the deaf-blind Michelle McNally in Black, Vidya Balan as the love-struck Lalita in Parineeta, and a myriad other powerful performances were slighted when the award for best performance in 20 years was handed to Deepika for Chennai Express, would only be an exoneration for the jury and its faulty pronouncement.

Cine-goers are not over Geet of Jab We Met yet, they are still drawing inspiration from Sashi of English-Vinglish, are in awe of Laila of Margarita With a Straw, and will romance Veera of Highway some more. IIFA has blatantly underestimated the memory of Indian viewers assuming they have forgotten Jhilmil Chatterjee of Barfi!, Vidya Venkatesan Bagchi of Kahaani or Meera of NH 10. The audience keep going back to Mrinal of Pink, Rajjo of Gulab Gang, and Ila of Lunch Box – all of them snubbed by IIFA in their respective years of release. Shameful!!!

Let’s say, IIFA was committed to decorate Deepika Padukone with the award that carried a legacy of 20 years. But, weren’t there better choices laid in front of them? Bajirao Mastani, Padmavat, or Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani would have made a better excuse, a safer choice, and would have raised fewer eye-brows.

It’s not for nothing these awards are losing their significance, and viewers have quit drooling over winners who take these trophies home.