Her next film was Prakash Jha's socio-political drama Aarakshan, co-starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Manoj Bajpayee and Prateik Babbar, which dealt with the political issue of caste-based reservations in India.Trade journalists had high expectations for the film which ultimately flopped at the box office.With a worldwide gross of Padukone had five film releases in 2010.
She later explained, "I realised that I was playing the game only because it ran in the family.
So, I asked my father if I could give up the game and he wasn't upset at all." Set against the backdrop of the Hindi film industry, the film tells the story of a struggling actor in the 1970s who dies soon after witnessing the murder of the woman he loved and is reincarnated to avenge her death.
Shah Rukh Khan starred as the protagonist, and Padukone featured in dual roles—Shantipriya, a leading actress of the 1970s, and later as Sandy, an aspiring actress. It was also fantastic that Farah showed faith in my talent and cast me opposite him." In preparation for her role, Padukone watched several films of actresses Helen and Hema Malini to study their body language, which she felt "were more graceful" and "completely different from today's actors." Taran Adarsh of the entertainment portal Bollywood Hungama reviewed, "Deepika has all it takes to be a top star—the personality, the looks and yes, she's supremely talented too.
She said, "I've grown up watching [Shah Rukh] and always admired him so much. Standing in the same frame as [Shah Rukh] and getting it right is no small achievement. " She followed this success with the role of Gayatri (one of star Ranbir Kapoor's love interests), a feisty student in Australia who moonlights as a cab driver in Yash Raj Films' romantic comedy Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008).
Padukone began 2011 with an item number in Rohan Sippy's Dum Maaro Dum.