Genelia received her first Filmfare Award in 2006 for her performance in the Telugu romantic film, Bommarillu, which earned her critical acclaim. In 2008, she gave critically acclaimed performances in Santosh Subramaniam, a Tamil remake of Bommarillu, and the Bollywood movie Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na. Having acted in several commercially successful movies in Telugu and Tamil, Genelia has established herself as one of the leading actresses of the South Indian film industry. In addition to mainstream acting, Genelia has hosted the television show Big Switch, and is the brand ambassador of Fanta, Virgin Mobile India, Fastrack, LGMobiles, Garnier Light, Margo, and Perk in India.
Genelia did her first modeling assignment at the age of 15, the result of being spotted as the bridesmaid at a wedding. She was selected for the Parker Pen commercial with Amitabh Bachchan, just two days before her exams, and had to shoot the next day. Initially she refused, because of her exam the next day, but the director persuaded Genelia to shoot for the commercial. She gained wide attention from the Parker Pen commercial with Amitabh Bachchan, who said “she was good, and her expressions were spontaneous”. She further did a Fair and Lovely2003 Cricket World Cup advertisement with cricketer Krishnamachari Srikkanth.
When Genelia was offered a role in Tujhe Meri Kasam, initially she turned it down, as she was not keen to pursue a career in acting. But the crew insisted and kept contacting her for two months, and she agreed when she saw the Telugu version of the movie. Tamil director, S. Shankar, was impressed with her performance in the Parker Pen commercial and decided to cast her in a leading role in his 2003 Tamil film Boys. Genelia was selected among 300 girls, who had auditioned for the movie. She signed three movies simultaneously in three different languages, Tujhe Meri Kasam (Hindi), Boys (Tamil), and Satyam (Telugu).
Genelia’s professional movie career began, with her Bollywood debut Tujhe Meri Kasam in 2003. Film critic Taran Adarsh noted, “Genelia is a wonderful performer. She catches you unaware with a performance that’s natural to the core.” The film was a box-office success. However, it could not do much to propel her career in Bollywood. Later, she decided to act in South Indian films. The same year, she made her Tamil debut as the teenage girl Harini in Boys, a story about five teenagers having stereotypical teen-boy fantasies. The movie, though noted for its vulgar sexual content, was a box-office success, and subsequently she started receiving Telugu film offers. She left Tamil cinema for a while to concentrate on the Telugu film industry. She made her Telugu debut in 2003 as a medical student in Satyam.Sify noted in their review that, “Genelia is excellent as her body language is her major asset.” The movie was well received, and it raised her profile in the Telugu film industry.
In 2004, Genelia appeared in her second Bollywood movie, Masti. The comedy focuses on three close friends who reunite after three years, but are now married and are being harassed by their wives. Genelia portrayed the character of one of the wives.Taran Adarsh was complimentary of Genelia’s role, saying, “Amongst the wives, Genelia is the best, […] Genelia looks the stern and demanding wife and is sure to be noticed.” The film was a box-office success. The same year, she appeared in two Telugu moviesSamba, and Sye, both succeeding at the box-office.
After appearing in her first Telugu movie in 2005, Naa Alludu, she starred in the Tamil romantic entertainer Sachein. A review in The Hindu noted, “Genelia, who hardly made an impression in Boys, makes much impact in Sachein.” The movie evoked mixed response from audiences, but was well received with the younger generation. She later appeared in the Telugu patriotic movie Subhash Chandra Bose.
The year 2006 marked a significant turning point in Genelia’s career. She completed two Telugu movies in early 2006, one was the romantic comedy Happy, and the other was Raam. She then portrayed the role of Haasini, a vibrant, effervescent and a happy-go-lucky young girl, in the 2006 Telugu romantic film Bommarillu. The movie, a blockbuster at the box-office, grossed ₹250 million (US$3.7 million) in India, and also won the 2006 Golden Nandi award. Her character was well received, and garnered her the Telugu Filmfare Award for Best Actress, besides Nandi Special Jury Award and Santosham Award for Best Actress. Sify concluded about her acting in their review that, “The scene stealer is Genelia with her innocent looks and cute mannerisms. She does not overact and we just fall in love with her character. Genelia looks like a dream in chic skirts and is the life of the party and raises the bar of the film.”
Following the success of Bommarillu, Genelia played the role of the daughter of a local don, in the Tamil gangster film Chennai Kadhal alongside Boys co-star Bharath.Rediff.com criticized her commenting, “Genelia stands up yet again to prove the point that if you are pretty and well dressed, you can get away with anything, without acting.”Shortly afterwards in 2007, Genelia played the role of sister of a notorious gangster in the blockbuster Telugu movie Dhee, set against a gang war backdrop.
The following year, Genelia appeared in the 2008 Telugu romantic thriller Mr. Medhavi, in which she portrayed the role of a student from Canada. The movie was successful,with Rediff.com complimenting her performance saying, “Genelia is her effervescent self – full of joie-de-vivre and lights up the screen.” She made her Kannada debut in Satya in Love the same year. Later, she was cast in a leading role in Santhosh Subramaniam, a Tamil remake of Bommarillu. The film also turned out to be rather successful as its predecessor. Sify described Genelia’s portrayal as “the soul of the film” and the film’s “biggest strength”, however Rediff.com described her character as “appears a little too good to be true.”
Return to Bollywood and recent work, June 2008–present
In June 2008, following a nearly five-year hiatus in Bollywood, she appeared in Mere Baap Pehle Aap, which failed to make profit at the box-office. A Rediff review noted, “besides her apparent cuteness, brings in tons of freshness and traits to the youthful characters she chooses to play”, while a Sify review criticized her stating, “Genelia is sprightly but has a standard two-three expressions bank in this film.” She later appeared in the Telugu love story Ready alongside Ram, which was well received. Her breakthrough performance in 2008 was through the portrayal of the role of Aditi Mahant in the blockbuster Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na, which was an economic success across India and overseas, grossing ₹564 million (US$8.4 million). Her role was widely admired for her sweetness and freshness, and new style of acting, with Rediff describing her acting as a “spark that has been missing in Hindi cinema for well over a decade now”. In that same year, Genelia acted in the Telugu romantic comedy Sasirekha Parinayam. The movie received favorable reviews, and Sify noted in their review that, “The life of the film is definitely Genelia and she has shown the varied emotions from innocence, sadness, romance and anger in equal proportions without a hitch.”
In 2009, Genelia was cast in the Hindi film Life Partner, in which she was criticized for her performance. Indian film critic Rajeev Masand commented, “The adorable little imp fromJaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na has turned into a nagging harridan in this film, and how you wish she’d immediately enroll for acting lessons.” Her next appearance in 2009 was in the Telugu thriller Katha, which was well received, and for which she won the 2009 Nandi Special Jury Award. In 2010, Genelia appeared in Chance Pe Dance and Orange, both receiving poor reviews from critics, but her Uthama Puthiran was a moderate success in Tamil.