Dutta signed up for the Tamil film, Arasatchi in 2002, but due to financial problems, it was only released in mid-2004. She made her Hindi debut in 2003 with the film Andaaz which was a box office success and won her a Filmfare Best Female Debut Award.
After her triumphant debut in Andaaz, Lara appeared with Abhishek Bachchan in the romance, Mumbai Se Aaya Mere Dost. From the modern-girl of her debut film, her second movie cast her in the role of traditional village girl. She had some great item numbers, but the film was mostly about Abhishek.
In 2004, however, she got down to business. She played the minor role of girlfriend later in the year for Aan: Men at Work. She followed Arasatchi, however, with this special, sexy item-number appearance in the ensemble cast film, Khakee.
However, 2004 wasn’t just about minor roles and bit-parts. She appeared in her first comedy, Masti. She played Monica: a con woman who took advantage of three men keen to have extra-marital affairs after they had all agreed they were frustrated with their wives. After each had had their “adventure”, they learned they had all seen the same woman. She’s pictured here with co-star, Vivek Oberoi.
To prove she wasn’t just an item girl or fantasy girl, she also appeared in Bobby Deol’s dramatic film, Bardaasht. Her character of Payal was not only the ex-girlfriend, but also the very intelligent, capable, and believably sensible attorney.
With seven films, 2005 has been her busiest year to date. Of those seven, however, two were special appearances. Of the remaining five, all were secondary roles in films that were nonetheless quite successful. The least successful was ironically the best. In Insan, she played Meghna. Though she was very enjoyable, the plot centered around the characters played by Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn.
Elaan and Dosti: Friends Forever were more moderately successful, but still cast Lara in minor roles. In Dosti, she was once again just the the girlfriend. Dosti was only an average grosser in India, however became the biggest hit of the year (for a Bollywood film) in overseas markets.
In Elaan, however, she got to change things up a little by playing Sonia; one of a group of people working to destroy a high-profile criminal in a revenge thriller. Though she was still playing a girlfriend (to John Abraham’s character), she got do do a lot more than just be appreciated by the male lead. In this still from the film, you can see that her character had been wounded in the effort.
But it was the final two films from 2005 that really made the year a success. The horror film, Kaal came in as the tenth highest grossing movie of the year. It was hailed as a different kind of horror, due to the way it combined the dangers of natural predators with the supernatural element of a vengeful ghost. Lara played one of a group of defiant young people who decided to flout the rules and go on an adventure in a wildlife reserve.
The year’s biggest success, however, was the comedy super-hit, No Entry. Lara played Kaajal, the jealous, suspicious wife of Anil Kapoor’s character. This mixed-up sex comedy full of affairs and coincidences was the highest grossing Bollywood movie of 2005. Though she was only part of this ensemble cast, having a number one film was a great boost to her career.
By the time 2006 had rolled around, Lara had proven herself across a diverse spectrum of genres and character types. In this new year, she saw no reason to stop. In the dark suspense thriller, Zinda, she played a street-savvy taxi driver befriended by Sanjay Dutt’s character; helping him to get revenge on the man who had held him prisoner. It was a very different role for Lara, and demonstrated her desire to really explore what she could do as an actress. Her character was not only street-smart and working in a traditionally male job, but the film also included her in sex and torture scenes.
The comedy hit Bhagam Bhag came in as the ninth highest grossing of 2006, and put Lara once again into the arms of Akshay Kumar. However, she was not just the girlfriend in this movie. She played the split roles of Munni/Nisha. She did a fantastic job as the mentally ill Nisha, after having charmed everyone as the artistic and romantic Munni.
She did two more films in 2007. Both were magnificent comedies. One of them was in the top ten. Both allowed her to continue stretching herself as an actress. In Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, she played the dual roles of Anaida (the sophisticated hotel manager from Ricky’s tall tale), and Laila (the foul-mouthed prostitute Ricky tried to pass off as the Anaida he’d described). She was delightful and creative as both characters, and a fantastic addition to this movie. Both roles allowed her once again to show her diversity and dedication as a serious actress.
Her later release, Partner alongside Salman Khan became a “Blockbuster” in India and became the third biggest grosser of the year. In this Bollywood remake of the 2005 Will Smith film, Hitch, Lara played the part of Naina: the love interest of the character who helped other men to win their loves. But unlike earlier movies in which the love interest didn’t have much else to do other than being their for the hero, Lara played an ambitious reporter on the trail of comedic crime boss, Chhota Don. Naina was also a single mother. As such, her role had greater scope and fuller character than most love interest roles. And she did a fantastic job. More than that, she really seemed to have a lot of fun in this film, as can be seen in this musical number she shared with co-stars Salman Khan, Govinda, and Katrina Kaif.
Dutta then made a special appearance in Om Shanti Om alongside Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone.
In 2008, Dutta lent her voice for the animated film, Jumbo with Akshay Kumar. However, the film failed to do well at the box office. She also made a special appearance in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi starred Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma.
In 2009 she was back in the game with a drama, a comedy, and an adventure. In Billu Barber, she played the wife of Irrfan Khan’s character. Though the story focused on the relationship between the characters played by Irrfan and Shah Rukh Khan, Lara was nominated for Best Actress. Not Best Supporting Actress, but Best Actress. In a supporting role, this is quite an achievement! She was amazing in the part. The film was a moderate success.
For Do Knot Disturb, she once again joined an ensemble cast for a zany sex comedy. She played Dolly, the model having an affair with Govinda’s character, Raj. Unfortunately, though critics hailed the movie as director, David Dhawan’s, best work, it was a disappointing flop at the box office. But that’s okay, because Lara ended 2009 in a movie that came is as the tenth highest grossing of the year.
Her 2009 release, Blue, was one of the most expensive movies of Indian cinema. Dutta had initially walked away from the project because the movie was entirely shot in the ocean and she did not know how to swim. However the male protagonist Akshay Kumar encouraged her in learning how to swim and she immediately started training with a special coach. Blue was released on 16 October 2009. She stated that “The moment I got to know of it, I called Akshay and told him that I wouldn’t be able to accept the assignment. He knew the reason behind my decision. Not many people are aware that I had almost drowned while shooting for Andaaz, Akshay had rescued me. When I reminded him I couldn’t swim, he told me to forget my phobia and learn swimming pronto,” said Dutta. “Today, I feel Blue has not merely made me overcome my phobias, but has also taught me something that will stay with me for the rest of my life”.
In Blue she played Mona; live-in girlfriend of Sanjay Dutt’s character. She spent a lot of time in swimwear, but otherwise didn’t have much to do. This movie focused mainly on the guys.
Her 2010 release Housefull was a major success across India. She starred opposite Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Jiah Khan and Riteish Deshmukh. It was the fifth biggest hit in the country as it collected INR1.14 billion (US$17 million) at the box office. She played the role of Hetal Petal, one of the main female character in the movie.
In 2011, her first movie as a producer, Chalo Dilli was released. The film was a decent success, as it was made on a modest budget of INR50 million (US$770,000). She then appeared alongside Shah Rukh Khan in the movie Don 2 and the film was a major success especially Lara’s item number. She played Ayesha, Don’s trusted companion and partner in crime.
Following her post-pregnancy break from Hindi cinema, Lara Dutta signed a movie titled David. Lara did only a guest appearance in the movie. The film released 1 February 2013 and receive mixed reviews.
It had been four years since the last film in which she had a significant role. But later in 2015, she returned with none other than Akshay Kumar, of course. In Singh is Bliing, Lara delightfully delivered her first slapstick performance as the hair-brained translator, Emily. This character didn’t require her to be sexy or romantic, so she was free to explore a talent she’d not yet tried. The results were a great deal of fun. Director Prabhudheva, however, did not take this beautiful actress and relegate her completely to the position of comic relief has-been. Emily had a sleepwalking issue in which she’d show up in the middle of the night in a sexy robe, with her hair loose and sensual. Male characters followed her out to the beach with the unassuming promise of sex…only to get a hard-swung coconut to the crotch. Lara received positive reviews for the role of Emily.