She won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut – South for the 2006 Telugu film Devadasu. She has appeared in hits such as Pokiri (2006), Jalsa (2008), Kick (2009) and Julayi (2012), establishing herself as one of Telugu cinema‘s leading actresses. D’Cruz made her Kollywood debut with Kedi and made a comeback in Shankar’s Nanban (2012).
In 2012, she made her Bollywood debut with Anurag Basu‘s critically and commercially successful Barfi!, for which she received critical appreciation and several accolades including the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut.
Later she starred in the action comedies Phata Poster Nikhla Hero (2013) and Main Tera Hero (2014), the romantic comedy Happy Ending (2014), the crime thriller Rustom (2016) and the heist-drama in Baadshaho (2017).
D’Cruz was born into a Goan Catholic family in Mahim, Mumbai, and raised partly in Mumbai and partly in Goa. Her family relocated to Parra, Goa when she was 10 years old. Her mother tongue is Konkani.
During that time, the manager of the hotel her mother was working in, suggested that she had a vibrant smile and should start modelling and fixed a meeting with Marc Robinson. Though initially reluctant, she was persuaded and her first portfolio was created in January 2003, which she described as a “disaster”. She began gaining notice through photo shoots and ramp shows and her second portfolio was set up the following year, which landed her three advertisements from Electrolux, Emami Talc and Fair & Lovely. The latter, in particular, which was directed by Rakesh Roshan, gave her exposure and brought in several offers for acting in feature films.
In 2014, she acquired Portuguese nationality.
In 2005, D’Cruz was called for an audition by director Teja, but the project was cancelled. She instead made her feature film debut in the Telugu language romance film Devadasu (2006), directed by Y. V. S. Chowdhary. She underwent acting classes with Aruna Bhikshu, before starting to work on the film. She recalls that during filming she felt “pressured […] almost cried and didn’t want to go further”, but went ahead after her mother encouraged her, giving her “the lecture of a lifetime […] at 3 am.” A review from Indiaglitz stated that she “has chiseled features and a figure to die-for.” Devadasu became the year’s first major commercial success, eventually grossing around ₹140 million, whilst earning D’Cruz the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debutant. She next appeared in the gangster film Pokiri in which she portrayed an aerobics teacher, who is harassed by a corrupt police officer. The film was a high financial success, emerging as the highest-grossing Telugu film at the time.
She made her Tamil-language film debut in Kedi (2006). Although the film did not do so well at the box-office, D’Cruz remained too busy to accept all the film roles offered to her. Her Telugu film Khatarnak (2006) in which she acted opposite Ravi Teja did not do as well as expected, which has been attributed to her glamorous appearance not going down well with the audience. She subsequently experienced a breakthrough in her career as her following releases Rakhi (2006) and Munna (2007) proved critically and financially successful.
D’Cruz’s career took a turn for the better with the release of her well-received 2007 film Aata. She received favorable reviews for her performance as Satya, a college student who is on the run from the home minister’s crooked son by whom she is targeted, when leading a protest and demanding punishment for his crimes. In 2008, she performed the female lead role in the action film Jalsa, directed by Trivikram Srinivas. D’Cruz received largely positive remarks, with critics citing that she looked “pretty”, “damn cool”, and “every bit chic and stunning throughout the film”, while being later awarded the Santosham Award, one of five awards for Jalsa, and the South Scope Style Award, besides garnering a nomination for the Best Actress prize at the 56th Filmfare Awards South. Her first 2009 release, titled Kick, was likewise declared a box office success, becoming one of the highest-grossing films that year.
D’Cruz had 2 releases in 2011. Her first film that year was Shakti, where she essayed the lead female role. She gave a stage performance for this movie’s audio release function along with Jr. NTR, as part as promotion of the film. The socio-fantasy film, the costliest Telugu film ever made at ₹ 250,000,000,. Her next release was Nenu Naa Rakshasi, which marked her second collaboration with Puri Jagannadh. Though the film was a failure, her performance was received positively by critics; an Indiaglitz reviewer described her as a “pleasant surprise in the film” as she “cried, smirked, looked hot, grabbed sympathy and made faces that were apt to the scenes”, while cinegoer’s reviewer cited that the film had “one bright spot, Ileana, she looks stunning and also like an accomplished senior to the hero.” Despite her recent failures, D’Cruz continued to be the highest paid actress in South India.
In early 2012, she starred in the Kollywood film Nanban, a remake of the 2009 Hindi film 3 Idiots directed by S. Shankar. The film opened to critical acclaim and became a major financial success. Her next release was the Telugu film Julai. The film opened to positive reviews and became the third biggest hit in 2012 and biggest hit in Telugu. She then starred in Puri Jagannadh’s comedy Devudu Chesina Manushulu. In this film she played the role of a taxi driver. The film received mixed reviews and eventually under-performed at the box office.
D’Cruz made her Hindi debut with Anurag Basu‘s Barfi! In addition to playing the role of the narrator, she portrayed the character of Shruti Ghosh, a girl who leaves her true love for material comforts. The movie released on 14 September 2012, to highly positive reviews from critics, and was a major commercial success, earning ₹1.75 billion (US$27 million) worldwide. D’Cruz’s performance was well received, earning her a Filmfare Best Female Debut Award, as well as a nomination for Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. Rachit Gupta from Filmfare said “This is Ileana’s first film but her fantastic performance is just a testament why the Telugu audience consider her a superstar. Of course it also helps that she is the most visually appealing in Barfi! out shining even the scenic hills of Darjeeling”. Rajeev Masand stated “Ileana leaves a lasting impression in her Hindi film debut, conveying both love and pain through those beautiful, expressive eyes”. The film was screened at the Busan International Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival and was chosen as India’s official entry to the Oscars for the 85th Academy Awards.
She next appeared in the Rajkumar Santoshi action comedy film Phata Poster Nikhla Hero opposite Shahid Kapoor. The film released on September 20, 2013 to mixed reviews, and the film was eventually declared an average grosser at the box office. However, D’Cruz received mixed to positive reviews for her performance, with the Times of India saying that she was “good with emotions but not so tuned into comedy yet.”
In April 2014 she gave a photo shoot for India’s well known magazine Man’s World. Her first release of 2014 was Main Tera Hero alongside Varun Dhawan and Nargis Fakhri, produced by Balaji Motion Pictures. The film was a semi hit. She then appeared in Saif Ali Khan‘s maiden production Happy Ending where she played lead along Saif Ali Khan, Govinda and Kalki Koechlin which released on November 21, 2014. The film met with negative reviews and was a box office flop.
In July 2017, her film Mubarakan starring opposite Arjun Kapoor and Anil Kapoor released and gained positive reviews. Her next film Baadshaho starring opposite Ajay Devgn gave her a commercial success.
D’Cruz’s first release of 2018 Raid, opened to positive critical feedback on March, 16.
|2006||Pokiri||Filmfare Awards South||Best Actress (Telugu)||Nominated|
|2007||Devadasu||Filmfare Awards South||Best Female Debut||Won|
|2009||Jalsa||Filmfare Awards South||Best Actress (Telugu)||Nominated|
|Santosham Film Awards||Best Actress||Won|
|South Scope Style Awards||Best Actress||Won|
|2010||Kick||Filmfare Awards South||Best Actress (Telugu)||Nominated|
|2012||Nanban||Vijay Awards||Vijay Award for Favourite Heroine||Nominated|
|Herself||Vogue Beauty Awards||Fresh Face||Won|
|Barfi!||BIG Star Entertainment Awards||Most Entertaining Actor (Film) Debut –||Nominated|
|ETC Bollywood Business Awards||Most Profitable Debut (Female)||Won|
|2013||Filmfare Awards||Best Female Debut||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Screen Awards||Most Promising Newcomer – Female||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Zee Cine Awards||Best Female Debut||Won|
|Stardust Awards||Superstar of Tomorrow – Female||Nominated|
|Star Guild Awards||Best Female Debut||Won|
Crime, Drama, Thriller