Mumbai: The speculations surrounding the female lead in the sequel to Race can finally be laid to rest. After reports of Priyanka Chopra being considered surfaced, directors duo Abbas-Mustan eventually settled for their first choice, Deepika Padukone.

In fact, the actress has already started shooting for the film on Saturday, with Saif Ali Khan.

The buzz about Deepika opting out of the sequel started last month, after she signed Ayaan Mukerji's Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani. Reportedly, her date diary was getting so tight that she would have had to opt out of Race 2.

"She's also committed to Rana, in which Rajnikanth was keen to cast her as his leading lady. In fact, he's told director Ravi Kumar to plan the production schedule as per the availability of her dates," says our source.

According to reports, producer Ramesh Taurani and his director duo were considering Priyanka when Deepika's dates started to look difficult. However, our source maintains that they were more than eager to work out the schedule around Deepika's availability.

"This is Deepika's fourth film with Saif, after Love Aaj Kal, Aarakshan and Cocktail. "It is believed that Abbas-Mustan were very impressed with the chemistry Deepika and Saif shared in Love Aaj Kal. That's why they've been keen to cast her in Race 2," said our informer, asserting that the actress is even being paid a huge fee to act in the sequel.

Our source also added, "After Katrina Kaif's sizzling chemistry in Race, the producers and directors were keen to take the sizzle quotient to the next level in the sequel. And Deepika has that oomph and sex appeal to take that chemistry a couple of notches ahead." The film is scheduled to release late next year.