Interview By: DRISHTI PANDEY

Queen of all hearts Deepika Padukone aka Rani Padmavati – who has wooed us with her charismatic performances in whichever Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films she has starred; be it ‘Ram Leela’, ‘ Bajiroa Mastani’ and now ‘Padmaavat’ Talks to us post ‘Padmaavat’ success with much joy and pride in her eyes. She shares about her experience, the head space she’s in and how collaborating with Sanjay Leela Bhansali once again is Bliss! Excerpts :

‘Padmaavat’ is doing so well at the box office; So what’s your head space now that the film has finally released?

It’s almost a surreal feeling to be very honest. I think we have been through so much and when I say so much, I don’t necessarily mean in terms of the episodes that happened in the last 2-3 months but even just as a film. Right from the casting of the film to the production of the film, it’s not easy for the kind of scale and the kind of impact that this film needed to create.  And then of course the challenges and the roadblocks along the way, it kind of feels extremely surreal but at the same time the kind of love and the appreciation and of course the success of it; I always look at it in two parts. Success is what it does at the box – office and the numbers. You want every film of yours to do well and in a lot ways that is today the definition of a successful film. It’s good to own that as well. But at the same time the intangible things which are the love and appreciation but most importantly the blessings. I have had film releases before, I have had successful films before, I have had films in 200-300 crore clubs before, I have won awards before but it’s been very unique with this particular film. I feel that there are a lot of blessings that I have got with this film. I am not been able to entirely articulate the feeling but I feel like I am protected in a way. I am feeling a connection with people and I feel people are blessing me.

Talking about the box – office numbers, not only at the Indian box – office but also in overseas the film is doing wonders. What do you think has worked for the audience worldwide?

I think so much! I think to begin with let us not forget the powerful story that it is. And a powerful story told in a time when women have come to the fore, when women are being heard. This is such a powerful story and a relatable story in that sense. Then of course, I think the large part of it is to do with the curiosity because of all the incidents that happened. So, one is the relevance of the subject and the story and the woman Padmavati, how relevant it is in today’s time. I think a lot of it has to do with a fact that the controversy surrounding the film and people’s curiosity about what is this film all about. I would also like to believe our popularity, whether its Sanjay sir or myself, I would like to believe somewhere that our popularity also has a lot to do with success of this film and not just in India but globally as well.

Amidst so much of outrage that happened, did you feel that this film will not release and what all things were going in your mind? Did you feel de-motivated?

No, I don’t think. I would have given my life too if I had to, to make this film release because that is my right as a citizen of this country it is the right of everyone to ensure that when you create something, people have the opportunity to view and to see and to enjoy and to experience. So, if this film took me down that path where I would have to go to extreme way to whatever it took to make this film release, I would have done that. But no, I didn’t lose faith in that sense. I was very certain that it would release. Yes, I can say that I wasn’t sure when it was going to happen, but I was very sure that it would happen at some point.

In an interview you had said; Jauhar scene is by far your most special and challenging moment as an actor. Can you elaborate on it?

Extremely challenging because when you know that you are leading hundreds of women into an act that we do not believe in or endorse in today’s time but you set yourself back into the 12th or 13th century, when it is a ritual that was practiced and performed, you then have to think about. For me it was not about the act of committing jauhar but for me it was her way of winning the war. And it was her way of leading hundreds of women to victory. So for me in those moments, I feel powerful, I feel strong and I think those are the qualities that come out from when I see Padmaavat in the last final moments. It reminds me of how strong and powerful and diligent women are. And women do all of what they do with so much of dignity. Now I am not talking about the ritual specifically, but these are the thoughts that come to my mind. I feel powerful and alive as a woman. But as an actor, it is really hard because there’s not a single word; there are no dialogues in the last 10-15 minutes of the film. The entire climax is just with the visuals and the fact that Padmaavati has to convey so much, that I had to convey so much through just my eyes, everything that she was feeling and everything that’s going on in her mind at that point. She knows her husband has just been killed, she is the queen, she has to hold forth, she is in a way the strength of all of these women and she is the one who’s emanating her power to all of them. So she has to be so strong in that moment, but to express all of those things. She is also breaking from inside because so much has happened but you know to just express all of that just through the eyes, I mean that’s the only tool I had.

“Sanjay Leela Bhansali has enabled me as an actor in so many ways and I think it just means that there’s immense amount of faith and trust”

If people have loved the Jauhar scene, there are people who haven’t liked it and have criticized it, by writing an open letter. So what is your opinion on the same?

I think my opinion on it is like I said yesterday, I guess a lot of people have missed the disclaimer in the beginning of the film. That’s one part of it. The other part of it is whenever we view a film I think it’s important for us to view it in totality. ‘Are we endorsing jauhar today?’ No. The entire film was set in the 12th and 13th century. So, I find it a bit bizarre to take one scene out of context and then question that. So, definitely, they missed the disclaimer at the beginning (Laughs). Having said that, I am completely open as an individual to people having their opinion; right or wrong, whether I agree or disagree, I think it’s secondary. But I completely respect the fact that people have various views. And this is the right way to do it. Not what you’ve seen in the last couple of months. Anyone has a view, whether we choose to agree or disagree, but this is the way to do it.

What are the changes you have seen in Sanjay Leela Bhansali since you have worked with him in three films now?

I have! He had this eerie sort of silence and calm on this film. It’s almost like he knew exactly what he was doing with this film. There was not a dot of any doubt in his mind about the characters, about the film or where this film was headed. I think it comes from the fact that he has so much clarity about the subject, but I think it also means immense amount of clarity for as far as Padmavati was concerned in terms of what kind of woman she is, what her beliefs are, what does she stand for and he knew exactly. He was like a horse with blinders. He knew exactly where he was headed. I have done three films with him in six years and I have never seen him more confident or surer of the film that he was making.

How has your relationship evolved with Sanjay Leela Bhansali over the years?

I believe I share a very spiritual relationship with Sanjay Leela Bhansali because we don’t talk much, we don’t communicate much but whatever we feel we do through the eyes. And we didn’t communicate much during ‘Ram Leela’ but we communicate even lesser now. We look at each other and we know exactly what the other person is thinking or feeling. And to me, I think it also says a lot about the faith that he has in me as an actor. The fact that before every scene, he does not have to discuss graph, he does not have to discuss what this actor is going to do with this particular character. What is she going to do there’s no discussion. He gives me that freedom. Sanjay Leela Bhansali has enabled me as an actor in so many ways and I think it just means that there’s immense amount of faith and trust.

Ranveer Singh is also garnering appreciation in the film. What was your reaction when you saw him on-screen? This is also the third successful film with Ranveer.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the only director that has brought the two of us together is him. So, all of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali films that I have done, Ranveer have been a very important part of it. I can see his growth as an actor. I can see how he grew with Bajirao after having done ‘Ram-Leela’. I can see what he has done with Khilji after having seeing his work as Bajirao and Ram. And I’m yet to see an actor with so much sincerity and for him and Shahid, I feel what they have done with ‘Padmaavat’ is extremely generous because I think with Ranveer; I think there was a lot of advice that he got from people to not do the film, to play an antagonist at this stage in his career. I think there were people who were apprehensive for Shahid to do the film because of various reasons. Maybe because of the fact that he was entering new territory in that sense, considering Sanjay sir and all of us have worked together before and he was kind of new to that set-up and not being sure of what kind of cards he’s been going to dealt with. A lot of people I know also discouraged them from doing the film purely because it was called Padmavati. So, in a lot of ways I feel like eventually, they overcame all of those hurdles or doubts and eventually did the film, purely for the love of the film and wanting to see this film being made. So I recognize their generosity and when I say generosity not just in terms that I just spoke of but also in terms of what they have given to the film as just artists.

What is happening with ‘Sapna Didi’? Have you started prepping up for the film?

I haven’t started shooting yet. I start shooting for that in about a month or so. I will start prepping for that soon!

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