When you think of an actress you want to crown as the Queen of Bollywood, Deepika Padukone is a name that instantly pops into your head. And that must be the exact reason why she has become the muse for larger than life filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali. In his latest Blockbuster, Deepika Padukone plays Rani Padmavati who represents the Rajput valour and strength women of India have had since the beginning of time. Deepika is the epitome of grace and beauty which shines through on the silver screen in ‘Padmaavat’.
Celebrating the success of her film, she sat down with Cinespeaks for a heart felt interview and here’s all that she said:
Q. How does it feel to be accepted with open arms and such warmth by the audience through the success of ‘Padmaavat’?
Deepika Padukone: It’s surreal. It’s unprecedented in that sense because it’s never happened before. To see this kind of adulation, love and support. The commitment we’ve seen from the audience is unheard of. I often wonder what I’ve done right to deserve something like this. There are times when you know when you do right kind of work, and that you’re on the right path, your fans will be there for you. But sometimes they can surprise you in some amazing ways and I really didn’t expect this.
Q. After all the hesitation from Karni Sena when your film goes onto to do earth shattering business, how do you measure this success?
Deepika Padukone: We’ve been through so much, not necessarily for the episodes we’ve gone through in the last 2-3 months but even just as a film. Right from the casting, the production and shooting the film, it wasn’t easy for the scale that was created. And then there were these road blocks on the way. It’s surreal yet the appreciation and success is incredible. I look at it in two parts, success is what it does at the box office which is great it’s good to earn that and the other is the intangible things like the love and most importantly blessings. I have had successful releases before, I have 300 crore films too and won awards before but with ‘Padmaavat’ it has been very unique. I feel like I’ve got more blessings with this one. I have not been able to articulate the feeling but I feel like I’m protected and have a direct connection with people.
Q. Not just the Indian box office but internationally ‘Padmaavat’ is doing wonders. What do you think has worked for the film?
Deepika Padukone: The powerful story that the film is. It is being told at a time when women have come to the fore and they’re being heard. It’s a relatable story in that sense. A large part of it is to do with the curiosity around it with the kind of incidents that happened. It was about people wanting to be defined in saying, if you choose not to show your film, we’ll make the effort, we shall watch it. There are Indians who do not watch Bollywood films but for this one they have said yes we shall for various reasons. The relevance of the subject in today’s times is the biggest reason. I would also like to believe our popularity is adding to its box office collection.
Q. Was there a point before the release where you were unsure of what would happen with the film?
Deepika Padukone: I would have given my life to make sure ‘Padmaavat’ releases because that is my right. As a citizen of this country, it’s our right to create something for people to have the opportunity to view and enjoy the experience. If I had to go the extreme way to make it release in whatever way, I would have done that. I didn’t lose faith though. I was certain it would release, I may not have known when but yes for sure.
Q. You’ve executed the ‘jouhar’ scene with so much dignity giving the audiences goosebumps. How difficult was it to shoot the climax?
Deepika Padukone: It was an extremely difficult scene. When you know you’re leading hundreds of women into an act that we do not believe or endorse today but you’re traveling back to 12th or 13th Century wherein it was a ritual practiced and performed. For me it wasn’t an act of committing jouhar but an act of winning the war. It was leading hundreds of women to victory. In those moments I feel power and strong. That’s what you feel of Padmavati in the last final moments. It reminds me of how intelligent and dignified women are. I feel more alive as a woman. As an actor, there wasn’t a single dialogue in the last 10-15 mins. The entire climax is just about visuals and the fact that I as Padmavati had to convey so much through just my eyes. What the character has to emote knowing her husband has been killed, she’s the Queen and the strength of these Rajput women who is emanating her power to them all. She’s also breaking from inside. To express all this through the eyes was phenomenal.
Q. Tell us something about being directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali for the third time. What kind of rapport do you share with him?
Deepika Padukone: He has this silence and calm in this film. He exactly knew what he was doing, he didn’t have a dot of doubt in his mind with the story and character or where this film was headed. He has so much clarity. As far as his character of Padmavati, what kind of woman she was and what she stood for was exactly known to him. He was like a horse with blinders on. I have done 3 films with him in 6 years and I have never seen him less confident or more sure of what he was making.
I share a very spiritual relationship with him. We don’t talk much but whatever little we do is through the eyes. We didn’t communicate much during Ram-Leela and we communicate lesser now. We look at each other and understand what the other person maybe thinking of. To me it also says a lot about the faith that he has in me as an actor. He doesn’t have to discuss every scene with me, or the graph or what this actor is going to do with their part in the scene. There was no discussion. He’s enabled me as an actor in so many ways with the freedom that he gives. There’s immense amount of trust.
Q. What is your take on Swara Bhaskar’s open letter dissing the ‘jouhar’ scene in ‘Padmaavat’?
Deepika Padukone: I guess a lot of people have missed the disclaimer issued in the beginning of the film. Whenever we view a film we have to view it in totality. Are we endorsing jouhar today? No! It was set in the 12th or 13th Century and I find it bizarre to take one scene out of context and then question that.
Having said that I completely respect the fact that people have opinions whether right or wrong. People have various views and an open letter is the right way of doing it. Not what we’ve seen like in the couple of months. We can choose to agree or disagree but this is the way to do it.
Q. How did your parents react to the film?
Deepika Padukone: They were absolutely stunned by the movie. I think they were feeling a lot of things while watching it. I think as parents they didn’t know whether to react to their daughter or the scenes in the film. There was pride and they were brimming with joy.
Q. What character traits do you take back from Rani Padmavati?
Deepika Padukone: Her strength, her power, her courage and most importantly her dignity.
Q. You’re working with Ranveer Singh for the third time as well. How much do you think he has grown as an actor? How much contribution do you think Shahid Kapoor has done to the film?
Deepika Padukone: Fortunately or unfortunately, he (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) is the only director who has brought us together. Out of all the films I’ve done with him, Ranveer has been a very important part of it and I can see him grow as an actor. He’s grown after having done Bajirao, Ram and that experience he’s brought to Khilji. I’m yet to see an actor with so much sincerity. For him and for Shahid what they’ve done for Padmavati is extremely generous. There was a lot of advice that Ranveer got from people to not do the film and play an antagonist at this time of his career. There were apprehensive people who didn’t want Shahid to do his role because he was entering new territory in that sense. Considering he was new to the set up. Not being sure what kind of cards he would be dealt with. A lot of people I know also discouraged them from doing the film because it was based on Padmavati. In a lot of ways, they eventually overcame those hurdles of doubts and did the film purely for the love for the film and wanting to see the film being made. What they have given to this film is quite generous.
Q. What do you have to say about Akshay Kumar gesture of shifting the release date of ‘PadMan’ for yours?
Deepika Padukone: Only from the heart you can touch the sky and that is so relevant with this situation. We made our film with so much heart despite all the stones that were thrown at us. The film has become invincible. It has gone beyond us infact. The audiences have become torchbearers for the film. And gesture like that of Akshay, says a lot about who he is as a person.
Q. Would it be easy to say that Padmavati has been the most difficult role for you so far?
Deepika Padukone: I’m glad that Padmavati has now become my most difficult role yet because that is what I aim to do. Every role that I do has to be better than my previous role. If that’s not the case then I’m not doing something right as an actor. Now that I’ve done Padmaavat now I can see the difference between Padmavati and Mastani, where Mastani was a warrior who actually went to the battlefield being pat with the man and Rani Padmavati was a warrior in her heart, mind and spirit. Not someone who necessarily goes to the battle field to win a war. She won her war in a very different way.
– Yaser Khan