One of the most successful actresses in Indian show business, Deepika Padukone is happier than she has been for months. After all, her highly anticipated film Padmaavat has opened to a rousing response in cinemas after months of hue and cry. In valorous queen Padmavati, Padukone has created one of the strongest female characters in Hindi cinema, a character that will probably never fade from our consciousness. In a brief interview with Eastern Eye in Mumbai, the gorgeous actress talks about the huge success of the period film, its much-talked-about self-immolation scene, her parents’ response to her performance in the movie, and much more.
Did you notice ‘DP1stDay1stShow’ trend on Twitter on the day Padmaavat released in theatres? This was probably the first time when fans went to that extent for supporting a celebrity and her film. How do you feel?
Of course, I did. It’s surreal in a way. It’s probably unprecedented in that sense as it has never happened before. To see this kind of adulation, love and support and, also, that kind of commitment is unheard of. I often wonder what I have done right to deserve all this? There are some things that you know will happen when you do the right kind of work. When you are on the right path, you know that fans will be there to support you. But sometimes they can surprise you in some amazing ways which you really never expected.
Not just in India, Padmaavat has been doing great in overseas markets also. What do you think has worked for the audiences worldwide?
To begin with, it’s the powerful story that connects the audiences worldwide too. And telling the story in the time when women have come to the fore makes it more powerful and relatable story. Then the large part of it is also to do with the curiosity because of the incidents that have happened, and a lot of it was people being able to get defined that if you choose not to show me your film, we will make the effort to do it.
They (the audience living outside India) are not a fan of Indian films but yet they were saying “we will watch this film for various reasons”. One is the relevance of the subject and the story of Padmaavat and how relevant it is in today’s time. A lot of it has also to do with the fact about the controversy surrounding the film, people’s curiosity about the film. I would also believe the popularity of the actors and the director Sanjay Leela Bhansali also has a lot to do with the success of the film everywhere.
The self-immolation scene gave the audiences goosebumps and is much talked about. What kind of challenges did you face for that particular scene?
It was extremely difficult, especially when you know that you are leading women into an act that you do not believe in, but then you set yourself back into the 12th or 13th century where it was a ritual practised and performed. For me, it was not the act of committing ‘jauhar’ (self-immolation) but it was her (Padmavati) way of winning the war and her way of leading hundreds of women to victory.
I think being strong and withstanding it are the qualities that come out from me when I see Padmavati. It also reminds me that how powerful, strong and intelligent women are. I feel so powerful and alive as a woman. But as an actor, it was a difficult scene as there were no dialogues in the climax. The entire thing is just the visuals and the fact that Padmavati has to convey so much. Her husband has been killed, she is the queen and, in a way, she is emanating her power. She had to express all those emotions and the turmoil she was dealing with, through her eyes.
There are people who have criticized the self-immolation scene in the film. Also, it did not go down too well with actress Swara Bhaskar who wrote an open letter to Sanjay Leela Bhansali. What is your opinion on this?
Like I said, a lot of people have missed the disclaimer at the beginning of the film. So that’s one part of it. The other part is that when we view a film, we have to do it in totality. The entire film was set in the 12th and 13th century. So it’s kind of bizarre to judge one scene out of context. I am completely open as an individual to people having their opinion. Whether I agree or disagree, I completely respect the fact that people have different views and opinions. This is the way to do it.
How was the reaction of your family after watching Padmaavat?
They were awestruck and stunned by the movie. They were feeling so much at that point of time that as parents, they didn’t know whether they have to react to their daughter or the film they have just seen. I could see them brimming with joy and pride.
What is that you want to take away from Rani Padmavati as a person?
Her strength, power and courage and also her intelligence and, most importantly, her dignity.
Akshay Kumar went on to avoid the box office clash by postponing the release of his film Padman.
I read a quote which said, “Only from the heart can you touch the sky”. It is so relevant to our film Padmaavat. In spite of the stones thrown at us, we did this film with all our heart. The hurdles and roadblocks that we overcame, the film is in a way invincible. It has gone beyond us. The audience has become the torchbearer of the film. Gestures like this (Akshay shifting Pad Man) say a lot about the person.