Somebody with a lot of imagination, probably the super-efficient PR company Spice, invited the lovely Deepika Padukone to have dinner with senior editors of the Bollywood press tonight at the Maharaja Bhog Premium Thali Restaurant in Juhu. The meal was Rajasthani. “To make up for the Rajasthani food that I never got to eat when shooting Padmaavat,” the actress who immortalised the Rajput queen Padmavati on screen cleverly quipped with a million watt smile.
While star-struck waiters heaped her thali with the state’s signature dishes and amazed diners shot pictures on their cell phone, Deepika spoke about the film and how she will always carry some part of the legendary queen in her heart for the rest of her life. The best compliment she received for her performance as Padmavati, she revealed, came from Javed Akhtar Saab. “He said, ‘This is my Mother India!’ Sanjay (Leela Bhansali) Sir and I just bowed. We were humbled.”
The accolades have not stopped coming in since Padmaavat was released on Thursday. Her parents who saw the film at a special screening in Bangalore made a video telephony call to Deepika from the car on their way home. “We always FaceTime each other after my films release and this time I could see from their expressions that they were overwhelmed – they just couldn’t believe what they had seen. I could tell that they were stunned. They were asking themselves, ‘Is this really our daughter?’” Deepika said.
She blushed when asked what was her impression when she saw herself in the mirror for the first time as the Rani Padmavati. And what was her own reaction when she saw the entire film for the first time? I was sitting between Ranveer (Singh) and Sanjay Sir and and the end – we just broke down and cried. We were bawling at what we had done and what we had just seen,” the actress said.
The last scene, the jauhar, when Deepika as Padmavati leads all the Rajput women from the Chittor Fort to leap into the holy flames and commit suicide en masse to avoid capture and humiliation by the wicked conqueror Allaudin Khilji and his invading army, took something out of her. “It’s a 15-minute long scene without any dialogue and at the end of it... I was physically, mentally, emotionally drained,” she said. She was aware that audiences everywhere give the film and its actors and director a standing ovation at the end. “What more could I ask for than the audience’s appreciation for our work?” Deepika asked.
Which was her favourite scene from the film? “The battle between the two boys,” she said, in fond reference to Shahid Kapoor (as Maharaja Ratan Singh) and Ranveer Singh (as Allaudin Khilji) locked in a fight to the death. “It was so raw and so real,” Deepika said. “I wasn’t there when this scene was being shot and when I saw it on screen... it took my breath away!” But her moment was the inspiring and soul-stirring speech she gives as Padmavati to the assembled Rajput women exhorting them to maintain the traditions and customs and memories of their husbands who had died on the battlefield by joining her in performing jauhar. “I did it in one take,” Deepika said. “Sanjay Sir told me, ‘Just go and do it, don’t tell me anything.’ And when he shot it in one take, I just couldn’t believe him.”