Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone seems to have put the intense controversy over “Padmaavat” behind her and basking in the audience response to the movie and her performance in the most difficult role of her decade-long film career.
Three days into the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's film after weeks of violent protests and threats, Deepika, who essays the title of a 15th century mythical Rajpur queen, said the rough times had been overtaken by the love of the audience.
"At this point, I am not thinking about the last three months. The last three days have been so overwhelming that nothing else matters. I am in a mood to celebrate. I am grateful for all the love and support," Deepika told the media in reply to a question in Mumbai on Saturday night.
"Padmaavat" has been facing endless hurdles in the form of protest and death threats by the fringe outfit Karni Sena since the shooting began in Rajasthan state last year. Stray protests are on even now.
The period drama is based on the 16th century epic "Padmavat" by poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. Karni Sena has alleged that it distorts history and undermines Rajput valour, a charge denied by the filmmakers.
Deepika said that the story of "Padmaavat" is as relevant today as it was several centuries ago. “It looks at the power of women. Today again we are standing up for ourselves with dignity... I find her journey so relevant today," Deepika said about her character queen Padmavati.
The film also stars Shahid Kapoor, who plays the role of Maharawal Ratan Singh and Ranveer Singh, who plays Alauddin Khilji, but it was Deepika who faced the wrath of Rajput community who issued death threats to her.
"When Rani has so much strength, why would she need others? In my personal life I fight my own battle, I don't need anyone," according to the actress.
A section of the protesters had said there was a dream sequence featuring the characters of Rani Padmavati and Khilji, which Bhansali had denied.
"We (Ranveer and I) don't have even a moment together in this film. When I was shooting he was not there and vice versa. I was not aware what work he has done in the film," she said.
When lyricist Javed Akhtar called "Padmaavat" the "Mother India" of her career, Deepika was on cloud nine. But what gratified her more was that her parents praised her performance. "My parents have seen the film and they were proud of my work, but there was a sense of disbelief, like they were thinking is she our daughter?"
She said she was always confident the film would be released, but what she did not anticipate was the love and support of the audience. "When someone does something right, at the end, truth, prevails," she said.
“Padmavat” has so far garnered Rs 83 crore at the box office and Deepika is overwhelmed with the response. "The amount of love, support is unprecedented and most important the blessings that I am getting. I feel what have I done to deserve this (love)," she said. For Deepika, playing the role of queen Padmini in Bhansali's film was the most difficult role in her career. "This role of a queen had no crutches like she doesn't have a sword, she doesn't get on a horse and goes on battlefield -- but there is sheer inner strength and resilience which I had to show through my eyes," she said.