With all the hoo-haa surrounding Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, and all the bounties placed on Deepika Padukone’s head, we had actually begun to feel the need to watch the film to see what the hype was all about.
Is Padmaavat an epic tale of love and honour? Yes. Does it disrespect Rani Padmini? No. Does it glorify sati and jauhar? Yes. Does it distort history? Yes, and no.
Here is why there’s a difference of opinion regarding the distortion of history.
Hindu extremist party, Shiv Karni Sena has been vandalising streets and cinemas across India under the impression that Bhansali’s grand venture shows their Queen in a bad light. However, once you watch the film, you’ll realise that Karni Sena’s protests were absolutely baseless. If anything, it should’ve been Muslims, not Rajputs, who were hurt by the portrayal of ruler Alauddin Khilji as a borderline psychopath, played by Ranveer Singh.
In a recent interview with The Indian Express, the Kill Dill star talked about the risks and struggles of playing Khilji and why the incessant protests against the film made him angry, but not disillusioned.
“I am very happy with the reaction to my performance. I am relieved actually, because it was a very big risk for me to take,” said Ranveer.
“A part like this at this stage of my career, and especially with people advising me against it… They said it was too big a risk to play a villain. In our country, if they love the character, they love the actor and the opposite could happen,” he added.
So how did he exactly got in the skin of maniacal Muslim ruler? When asked how he prepared for the mammoth role, the Befikre actor shared, “Well, it all started in the prep.”
“I took 21 days and locked myself up in my house. I kind of isolated myself, marinated into the character because I can’t relate to Alaudin Khilji, I can’t relate to that level of manipulativeness, greed and ambition. I had to tap into dark experiences but his world view is not something I can relate to also,” Ranveer went on to add.
Speaking about bringing life in Khilji, Ranveer credits director Sanjay as much as he credits himself. “I had to do a lot of hard work to generate that conviction in me. I kept working on my physique, my voice and the gait. I allowed Sanjay sir to free flow with my character. He is as much a creator of this character as I am. All credit to him,” he said.
Life before Bollywood hasn’t been a bed of roses for Ranveer either. “I have had some life experiences that were quite dark,” he said.
“I can’t reveal too much because it is too personal but it is the stuff I have brushed under the carpet, so to speak; stuff that I have buried in my conscience, that I had to dig out in order to play this character. And it was not always pretty, which validates my apprehension.”
“I knew how deep I had to go into this rabid hole. I would have had to go into this dark, black space; this abyss that could be dangerous for me. And it was,” added the Ram Leela actor.
Some times, the would breakdown between the shoot of the movie. But his family and friends were always there to support and help him to recover from a dark space he went into during the movie.
“I was able to neutralise myself with the help of my family and friends. But it took a toll on me. But to see the film released and the love and appreciation pouring in for the work, it feels very fulfilling,” said Ranveer.
The climax of Padmaavat – the jauhar scene – is undoubtedly the most powerful sequence in the film. Talking about it, the actor opened up about how difficult it was for him to shoot it.
“The challenges for me were more physical, not just in that scene but throughout the film,” he revealed. “The shooting process went in a way that I was under a lot of pressure to be doing too many things. There was a time, like during those action sequences with Shahid and during the Khali Bali dance scene, I would sometimes not be able to feel my legs.”
“After the cut would be called, I would vomit. I remember shooting those running sequences in the jauhar scene,” revealed Ranveer.
“It was May. In Filmcity, it was 45-degree heat and I was wearing a 12 kg leather and prosthetic armour and there were burning tyres everywhere. So, after the cut was called, my whole vision would become hazy and I would collapse. Then I would have to be resuscitated and given some water to go into the next take. I use to vomit my guts out and go for the next take.”
But that’s not all. “It has been quite a struggle shooting for this film. I would lose my voice every other day. I had a bad throat for a year and a half because the voice I had created for Khilji was very bad for the throat. That created a condition, which I am still suffering from,” revealed the Gunday star.
But of course, Ranveer also gained from this experience. “There were enough struggles throughout the shooting of the film that I had to encounter. But what I did discover about myself is that I have extra gears. I had to dig deeper in my reserves in order to deliver and it taught me something about myself. I had to kick in gears, which even I didn’t know I had. So, I learned a lot about my own capacity,” he shared.
Recently, Bollywood starlet Swara Bhaskar wrote an open letter to Bhansali, slamming the movie for glorifying Jauhar (an act of self-immolation in order to save a woman’s honour). Ranveer said he was sure that Bhansali’s intention was to portray Jauhar in a tragic manner.
“He set out to make a tragedy and that’s what it is. The film is a tragedy and the only thing I told him after reading the script was, ‘If we get this right, this could be your best film ever.’ And I loved the film and I can’t always say about my own work but I personally loved Padmaavat. I was in tears and it really moved me. I think everyone in the film just killed it. I am very proud of Padmaavat,” confessed Ranveer.
Considering the controversy and all the violence, did Ranveer feel disillusioned about being in Padmaavat? “Not at all. I was never disillusioned,” responded Ranveer. “I can never be because being in films is the greatest gift of my life. I only wanted to be one thing and that was a Hindi film hero. Here I am, an actor in mainstream cinema. I am living the dream. So, I am grateful every day for the opportunities I have had. Being an outsider, my chances of making it here were million to one and it happened. It is the most incredible thing that has happened to me.”
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