What is the connection between Tiger Zinda Hai and Padmaavat? No, not that both the films were scheduled for a December 2017 release, until the latter got shifted. The connection is Anupriya Goenka. The opportunity of being on a Sanjay Leela Bhansali set can be the high point of one’s career. And Anupriya got lucky quite early in her career. The actor, who made enough news for playing nurse Poorna in the recent blockbuster Tiger Zinda Hai, was seen as Shahid Kapoor aka Maharawal Ratan Singh’s first wife Rani Nagmati in the Bhansali film. While TZH wrapped up 2017 roaring loud at the box office, Padmaavat has already become the first big success of 2018. So, is Anupriya on cloud nine for being a part of two back-to-back hits? “I’m blessed to be part of two such big projects and good roles. The most important thing for an actor is the experience that they get. In that way it has been a very blissful time,” she said in an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com.
Anupriya’s screen time in Padmaavat might be less as compared to her previous Salman Khan film, but she does not have any regrets. “They are two very big projects. One is a Salman Khan-YRF film. Firstly, I had never seen movies being made on that big scale. So the approach to your role is elevated. And in Padmaavat, I always dreamt of being in a period film. And I had never thought I’d get to work with a Sanjay Leela Bhansali. He is the master of period films. He makes everything with so much love. His actor briefing is so beautiful, it gives you a high,” Anupriya said.
In Padmaavat, Anupriya’s Rani Nagmati is shown growing jealous of Rani Padmavati, played by Deepika Padukone. Understanding Bhansali’s fixation for detailing, not just in terms of script and art direction, but even actor briefing, how did he explain the part to Anupriya? “The first thing he told me was, I want her to be something like a ‘meethi churi’. She should look very innocent, extremely poised, royal, someone who has a lot of courage and love for her country. You shouldn’t be able to tell that she can be viscous or has a dark side to her. She is driven a lot by her jealousy towards Padmavati. But all those things shouldn’t be very apparent. Sanjay sir never likes his women characters to look weak, that’s the beautiful part that however many shades they might have, they all are very strong,” she explained.
Elaborating on working with the director, Anupriya gushed, “It was a big learning experience. It is intimidating for sure. But he always makes you feel extremely important to the film. He is very clear with what he wants and that’s what makes it gratifying. I haven’t seen anyone as passionate like him. I realised how important it is to have your body movement, your diction, tonality, dialogue delivery and to be in rhythm because everything is musical. Maybe because Sanjay sir has such a great sense of music that even the performances he draws from his actors are very rhythmic.”
In Padmaavat, we saw how Rani Padmavati and Rani Nagmati, along with other women choose Jauhar over succumbing to Alauddin Khilji. Anupriya remembers shooting for the most important scene in the film. “It was a very difficult scene because of the magnanimity. There was coordination required among hundreds of junior artistes, with Deepika and all of us. The scene has about 70-80 stairs and we had to go up and down hundreds of times and Deepika might have done it the most. The entire focus is on her so she has to carry the right emotion. Kudos to her! The amazing thing about Sanjay sir is, he would give personal directions to even the juniors because everyone’s energy would’ve reflected onscreen. They also needed to be on the same page, feeling the same thing. It is a very intense and electrifying scene. Sanjay sir made it so real, it’s like he almost transports you to that era,” the actor shared.
Speaking about how this Jauhar scene eventually garnered so much criticism, Anupriya said, “Sanjay sir has taken inspiration from the 13th century. So according to his sensibilities, he has tried to match it as close to as it was. Now, anybody in the public has the right to have an opinion. Any discussion is healthy in that way. But, it is a story based on the 13th century when practice of Jauhar did exist. It was because that was the choice women had. If they were taken captive, they would’ve been subjected to brutality by the perpetrators. And I feel dying with honour was far better than that life. Now, it cannot be addressed and compared to a 20th century when there are other options. There is a chance to escape and have a better life. So the comparison doesn’t make any sense. Secondly, I’m sure our audiences are intelligent enough to see it as a cinematic experience and not get influenced by Jauhar in the wrong way today. If we start drawing such parallels and become so conscious, then we can never show murder or any heinous activity onscreen. We would always be scared of influencing minds in a negative manner.”
Anupriya will next be seen in Netflix web-series Sacred Games based on Vikram Chandra’s 2006 thriller novel by the same name. It has been directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. She is also awaiting the release of Nagesh Kukunoor’s Maya in which she plays the main lead.