Deepika Padukone was first introduced to us in the Shahrukh Khan starrer Om Shanti Om in 2007, which incidentally clashed with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya at the time. More than a decade later, Deepika has starred in two of Sanjay Leela Bhansali films, which have not only become blockbuster hits, but have help cemented Deepika’s position as an actress of substance, grace as well as beauty.

Deepika continued to shine not just in Bollywood, but also proved her mettle in Hollywood, with her hit film xXx: Return of Xander Cage and now she is returning to our screens with one of India’s most expensive films, helmed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali – Padmaavat (previously known as Padmaavati)

Following many controversies, protests and attempts to ban the film, creativity won, and the film is now finally releasing on 25 January.

We caught up with Deepika ahead of the film’s original release date to discuss the controversy surrounding the film, her look in the film and her advice for aspiring Bollywood actresses.

Here is what the ethereal beauty had to say.

Since the shooting started, Padmaavat has been surrounded by controversy. The first attack on sets happened in Jaipur and that soon followed into Kohalpur and continued further. Amidst these threats and controversies, how did you and the whole team of the film overcome these, especially as you have to mentally focus to play your character. What was that internal force that kept you going?

I think our conviction about what we set out to make and till date we’re sort of riding on that same conviction. We’re very confident and we’re very very proud of the film that we have made, as should everyone else be.

What has moved you most about working on Padmaavat?

I think how inspiring her journey has been or was. I think it’s her spirit, her intelligence, her passion, her vulnerability, all the things that she’s made up of, not just her physical beauty, but the beauty makes her so so powerful is what my takeaway from this film is.

Let’s talk about your look, aside from the amazing costumes and jewellery you are seen on the posters with a unibrow/monobrow, something which as per conventional beauty standards is normally seen as unflattering, yet you’ve carried it off so well that it’s getting you compliments from all corners of the world. It’s a brave and bold step, which seems to have worked. Can you tell us a little about how this idea for the monobrow came about and what made you confident to portray it?

Erm, you know usually before I do a film with Sanjay Leela Bhansali we always spend a couple of days in his office discussing the sets and we did the same with Padmaavat. So, we sort of got done with hair and makeup and he looked at it and said there was still something missing. He loved the way it was looking, the costumes etc, but he still felt there was something incomplete. So, it was his vision and I guess it was my conviction to carry it off. He suggested it and he thought that I am not going to agree to do it, because we’re conditioned to think of beauty in a certain way. And you know I think we all jumped on to the idea and we were all very excited, so we tried it on and it worked, and it just felt correct. It just felt right, and we went with it.

Padmaavat is your third film with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and it’s set to be one of India’s most expensive films, which is centred around your character, how nervous are you about the film and how are you managing to control your nerves?

It is a big responsibility and I believe that this moment is going to be a defining moment for Indian cinema, because we have seen female centric, strong female characters before on screen. In fact, last year (2016) I had a release PIKU which was similar in that sense, but to have a female centric film of this scale and grandeur with so much money riding on it and the fact that its one of the most expensive Indian films ever made I understand the responsibility, I value it and I realise that it’s going to be a defining moment for all of us. Because post release it will change the way producers look at women in film and give us many more opportunities to shoulder much larger responsibilities.

You celebrate 10 years in the Hindi film industry, what has the journey been like for you and what advise would you give to any aspiring actresses out there?

The one thing I have to say generally is that it seems all glamourous from the outside but its an immense amount of sacrifices, hard work and dedication. These are words that I can actually say but when you put it into practice it’s not that easy. It’s an extremely difficult industry to be in just in terms of the kind of commitment and the types of sacrifices that it demands, so you have to be prepared for that. And I would also say that just be true to yourself because it’s possible to get lost in the process. Just be your own individual personality and try not to get lost in the crowd.

Finally, what does Padmaavat mean to you?

The film to me is empowerment. It’s empowering when you see her story, when you see her journey, when you see what she’s been through. For me it’s very very empowering, but very relatable at the same time. When you watch the film, you will understand what I am saying, it’s just a very very relatable character, but her journey is very very inspiring and that’s the reason why we chose to tell this story.