Lead actors playing visually challenged characters is not new, but for Deepika Padukone it was a first. She describes it as her toughest role yet but also says she is exactly like the heroine - a woman who is self-confident, ambitious and never gives up.
"For me, this role out of all the films that I have done was the most challenging. It's not been easy. It required a lot of focus and concentration. I had to observe a lot of blind people before I could play this role," Deepika, 24, told IANS in an interview.
"I think I identify with the character Pinky a lot because Pinky is someone who is extremely self-assured. She is extremely confident, knows exactly what she wants. She is ambitious and she never gives up, which is exactly how I am," she said.This time director Pradeep Sarkar has teamed up with Deepika, Neil Nitin Mukesh and a bunch of other actors to narrate the story of a group of youngsters living in the back streets of Mumbai. Releasing on August 20, it will see Neil playing a boxer who fights blindfolded, while Deepika will be seen as a visually challenged girl who can dance on skates.
"The biggest challenge was to pretend that I was not seeing. There were no supporting tools like black goggles or a stick with me to make it obvious that I am blind.
"For example, we friends are sitting together and discussing something and one of them says, arre dekh na and then realises I can't see. Or he removes a glass a bit aside spontaneously not realising I couldn't see that...So everyone had to focus and give a lot of attention all the time while shooting the film," said Deepika.
The actress along with other cast and crew spent time with visually challenged people to understand their behavioural nuances and figure out counter actions.
"It took around six months of reading and interacting. Lots of physical movements I had to get use to. It's like feeling things around you without actually being able to see them.
"We didn't visit any blind school, but all of us met a lot of blind people... it was not just for me but also very important for Neil and the group of friends I am interacting with in the film, even for 'dada' (Sarkar) to see how it is to interact with the blind. So I think it was a group process for all of us," she said.
Deepika says she didn't find it nerve-wracking to do the implausible stunts.
"As I have been an athlete and a sportsperson before, I think it just makes it much easier and interesting for me. I think to be able to do stunts, you need to be physically fit. It needs a lot of dedication, it needs a lot of control on the kind of food you are eating. So it was a lot of discipline," said Deepika.
It's her zeal for sports that gave her the courage to train in scuba diving and sky diving.
"The skating is something I had to learn for the film, but the scuba diving and this sky diving is something I have done for myself. It's always nice to challenge your limits. I always thought that I was scared of heights until I jumped off a plane. Today when I fly in a plane and look outside, it doesn't feel like anything," said Deepika.
After Lafangey Parindey, Deepika has two films - Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey and Break Ke Baad - in queue for release this year.
The actress doesn't get bogged down by work pressure; neither does she get jittery by audience expectation.
"I don't consider it as work pressure, as I enjoy doing it. But I feel very relaxed when I spend my time alone at home after I pack up every day or I speak to my parents and spend time with them.
"I don't expect people to expect anything. I know I have given it my best.
I obviously hope the best for every film," said Deepika.
(Dibyojyoti Baksi can be contacted at email@example.com )