MUMBAI: "The nation has gone mad," said a furious Asha Parekh, the veteran actress who saw "Padmaavat" a few days back at a special screening organised by the director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
"Believe me, I haven't been able to sleep. I am in a trance after watching the film," said Asha, an unabashed fan of Bhansali's work.
"The work he extracts from his actors... I wish I could become 30 years younger to play a Bhansali heroine. But having said that, I would like to congratulate Deepika Padukone for her performance.
"If today I had to make a film on Rani Padmavati, I would cast none other but Deepika," she said. Asha watched the special screening on Thursday.
"Her grace, when she dances or acts is simply commendable. Ranveer Singh is the epitome of evil... Every frame in the film is bewitching. And the 'Ghoomar' dance that they've objected to is so beautiful!" the veteran actress said.
"I wonder what the Karni Sena is shouting and raging about! There is nothing against the Rajputs in the film. Bhansali glorifies the community like no other film before.
"History will remember what Bhansali has achieved in 'Padmaavat'. History will also remember what we allowed some section to do to him for mistakes that he never made...
"Haan ek ghalti unhone zaror kee (Yes, there is one mistake that he definitely committed). He dared to make a film that can rival Mughal-e-Azam in vision and scale," she added.
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali sees a lot of Waheeda Rehman in Deepika Padukone.
And Waheeda just cannot stop raving about "Padmaavat". "Main kya kahoon? (What can I say?) I am short of words. This is a film that will be remembered forever. Every frame is perfect.
"Lagta hi nahin ke koi cheez asli nahin hai (It all appears so real that you forget its fiction). The way he lights every shot... As though he used no artificial light but only the sun, the moon and the torched flames that were used in those days."
Waheeda is specially enamoured by the songs and dances. "We've a rich tradition of dancing and singing in our country. We sing and we dance on every occasion.
"I've done some dancing myself that were well appreciated in films like 'Guide'. In the West, people in love head straight for the bed. In our cinema songs are a means to show love and romance."
"Sadly we don't have that much singing and dancing in our movies any more. All the music is put in the background.
"It's very reassuring to see the semi-classical heritage revived in Bhansali's films. Far from causing hurt or insult to any community, 'Padmaavat' makes us proud as Indians.
"We should be showering flowers on Bhansali, not pelting him and his film with stones," she added.
Hema Malini, who is a member of the ruling government, exercises all her self-control from speaking out.
But she cannot help saying: "What is happening with Bhansali is not right at all. But I can't say too much. Or it will become a headline. But I'd like to say that all those who are stopping us Indians from watching this beautiful Indian film should be taken to task."
The Dream Girl calls "Padmaavat" a "dream come true".
"Every frame is a work of art, every scene a labour of love, every performance so pitch-perfect. Bhansali has paid such attention to details... The way Ranveer Singh's eyes are lit to convey evil... The peace and silence in Deepika's eyes. She is so beautiful and regal," Hema said.
"I've played Rajput princesses in Vijay Anand's 'Rajput' and Gulzar's 'Meera'. But Deepika is a class apart. I fell in love with the film. I hope and pray every Indian gets to see this masterpiece," she added.