Deepika Padukone has finally zeroed in on her next venture donning the hat of not only the lead actress but producer as well. Directed by Meghna Gulzar, the film is based on the story of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal.
“When I heard this story, I was deeply moved as it’s not just one of violence but of strength and courage, hope and victory. It made such an impact on me, that personally and creatively, I needed to go beyond and so the decision to turn producer,” the actress asserts.
Laxmi who comes from an underprivileged background was 15, waiting at a bus stop in Delhi, in 2005, when she was attacked. Her 32-year-old assailant was an acquaintance of the family who harboured a one-sided attraction towards her. It turned into a deadly grouse when the teenager spurned the advances of this unlikely suitor.
“Using Laxmi’s story as a lens, we are attempting to explore these aspects and the consequences of acid-related violence in our society. This’s what makes this must-told story relevant. Awareness is the first step towards change,” Gulzar said.
For two years, the disfigured girl rarely stepped out of her home. But in 2006, she did file a PIL seeking the framing of a new law or an amendment to existing criminal laws like IPC, Indian Evidence Act and CrPC which deal with the offense, making a fervent plea for a total ban on the sale of acid. In 2013, in the wake of the Nirbhaya incident, the Supreme Court ruled in her favor.
Laxmi is the director of Chhanv Foundation, an NGO dedicated to helping acid attack survivors. She’s opened cafes in Lucknow and Agra managed entirely by these survivors and now goes by the name of Laxmi SAA (Stop Acid Attacks).
Talking about the her decision to collaborate on the project Padukone said, “The story made such an impact on me that personally and creatively, I needed to go beyond and so the decision to turn producer.”
“Using Laxmi’s story as a lens, we are attempting to explore these aspects and the consequences of acid-related violence in our society. This’s what makes this must-told story relevant. Awareness is the first step towards change,” asserts Meghna, pointing out that like Talvar, with various narratives intertwined, the film is a gritty, investigative piece, interspersed with a courtroom drama. “If the story is to be summed up in one line, then it’s one of triumph, of an ‘unquashable’ human spirit.”
When quizzed about why she thinks Deepika is the best choice to play Laxmi, the Raazi director points out that it is an emotionally and physically challenging role. “I was instinctively convinced that Deepika would do justice to the character and the story. Also, her physicality matched with what I’d imagined for Laxmi’s character. I’m grateful and encouraged that she was so spontaneous in her decision to do the film. When you take a face as beautiful as hers and portray her as an acid attack survivor, the magnitude of the violence and damage is that much more resounding,” she says.