Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who is just back in Mumbai after four exhilarating performances of the opera "Padmavati" in Paris, says the experience of directing it was stimulating.

"The only opera I had seen before this was at the Opera House in Mumbai. I had never gone to an opera, never knew there was an operatic influence within me. Now I'm hungry for more," Bhansali told IANS.

After two consecutive performances of "Padmavati" at the posh Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris, Bhansali is clearly the toast of France.

The reviews in all the major French papers - La Republica, Le Monde and Les Echoes - have hailed Bhansali's opera as an unqualified triumph.

Yet a section of his colleagues in Mumbai continue to believe Bhansali's stunning sojourn in Paris to be an extension of his overseas journey that began after his latest movie "Saawariya", which was panned by critics and audience alike.

Such is the response to the opera that it now goes to Italy and other European countries.

Exhilarated by the response Bhansali, who made his mark on Indian celluloid with "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" and later cemented it with "Devdas", shrugs off critics in Mumbai.

"It's rather sad that some people would rather pull down what is an honour for India than celebrate our triumph. I was nervous and apprehensive about the first performance. Now after the second performance, I'm far more confident. Yes, it works."

Bhansali's ultimate destination for "Padmavati" is Chittorgarh, the Rajasthani hamlet where Albert Rousell's opera is set. He dreams of staging the opera live in the real sand with real elephants and camels.

At the first performance itself one could hear loud gasps and sighs at the immensity, scope and opulence of Bhansali's love tale as it unravelled on stage in unparalleled operatic style.

Wrote Amit Roy in The Telegraph, "The premiere of the Indo-French opera Padmavati had ended to rousing and sustained cheers of 'Bravo bravo!' from the 2,500-strong audience at the Theatre du Chatelet."

"The second performance last week went even better, with audiences hooked to the thunderous tale of Padmavati's undying passion for the commoner Ratan Sen. With the third and fourth performance Paris was hooked."

"It's a triumph for all of us - Tanushree Shankar, who has done the choreography, Omang Kumar, who has done the art work, and Rajesh Pratap Singh who has done the clothes. And the French team is so brilliant we couldn't have gone wrong," Bhansali said.