The director had originally cast Kareena Kapoor in the role, but was reportedly not keen on having a 'married' Juliet as the female lead in the adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet,
The Times of India reports.
"Bhansali wanted an A-list heroine to play Leela," a source close to the project revealed. "He approached Katrina [Kaif], but she did not have dates. Deepika was the only one with available dates for the project. Bhansali was only too happy to have her."
"She signed on the dotted lines only recently. Bhansali had approached her about 25 days back. He was also considering a fresh face, but was happy to have Deepika on board," the source added.
The actress apparently gave up time that she had previously allotted for a joint production from Ekta Kapoor and Karan Johar to Bhansali.
"The other project was taking too much time. The script wasn't ready. So Deepika simply transferred her dates to Bhansali's film," a second insider explained.
The Cocktail star has bagged several other film roles recently including Rohit Shetty's Chennai Express with Shah Rukh Khan, which was also originally offered to Kareena Kapoor.