Thank God I’m an actress! – Vidya Balan

Vidya Balan

By Neeru Saluja

The last time I saw Vidya Balan was in 2007 was while she was shooting for Heyy Baby. It was like magic recreated ”“ the same warm and generous eyes, laughing smile and graceful demeanor that makes her look like the girl next door.

The only difference has been how she has proved herself to be a versatile actress since then. Be it the dignified Lolita of Parineeta (her debut film), the vivacious RJ Jhanavi of Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Avni from the spooky comedy Bhool Bhulaiya, the single mother from Paa, the femme fatale of Ishqiya or the Sabrina Lal from No one killed Jessica, Vidya Balan is one of the most sought after actresses of Bollywood. She has had the wonderful opportunity to work closely with seasoned actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Mithun Chakorbathy and Nasseruddin Shah. With a drive to do something different every time, she has essayed each role beyond expectations, and that too within a short span.

Vidya was in Sydney recently for the Indian Film Festival 2011 ”“ Bollywood and Beyond, organised by Mind Blowing Films. For the festival, they also held competition for short documentaries. This was won by a documentary from India, Ganesh Mumbaikar, directed by Colin D’cunha with cinematography by young and talented Sydney lad Kush Badhwar. The documentary was shown before all feature films shown at the festival.

Vidya Balan, dressed in an elegant Sabyasachi saree, looked as fresh and beautiful as she looks on screen. Without any artificial airs, she starts telling us about her journey.

“It’s wonderful to come back to Sydney. I came here in 2007 for the shooting of Heyy Babyy. Six years of my career in films has been fulfilling so far, I have had good fortune, played diverse characters, worked with wonderful actors, travelled the world and of course received a few brickbats during my journey,” says Vidya.

When talking about diverse characters in Bollywood, Vidya definitely fits the bill. Who could imagine she could play a femme fatale as she did in Ishqiya? Vidya laughs, “Ishqiya was a sudden change of image. It just blacked out! Every actor in India develops a certain image within time, but as an actor I don’t want an image.”

So does she relate herself to any role? “Now that’s a difficult question. I’m a bit of Krishna from Ishqiya, a bit of Sabrina from No one killed Jessica, a bit of Lolita from Parineeta…I think that’s me!”

Accompanied by Raj Kumar Gupta, director of the film ‘No One Killed Jessica’, Vidya tells more about her latest film which was the opening film of the film festival. “Raj kumar hardly wrote any lines on me, despite that it was a very gripping role. The film shows how her journey transformed and how at one point the media and country was backing her.

“And above all, we had a great time on the sets. Me and Rani got along very well and despite that the film had two female characters with meaty roles, Rajkumar balanced them well and there were no ego clashes. Raj actually had a tough time handling us as we were having such a good time while shooting. Even till the last day we were playing pranks on Raj!”

Vidya is one of those actresses who without any star backing has made it big in films. Coming from a typical South Indian family, how was it to cross those barriers?

Vidya sums up: “Born and brought up in Mumbai, I was exposed to everything, there was never any restriction. We are rooted, but not conservative. We got a lot of education, and always had support. Initially my mum was worried, but when she came along with me on the sets she accepted and thought that her daughter will take care of herself”.

Not many know but despite being a Tamil-Malayalam, Vidya is also fluent in Bengali and has appeared in a Bengali film Bhalo Theko. Even her debut film Parineeta was based in Bengal. “I can’t explain my fascination with Bengal. In Kolkata, I feel at home. I know nursery rhymes in Bengali, I just love everything and anything Bengali. It’s funny how being a Malayali, I’m more fascinated by Bengali culture!”

This keen actor who has been recognized more for acting than just a pretty face having won Filmfare’s Award for Best Actress for her role as a single mother of a child suffering from Progeria in R Balki’s Paa   and her latest NDTV’s Actor of the Year ”“ Female 2011.

We ask the obvious – if not an actress, what would Vidya be?

“Thank God I’m an actress! The schizophrenic in me would have otherwise unleashed in various ways!”

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