Darpan Exclusive – Vidya Balan
This passionate, talented actress dares to defy Bollywood norms.
In an industry where men continue to dominate the big screen, Vidya Balan has successfully defied Bollywood conventions by starring in and popularizing female-centric films. Since her Hindi film debut in 2005, Balan has proved her versatility by playing a wide variety of characters, ranging from a single mother in Paa to a provocative actress in The Dirty Picture. In an exclusive interview with DARPAN, the five-time Filmfare Award winning actress talks about films, her childhood and the upcoming film Kahaani.
“My work is an extension of my beliefs, so even if I start off being a weak woman in a film, I want her to overcome her situation and emerge stronger by the end of it because to me, it’s a reflection of reality… more and more women are doing that, so I guess that inspires me and if I’m getting a chance to portray that through cinema, I’m more than happy,” says Balan.
She adds that while she likes to explore the different facets of a strong woman through her films, she isn’t promoting any type of social agenda. “I think there is an innate strength in every woman, but depending on the circumstances and background, the expressions of the strength are different and I’m getting various chances to portray that strength through different people on screen, so there is no such purpose beyond making films that I believe in…but, if even in a convoluted way, [my films] can contribute to empowering someone, then that’s the icing on the cake,” explains the 34-year-old who recently won numerous ‘Best Actress’ accolades, including the prestigious National Award, for her daring performance in The Dirty Picture.
The film received critical and commercial success and was applauded by audiences and critics alike because just like Balan’s previous ventures, it was an engaging film that effortlessly merged entertainment with substance. And for once, the actress was seen in a totally glamorous role, for which she was appreciated. Despite this, she makes it clear that glamour or lack of it is never something that she considers before taking on a role. This revelation doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering that Balan, who was brought up in Mumbai, grew up in a simple and secure environment and received “unconditional love” from her parents and older sister Priya.
“I was a plump child, happy to be doing nothing, happy to be eating. I didn’t want to play, I didn’t want to read and my only preoccupation was food, so it was a very carefree childhood,” says Balan, who started her career doing commercials and music videos on TV.
Elaborating on the big switch from the small to big screen, Balan says it was a natural but unplanned progression.”I think I was meant to be here and thank God, because I didn’t have a ‘Plan B’ and neither was I doing anything to make this [movie] plan materialize, all I had was a certain hunger and passion,” she explains.
Undeniably, it’s this same passion mixed with a knack to be different that’s helping Balan climb the ladder of success even today. Unlike most of her contemporaries, Balan isn’t afraid to stand out and this is evident with film promotions, as she usually dresses like her characters. When asked about this, Balan explains that she prefers to promote her films this way because it directly connects people with the production, and subsequently increases their interest in it. In keeping with this, the actress can be seen sporting a fake baby bump while promoting her upcoming thriller Kahanni.
Set in Kolkata, Kahaani tells the story of Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman who goes on a search to find her missing husband. Soon, she discovers that no one seems to have heard of him. Alone in an unfamiliar city, she sets out to find the truth “but behind every truth is a lie and behind every lie is a mystery and what happens at the end is just unbelievable,” explains Balan.
By Saira Hayre