By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | March 30, 2022

Vidya Balan has no pretense. She’s been the same since Parineeta and success and flops have not altered her being, in person or on social media, or with the media in general. Wide-eyed, bubbly and honest-to-the-core, she lets every answer fly honestly without weighing the impact.

At the ABP Ideas of India Summit last week, she chatted with Vir Sanghvi and had the audience in splits with her simplicity and quick wit. Importantly, she touched a chord with the audience as she spoke as a human being and not a star looking down on her fans.

Speaking about the women-centric roles she reveals, “People started realizing that I’m game to do different things… I’m game to taking risks perhaps. But what they saw as risks I was just reacting to it as a greedy actor.”

Thankfully for her, her films became a success and with that people started investing more in the “so-called female actor. It worked out well,” she laughs.

Her mantra is simple: “I’d rather do work which is fulfilling to me rather than films that I’m indifferent to and offer me nothing.”

Opening Doorz to the ABP Summit with Vidya Balan and Vir Sanghvi.

Vidya Balan Mirror Mirror on the wall
“I want people to watch and love my work but none of my decisions is guided by what people may expect from me,” says Vidya Balan.

Will the real Vidya Balan please stand up

I am the real Vidya Balan. I love what I do so I undoubtedly take my work very seriously. I give it all I have. I have also been told that I am very naughty and have a sense of humour but I think because of the kind of roles that I do, people tend to ask me serious questions. I don’t think I am a serious person at all. I watch a lot of standup comedy. I love dirty jokes… I can tell you some [laughs]. I want to have a good laugh. I like to watch light happy films. I love spending time with my family and my husband and yeah I have some people I am very close to and I think I’m most myself with them. I don’t think there is another way to be me. I feel grateful for the love I receive but I do whatever I do for myself. I want people to watch and love my work but none of my decisions is guided by what people may expect from me.

The early years… the real dirty picture!

My first Malayalam film got shelved mid-way. I did the first schedule of the film and came back to Bombay. At that time I was getting a whole lot of offers from the Malayalam industry. On the phone, they would tell me the story and they would tell me to come one day before the shoot to figure out the costumes. It was not very organized. I got signed for almost 6 to 7 films. And then I got the news that the film was shelved. It was a film with Mohanlal and director Kamaluddin Mohammed Majeed. They had done eight films together and this was their Ninth film. They said, O, what has changed this time around… so they labelled me jinxed. They wanted to blame it on somebody else, so I got thrown out of all the 6-7 films! 

Then I was signed for a few Tamil films, which also I got thrown out from. There was one Tamil film I was shooting for but I think that producer heard that I was a jinx; he called me and said he checked my kundli and it was not the right decision. So they packed me off. I went through a very bad time. I began to believe that I was jinxed. Thankfully I met Pradeep Sarkar who showed such faith in me and I started to feel differently about myself after he gave me Parineeta.

Vidya Balan Mirror Mirror on the wall
“I found my purpose as an actor with Ishquiya,” reveals Vidya Balan.

Oh, la la… Jinxed women…

I think women are judged far more easily. You want to blame the ills of the world on them. What is honour killing all about? You are saying that my honour depends on you. This is ridiculous. Your honour should depend on you. You don’t have two legs to stand on and therefore you’re putting the onus of your honour on the women in your family. Shame on you!

Ishquiya and the roles thereafter…

I am grateful for the roles I have done. I think it has changed the way women are looked at. I think it was this deep desire that maybe I unconsciously put out in the universe and the universe just responded by sending this film called Ishquiya that changed the game for me. I remember someone saying, every actress gets one such film in her career where you get the opportunity to prove your mettle. Otherwise, you just have to be a prop or a heroine because that was the mindset still. I’m talking about 2008. So they said at least you will get a few awards. [Laughs].

I did some other films before that where I felt like I sleepwalked through them. All of them were successful but I was so indifferent then. I realized that I’m here to be an actor so when I feel charged about something only then will I do it. Ishquiya was that call and I found my purpose as an actor in this film.

The flops after the hits…

It was a very dark time obviously because after a series of successes you’re trying to figure out what went wrong, where did I miscalculate. I wanted to decode them. There was a fear that maybe what I have gone through was a fluke success. The first time around that this happened, I was tougher on myself, but it passed by quickly. I realized I was still getting wonderful work. You did your best but the film did not inspire the audience to get into the theatres. And if you are not ready to take the onus of a film’s success, you should not take discredit either. I think it was perspective, age, maturity, experience.

I remember when I went to work on the sets of Tumahari Sullu, two weeks after Begum Jaan flopped, my director told the team that she might be in a bad mood so be careful. But when I came on the set happy he couldn’t believe it. That’s what I do; I’m cheerful every day I walk on the sets. I feel blessed. I am living my dream. It’s ok: ups and downs are part of life, I gave it my best shot it did not work… too bad.

Vidya Balan Mirror Mirror on the wall
“The hero doesn’t have one type of body, each one is a hero. You just need to unleash the hero within you. You can look however and be whoever and you can have it all,” says Vidya Balan.

Hormonal issues and the fear of judgement…

I have had huge hormonal issues because of the fear of being judged. I come from a very traditional South Indian family who had nothing to do with the arts and suddenly I was thrown into this and as much as I wanted this I was scared because now I knew that people would judge me easily. There was a phase where people criticized me for my body and dressing and everything. That would affect me. Suddenly when I stepped out, the outfit that I tried on yesterday and which fitted me perfectly, did not fit me well. 

When I first started working I was fifteen-and-a-half years old and by the time I joined movies I was 26. I don’t think anything is impossible today; there is more age-appropriate work. People would come and tell me that no we need you to lose weight. Around five years ago, when a director told me that, I told him that if you want someone with a different body please cast somebody else. What you see is what you get so if I am not appropriate for the role I am not going to change myself. Ever since that day, no producer has ever asked me to lose weight. I have realized that my body is what is keeping me alive… when the body stops I won’t be around to criticize it so I may as well be appreciating it.

The hero doesn’t have one type of body, each one is a hero. You just need to unleash the hero within you. You can look however and be whoever and you can have it all.

Also Read: Vidya Balan and the art of intense kissing

Also Read: Tumhari Sulu Movie Review: In tune with Vidya Balan!

Pic Courtesy: ABP Network / Vidyabalan@Instagram

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