Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR
Vidya Balan is no vanilla – meet her and witness her exuberance apart from her ‘bindaas’ attitude if her films aren’t a testament to the fact. Just as she’s leaving the audience impressed yet again with her extended guest appearance in ‘Te3n’, we catch up with the actress for a quick conversation. Totally rocking a cream saree and hair tied into a plait, she settles down and talks all about her unconventional choices amidst lots more….
“I think I just happened to be at the right place, at the right time with the right amount of hunger”
What is the priority list when you’re signing a film?
I think primarily it’s the role, I instinctively know when I want to be this other person because for two months I am living, breathing this person. Then it’s the story and the director comes in because if I’m seeing the film the way the director is then that’s a good sign but sometimes you can be at tangents and that doesn’t work. So, how I vibe with the director is very important. And then the producer ensures the film gets made the way it is meant to be made and it gets released. So I think these three things in this order matter.
Most of your characters have found a great connect with the audience, and are still remembered. Has choosing such roles been a conscious decision?
I think I like to relate to things. When I’m watching a film as an audience, I’m looking for that relatability. For example, a film like ‘Inception’, I know it’s a great film but I don’t relate to it at all. I look for that relatability in the scripts I choose also. I think because I’m invariably doing films that are so real, relatability becomes easy for audiences. I think that’s probably how I choose.
From ‘Parineeta’ to now, what has been your biggest learning?
That it’s never the end of the world. I come from a complete non-film background. Initially when people wrote something about me, I used to really get upset and think that the world is thinking about me in this fashion. I didn’t feel great about it. But I realised that it’s not the entire world. What you read about yourself is not the entire world’s opinion, it never will be. So don’t take it all seriously. It’s been my biggest lesson to realise that there will never be a day when everyone praises you, there will never be a day when everyone criticizes you so it’s all good in the world.
Apart from the criticism, do you realise when you’ve gone wrong?
You always know. Instinctively, intrinsically, you know if you went wrong or if you didn’t give something too much thought. I feel, you are your best judge and as long as you are able to be honest with yourself, it’s great. I try and be as honest as I can with myself. It’s very difficult because you know what the truth is, you don’t even need one other person to tell you.
A lot of people today thank you and a film like ‘Kahaani’ because it made way for so many such films. How do you feel about it?
I think it’s wonderful when people give me that credit and I’m grateful for it but I think someone had to take the first step. I think I just happened to be at the right place, at the right time with the right amount of hunger. It’s very sweet that people say they’re thankful to me but I think they are just being sweet. I never thought about it but just that different films managed to cater to different kinds of audiences. ‘Kahaani’ opened very small but then it grew to 60 crores which a women-centric film in those days hadn’t done. When ‘The Dirty Picture’ released, people said that the film worked because it has so much sex, and then ‘Kahaani’ seemed to have all negative – I was playing this pregnant woman. But I didn’t have any contribution in the story or how it was made. I just gave my all as an actor. So, that credit I share with everyone. I feel the timing was right though.
“have no qualms about admitting that my happiness is of utmost importance to me. I’ve spent time pleasing everyone else except myself but I’ve finally reached a point where I know I will not be able to keep everyone happy”
Of course now, everyone talks about ‘The Dirty Picture’, ‘Kahaani’ or ‘Nobody Killed Jessica’, but at the script level, they were risky films. Do these choices say a lot about you?
(smiles) I think they do. Finally I’m most worried or most concerned about my happiness. I have no qualms about admitting that my happiness is of utmost importance to me. I’ve spent time pleasing everyone else except myself but I’ve finally reached a point where I know I will not be able to keep everyone happy. So just do what you are happy with. Whether a film has worked or not, there has not been a single film that I regret doing in my career, because I have no one else to blame or share credit of those choices with.
People may have different opinions but if I like that film, I will do it anyway. It’s the most private, personal decision for me.
While there’s always been appreciation for your work, the fashion police has not been very happy with you. How have you not let that bother you?
This again I learnt with experience that if you are happy with what you see in the mirror, duniya gayi tel lene (hahaha). Kabhi kabhi these fashion people, I see them wearing clothes and I’m like, what are they wearing? I think it’s a difference of perspective.
You seem to be back now with renewed energy after a little break?
I was unwell for a while in between and I didn’t work because I realised I had to get my rest and focus on having healthy habits. I missed working so much at that time. I had started working when I was in college and I realised what my work meant to me more than ever during this phase. Which is why, there is that renewed energy and more hunger. This year I am working harder than I’ve ever worked in my career and I am not at all complaining. I am raring to go.
Do you think the success of ‘Kahaani’ has put pressure on the sequel or do you think it’s an advantage?
I think it’s an advantage that people already know ‘Kahaani’ and they have loved the film so much but ‘Kahaani 2’ is a different film all together. It’s a different story, so it can never be the same. I hope it’s better than the first or at least as good.
What do you have to say about the changing taste of our audience and the variety of cinema being offered?
The change in taste is also because we are giving them different kinds of films. And the more successful these films are, the more variety we see in films. I think there are small films being made and while some are not being released, it’s just nice to see that someone is putting in money to tell a different kind of story. I am making the most of it. Sidharth and I go to the theatre almost every weekend to watch a film. There are some films to which I’ll say no to, but he watches anything you show him. Despite that, there’s always something for me to watch as well.
Tell us about your upcoming projects…
I’d been shooting for ‘Kahaani 2’. Now I’ll start with ‘Begum Jaan’. We are a bunch of eleven women in that film so it should be great fun. After that I’ll be working on the Kamala Das biopic.