After a brief lull and few duds in her career, the Padma Shri and National award winning actress Vidya Balan is now raring to get back with a renewed sense of energy.
She has completed Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani 2 and is readying herself for Begum Jaan, the Hindi adaptation of National Award-winning filmmaker Srijit Mukherji's Bengali film, Rajkahini. Vidya will play the role of a brothel madam with actresses Pallavi Sharda, Priyanka Sethia, ex-Bigg Boss winner Gauahar Khan, Dhanak actress Flora Saini, TV actress Ridhima Tiwari, Ravija Chauhan and Poonam Rajput playing prostitutes living in the brothel.
This year, Vidya will also complete the biopic and Malayalam-Hindi bilingual project on famous Malayalam author and poet Kamala Das.
“I was unwell for a while and I did not work because I realised I had to get my rest and focus on having healthy habits. I started work when I was in college (with Ekta Kapoor’s sitcom Hum Paanch in 1995), and I realised what work meant to me during this time of rest. Which is why there is this hunger to work. This year I am working harder than I have ever worked in my career. I completed TE3N in January then I shot for Kahaani 2. I am not at all complaining. I am raring to go,” laughs Vidya.
Post success of The Dirty Picture (released in 2011) which was inspired by the life of Silk Smitha, Vidya has been offered maximum biopics.
“Maybe I look like these people from older generation,” she jokes, adding, "Not many biopics were made when we came out with The Dirty Picture but now there are lots. We are making more and more films on real life people maybe because we don’t define our heroes in the same manner as we used to. Also, it becomes more interesting to tell a story.”
Commercially, Sujoy and Vidya’s Kahaani (2012) worked wonders for the mystery-thriller genre but since then no thriller has seen that kind of success. Besides Kahaani 2, Vidya will be seen playing the role of a cop in another thriller TE3N (releases on 10 June) alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Will TE3N and Kahaani 2 break the jinx? “I don’t know about any of that. But it was wonderful that audience wasn’t giving away the end of Kahaani. Family members were telling each other, ‘Go and watch the film, it has got a great end'. No one revealed the end which was incredible. People loved the film so much that they didn’t want to take the joy and experience away from others,” says Vidya.
She continues, “Kahaani opened very small but it grew to collecting 60 crore at the box office. Though it appeared women-centric, finally it catered to all kinds of audience. When The Dirty Picture released people attributed its success to sex but Kahaani’s success baffled everybody. It had a pregnant woman rambling around, looking for her husband. Guess the timing was just right.”
Now, with Kahaani carrying the baggage of commercial success, is there any kind of pressure for Kahaani 2? "No, there is no pressure. In fact, we have an advantage because people have loved Kahaani. Kahaani 2 is a different film in terms of story, so it can never be the same. Let’s hope it is better or as good.”
She is tight-lipped about her character and her role. Is she playing Vidya Bagchi again? “I don’t know," Vidya laughs.
She shares great working relationship with both, Bachchan and Siddiqui, in TE3N. “I have only two scenes with Mr Bachchan but you never stop learning from him. I admire the fact that after so many years he’s still so driven by the actor in him which inspires me. Nawaz and I did Kahaani together and there is that comfort level with him. We met after six years and we spoke a lot on varied subjects,” says Vidya.
While Vidya has definitely grown as an actor and come a long way since her debut with Parineeta opposite Saif Ali Khan, in 2005, the one lesson she says she has learnt is taking criticism in her stride. “It is never the end of the world. Earlier, when people would write something or if someone said something, I would react with – ‘Oh my god the world’s looking at me in this fashion'. Obviously, I didn’t feel good. But eventually I realised that what you read or hear is not everyone’s opinion and it will never be. It was the biggest lesson to realise that there will never be a day when everyone praises you, and there never will be a day when everyone criticises you. So all’s well,” says Vidya.
Talking about her brave choice in films, Vidya says, “I do a film primarily on the basis of the role. Then the director comes in because if I am seeing the film the way the director is, that is a good sign. So how I vibe with the director is very important. And then the producer, because he ensures the film gets a good release.”
She further says, “My personality reflects in the brave choices I make. I am most worried, and most concerned about my happiness. I have no qualms in admitting that my happiness is utmost important to me. I have spent lot of time pleasing others but now I won’t be able to make everyone happy. Whether a film has worked or not, there is not a single film I regret doing in my career because I have no one to blame for the failures or share the credit of the decision I made.”
As everyone knows that Vidya doesn’t hold back and voices her opinion openly, however, the actress chooses to be silent on the issue of film censorship. “As long as you assure me that whatever I say will not be held against me when my film goes for censor certificate only then I will open my mouth because these days it has become very tricky. Sensitivities are very high. So I don’t want to say anything and get into trouble. It is important to be silent. I don’t hold back, everyone has seen me speak but when it comes to CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) I don’t want to say anything,” says Vidya.