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‘Women I play on screen are an extension of me’

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Vidya Balan picked powerful women characters even before "female-centric cinema" became mainstream in Bollywood and the actor, who has pioneered a change in the concept of the Hindi film heroine in the last decade, says her choices are often guided by her personal experiences. Vidya has successfully established herself as an actor par excellence with films such as "Parineeta", "Ishqiya", "No One Killed Jessica", "The Dirty Picture", "Kahaani" and "Begum Jaan" among others. But she says the films that are among her personal favourites and have become turning points in her career,  are "Kahaani", "The Dirty Picture" and her last release "Tumhari Sulu".

"Every film or role that I have done has had some personal connect. All these women (characters) follow their heart and do exactly what they want to do and in a way they were all an extension of me," Vidya said. "I am a shy person. There are two sides to me, when the actor side comes out, I am different," the actor adds.

Vidya, 39, counts her portrayal of Vidya Bagchi in the Sujoy Ghosh-directed movie as one of her finest performances. She says the only brief that Ghosh gave her was that the film would be about a pregnant woman who comes to Kolkata to look for her missing husband. "I found the story interesting and said, 'Let's do it'. It (climax) developed organically and when he narrated it to me, it blew my mind. People who were approached for the film were not told about the (twist) ending. Only, Sujoy, me, cinematographer, and the ADs knew about it. We kept it a secret," she recalls.

Vidya reveals she even lied to her pregnant sister about the ending of "Kahaani", which is now counted among one of the best Hindi cinema thrillers. The film, which went on to become a hit at the box office, however, faced many financial hurdles and was eventually shot on a shoe-string budget. "They could not get their head around the fact that it was about a pregnant woman and they were like, 'Why would audiences want to see a pregnant woman in theatres'? Unfortunately, people do not go by the project, Sujoy had written a beautiful script, but they had kept in mind his previous two films which had not worked."

The memory of the shooting of the 2010 hit is still fresh in Vidya's mind and the actor says even though she knew the script, she had to play a character who was discovering things in her journey. "It was a multilayered character. We did a good job with the film in a limited budget despite all odds. But all is well that ends well," she says.

Vidya believes her character of Krishna in "Ishqiya" was somewhat similar to her role in "Kahaani" as both these women end up "outsmarting" everyone else in the end. Talking about "The Dirty Picture", where she played a role inspired by Silk Smitha, Vidya said director Milan Luthria told her to respect the character as it would help the audience understand her struggle and choices.

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