As “Bobby Jasoos” comes to town, Vidya Balan allays fears of being pigeonholed.
Sometimes, in trying to be different, a certain sameness creeps into an actor’s universe. Vidya Balan is perhaps going through that phase. After being labelled jinxed and unsuitable to be a pretty young thing in glossy Bollywood, she broke the type with such vehemence that it became a type in itself. So after the welcome change of “The Dirty Picture” and “Kahaani” where her mass matched the content’s weight, she inadvertently generated a ‘heroine-oriented’ wave which is now threatening to sweep her away. Her last two films — “Ghanchakkar” and “Shaadi Ke Side Effects” — overtly celebrated her girth, and both the box office and critics were less than generous. This week we have “Bobby Jasoos”, where the promos again suggest an over-the-top approach to milk Vidya’s talent for being different. Put this fear to Vidya and she wants to do a Bobby on you!
But first, a window on Bilkis Ahmed, alias Bobby from Hyderabad. Does she germinate from the grassroots? Do we have enough Bobbys to root for a reflection of them on screen?
“I also used to think on the same lines because we don’t really see private detectives around us but they must be there considering the proliferation of agencies in urban centres. When I went through the research of writer Sanyukta Sheikh I was pleasantly surprised. It opened up the world of female detectives to me. They operate without any real training. They comprise young girls and housewives who work as snoops in the neighbourhood and are part of a big network where they are local sources for detective agencies. Many of us have a knack for tip-toeing on what is going on in others’ lives and when it earns you some money it becomes all the more exciting. Bobby is also one such nosy girl but she is ambitious and one day she really gets a big case.”
Suggesting that it is a sort of genre-bending script, Vidya says audiences should not go looking just for a sleek thriller where a know-all detective will be let loose. “We have this set notion that all detectives are super smart and solve the cases in their mind. How about a story of a young amateur detective who is learning from her mistakes, what about the dilemmas of a young Muslim girl in a conservative Hyderabad neighbourhood who has chosen an unlikely profession? It is these layers that made me interested. Also, the big one that she gets is not about saving the world or the country, which is usually the case with detective franchises. It is very local but has a global appeal.” Song and dance and the romantic track do seem like an exercise to stretch this appeal. “No, as I said Sanyuka is sensitive about these things and she has done it in an organic fashion,” maintains Vidya.
Coming to the sameness that is creeping into her presentation, Vidya says when she broke through “Paa”, the idea was to play real people without getting into the trappings of glamour, shape and size. Soon, she got over vanity, an obstacle that keeps many actors away from substantial roles, so much so that she no longer requires checking the video monitor after delivering her lines. “Somehow we are not used to seeing real characters on screen. We tend to believe the heroines have to have an hour-glass figure. Thankfully, that is changing. I want to make the most of it,” she says. The attempt, however, doesn’t free you from the risk of failure, she admits. “‘Ghankchakker’ seemed to me an interesting theme and I didn’t find any fault with the execution as well. But then when you remain so close to a project for a long time you don’t remain objective about it,” she reasons.
But now the challenge for her will be to do something against her body type, or making the weight inconsequential. “If an interesting role comes to me that requires me to acquire a different body type I will definitely do whatever it takes.” Sujoy Ghosh’s “Durga Rani Singh” did come her way but she refused after committing to the “Kahaani” director. “It was not about having second thoughts. I liked the script but could not do it because of health issues, which I don’t want to share.” A section of the media has gone overboard with her health. “I don’t mind speculation to an extent but the media should know where to draw the line and should understand that people in the film industry also have a personal life and that they are also sensitive people.”
With her heroine-oriented image, it seems she has pushed herself into a territory where big stars will keep away from working with her. “Not really. I had worked with some really big names in my last two releases but the script remains my main criterion.”
Vidya realises that it is becoming a long wait for the fans of her dainty charm. “If somebody is missing me in a full-on romantic tale then he should wait for ‘Hamari Adhoori Kahaani’.” It is being written by Mahesh Bhatt, where she will be sharing screen space with Emraan Hashmi and Rajkumar Rao. One met Bhatt some time back and he said he is re-writing the script to suit Vidya’s new found ‘weight’ in the film industry. The actress laughs at the allusion to her size.
“When I decided to become an actor, one of my wishes was to work with Bhatt sahib as a director, but now that he has stopped directing, the next best thing is to work in a film written by him and directed by Mohit Suri. It is an intense love story and I have not done something in this space since “Parineeta”. But if somebody thinks that I am doing it to return to glamorous roles then he is mistaken. I am not here to be a glam doll. I want to play as many diverse characters as possible.”