Playing mom to a 13-year-old boy with a special condition wasn't easy for Vidya Balan. But she managed to pull it off.
Playing a 20-something mother to a 60-something may not be a very regular idea, we reckon. But Vidya Balan has done it by taking the enviable position of yesteryear actresses Nirupa Roy, Rakhi and Waheeda Rehman, to count a few, who have played onscreen mothers to the legendary Amitabh Bachchan. “The first reaction when I heard out Balki narrating Paa was ‘Wow'! It was difficult to imagine and, honestly, I was quite apprehensive when he gave me the gist of the story,” says the actor.
There were a hundred niggling doubts, she explains. “Sometimes vanity takes over and I must confess I was worried about playing a mother, more so to a 13-year-old boy with a special condition. With a small child or infant, motherly instincts are naturally aroused when you cuddle the child, but with an older kid it's different. Then there was the thing about the kid being Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. One can't be unnatural with a child and pretend to share a comfort level. I thought with any other child I could raise my voice or pat him on the back with love. I wasn't sure if with a towering personality like his, both physically and metaphorically, I would be able to do it,” says Vidya.
But once Vidya's brother-in-law, also her biggest critic, convinced her about letting the actor's instinct score over every other apprehension, she wanted director Balki to give her a joint reading with her ‘son' in character to test the water. “When I came to the studio and saw Auro, there was no Mr. Bachchan there. And this was not just about make-up. His voice, his mannerisms and, of course, his look had totally changed,” she says. Needless to say, there was no joint reading. Vidya is full of praise for her director. “Balki should actually have been named conviction. He is effortless but very certain. On the sets there is no autocratic behaviour.
He has that special quality to make real life cinema while balancing it out fantastically with larger-than-life elements.” She is certain that her role as Vidya in Paa, a gynaecologist married to a politician, won't be stunted by the presence of the real life father-son duo, Amitabh and Abhishek. “If I had doubts about that, I wouldn't have accepted this role. I have no qualms about the size or the spotlight my role gets if I am sure of the story and what I am doing in the film,” she adds.
After Paa's release this week, Vidya will be seen in a diametrically opposite role of a ‘bad girl' next month in Ishqiya which is produced by Vishal Bharadwaj. She's expected to break her sweet damsel image with this film where her character has some intimate scenes and spews foul language. That must've been difficult for her? “Actually I've enjoyed playing a bad girl in the film,” she laughs. “She is a woman who knows her mind. As for what the character does, if as an actor I feel it is justified, then there's no big deal. This woman hails from a belt where foul language is normal speak; it isn't even seen as an aberration. In such a context, if I were to insist on good language it would seem out of place. The same goes for the intimate scenes I have done. They are essential to the script,” she explains. While she awaits her next big project in the New Year, Vidya is keeping her fingers crossed for what, she believes, are two of her most challenging roles till date.