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The grace of Munnabhai

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A CHANGE Vidya Balan chose to do a radio jockey's role in
A CHANGE Vidya Balan chose to do a radio jockey's role in "Lago Raho Munna Bhai"for an image makeover.

RANA SIDDIQUI

Vidya Balan is back with "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" releasing this Friday. She isn't calling it a substantial role but a fun-filled one definitely.

A "Parineeta" happens once in many years. But I do need to break into several moulds and that is possible only when I work in different genres of films.

She has the proverbial husky voice that encourages one to keep the conversation going. A face that makes one look at her, listen to her. And a voice that is tranquil enough to strike a chord with her for a 'chat' rather than a hurried interview. She has that quiet confidence that rubs off on you too: you end up asking some uncomfortable questions knowing she won't lose her cool. Indeed, she has a reputation of being "as cool as cucumber" in the Bollywood fraternity. It is a reputation well earned: she throws no tantrums, answers questions with endearing patience. She exudes that 'girl next door' feeling. Meet Vidya Balan, Pradeep Sarkar's Lolita in "Parineeta", and now Raj Kumar Hirani's Jhanvi in "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" releasing this Friday. Contrary to her portrayal of a 1960's woman in "Parineeta", Vidya, already a name in Tollywood, plays a modern-day radio jockey in this "Munna Bhai" sequel. She replaces Gracy Singh, who did the female lead in the first version, "Munnai Bhai MBBS". The film was a rousing success but Gracy was more or less overshadowed by the hilarious antics by Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi in it. Small but different

But that seems to be not an issue with Vidya. In her restrained, nasal tone, this petite beauty from Kerala gives her reasons: "I accept that the film is actually about Sanjay and Arshad . And I knew it before I signed it. I really didn't want to create a hype for this role either. I don't have a great role in the film but it is different from what I have done before." After the film was completed, Vidya had a look at her role and she says, "I had nothing to complain." To get into the skin of the character, Vidya had met a couple of radio jockeys and watched them handling their work. "What I found most interesting about their job is that they make even bigger things lighter by using a casual approach. They don't intellectualise but convey heavier issues in simple, fun-filled way so that it gets registered in people and at the same time, doesn't sound preachy. They speak in a layman's language," she says. Sharing more, Vidya adds, "My character is also like this, but with a difference though. My programme ends with a thought for the day. My job is not just to say 'if you do that you will win this or that' but to tell some truth in a simple way." The film is a situational comedy as is reflected in its promos too. But Vidya's role has no comic element. "I am more the cause for the comedy between Sanjay and Arshad. But I have no comic dialogues as such," she adds.And unlike playing Lolita in typical Bengali saris with puffed blouses and salwar-kameez in simple cuts that fitted the 60's style, Vidya, as Jhanvi, would be seen sporting long skirts, tees and shirts. "Yes, my look has been completely changed in this film. Many people have asked me if I am excited. I must confess that I am not as eager as the audience as it is them who have a particular image of mine in their mind. But it is true that people don't recognise me except when I am in a Lolita kind of a get up. But thanks to the promos of 'Munna Bhai... ', people have started looking forward to a changed Vidya Balan," she laughs.

Lolita image

But to keep her Lolita image intact, Vidya was kept away by "Parineeta" producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra. "It was a protocol. Chopra saab didn't want it to be Vidya first and 'Parineeta' later but vice-versa. His decision proved really effective. It gave me lot of breathing space too. The film proved to be a huge success and gave me a celebrity status. But I never used that success as a license to say 'no' to any interviews. After the release of 'Parineeta', I gave several interviews but kept a limit for myself. After all, I had only one film to talk about," she says. Moreover, she admits, "I am really laid-back. I just can't give interviews in between the shots. I can't multi-task." This St. Xavier's alumni in Sociology with lovely, dancing eyes never planned to get into films but didn't mind doing a few advertisements during her college days. "It was when I was playing the role of the second sister Radhika in the Zee TV serial, 'Hum Paanch' that I landed my first ad offer. Duringa workshop a friend told me that his sister's production house was looking for a model to advertise for Ponds. I went there and saw all big models queuing up for it. I had to wait for seven hours for the audition. But to my surprise, I bagged it. I can't tell how exciting it was... ", she shares. Thanks to this offer, she had to quit "Hum Paanch" and it wasby doing ads that she landed the role of Lolita.

Future films

Though "Munna Bhai... " will be the second Hindi movie for Vidya, she has quite a few Bollywood roles already to talk about. She would be seen as a dancer in Priyadarshan's "Chandramukhi" and Saif Ali Khan's love interest in "Eklavya", opposite John Abraham in "Salaam-e-Ishq" and has a "smallish role" in Mani Ratnam's "Guru". Says Vidya, "There has been lot of misconception about my role in 'Chandramukhi'. Priyadarshan has been misquoted for having revealed the details of my role of a Bengali dancer which he had not.'Eklayva', frankly speaking, an Amitabh Bachchan film because he plays the title role. If he overshadows me, I don't mind. Working with a stalwart at the start of my career is no mean achievement." "Salam-e-Ishq", she says, "is about relationships. It is actually a love story and I am one of the six pairs in the film." From bigger meaty roles to playing smaller ones, isn't it a downward curve? "The industry has welcomed me with open arms and so has the audience. A 'Parineeta' happens once in many years. And that image has been so strongly imprinted in people's mind. But I do need to break into several moulds and that is possible only when I work in different genres of films. I believe God has brought me here and He will take me through all odds... " she signs off on a reflective mood.


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