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ANUJ KUMAR
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CHAT Vidya Balan on “Kahaani” after “The Dirty Picture”

A SYMBOL OF CHANGEVidya BalanPHOTO: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR
A SYMBOL OF CHANGEVidya BalanPHOTO: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

These days she is Vidya Bagchi, a seven-month pregnant woman in search of her husband in Kolkata. “Kahaani” is the story of her grit and determination. As the film opens in theatres this week, actor Vidya Balan speaks about a range of topics — from cherry-picking roles to doing item numbers. Excerpts from the interview:

You have become an agent of change considering the offbeat roles you've played!

It is like a chicken and egg situation. You don't know which came first. In the last few years, female characters have been humanised. Earlier, she had to be either a devi or a fallen woman. There was nothing in between. Several years ago when somebody wrote the character of the angry young man, it struck a chord with the youth of that era. He was angry because somebody had written on his arm ‘mera baap chor hai' . From home to society to system, women have a lot more things to feel angry about. And there are many ways through which they can fight back. Seduction is one of them. It was beautifully captured in Ishqiya . I mean there are many stories to tell and it's refreshing that more and more directors are looking at women in a new light. I am fortunate to be working in these times when I can become a small voice of change. And it is getting accepted not just by the female audience but also by the male audience, who like it because they see different shades of women around them. That's why films such as Ishqiya and The Dirty Picture have done well not just at award functions but at the box office as well. But we have to be careful and should not get carried away.

There is a perception that “The Dirty Picture ” worked because it had a lot to engage the male gaze. Does “Kahaani ” also have some special element?

Its appeal comes from its gripping plot which has been well captured in the promos. People want to know what happens to her search. There is a story within a story within a story….

In one sense, “Kahaani ” is your story as you have successfully fought against stereotyping the Hindi film heroine.

The problem started when filmmakers started seeing every female character as a girl. Traditionally in our films, substantial roles have been written for actresses who played women. Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi have been examples. Now we have rediscovered that it is cool to be a woman.

How was it to play a pregnant woman in “Kahaani”?

It was not that difficult! Help came from home as my sister has given birth to twins. Having spent time with her, I realised giving birth to a child is the biggest miracle on earth.

You enter so much into the character that you take it to press conferences…

It seems so. I made people stop smoking on the sets and managed to impress upon onlookers in crowded locations to give some breathing space to the pregnant woman. At press conferences, people offer me a chair. I made them believe this Vidya Bagchi is really pregnant. It is good to be able to make your presence felt at a time when everybody is after grabbing eyeballs.

Kolkata is an important character in the film.

It is good that we have begun to look within — be it stories, characters or our cities. That's why I say Hindi cinema is on a spiritual journey. Sujoy (Ghosh) has explored not only the festive side, but also the nooks and crevices of the city. We have used guerrilla technique to film at crowded locations. And when Sujoy told me that he will play with my name, I told him I have already experienced it while shooting for Parineeta . Bengalis call me Bidya.

You are being called the new Khan on the block. Heroes might not like to be cast opposite you.

I want to remain Vidya Balan. I have set high standards for myself but that doesn't mean I will only do female-oriented films. I am not in a mood to preach. I know most stories are told through a man and woman. My next film Ghanchakkar is a comedy with Emraan Hashmi.

But before that you agreed to do an item song for Ferrari Ki Sawari ?

You can't call it an item song. I see it as a special opportunity to do a Lavani number. Having grown up in Maharashtra, I wanted to do it for a long time. I like the idea of a fully clad woman dancing aggressively with sensuality dripping from her face. Some time back, I was to do it in a Marathi film but it didn't work out. So when Vidhu Vinod Chopra approached me, I was elated.

Have you been signed for Sudhir Mishra's Mehrunisa ?

I have heard that Sudhirji wants to cast me, but he has not approached me yet.

ANUJ KUMAR

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