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

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. Now, 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. 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 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.

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.

You take your character even to press conferences…

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 that this Vidya is really pregnant.

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 the 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 and sensually. Some time ago, 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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