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What an odd one!

Anuj Kumar
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INTERVIEW As “No One Killed Jessica” finds receptive viewers, Vidya Balan speaks to Anuj Kumar about her career moves and more

“I am greedy.” When you are getting the best roles in the industry and script writers are penning roles for you, getting ‘greedy' is an understatement. That way, actor Vidya Balan is the odd one out in an industry full of perfectly shaped giggly girls where one could be replaced by the other. Behind her strong screen persona, Vidya comes across as a God fearing girl who doesn't want to intellectualise her decisions and loves to share credit with family and friends. “My choices reflect my self assurance and my passion for cinema. I believe I am blessed. God has been kind. Most of my decisions come from my gut feeling. There have been times when everything seemed right about a project but I have not signed because something inside me didn't give me permission. My manager, K.S. Sanjay, has also played a role in supporting me in taking non-typical decisions, like Paa or No One Killed Jessica, which don't seem to be the right thing for a mainstream Hindi film actress.”

Critics have liked her performance as Sabrina Lall but Vidya says she didn't find the role emotionally draining. “I didn't try to personalise her. If you find any similarity between real Sabrina and me, it is just a coincidence as we have just followed the case not the person. I met her only after the shooting was over. You might find the real Sabrina a lot more confident but one must keep in mind that we are talking of a Sabrina, the way she would be 11 years back. However, while doing the film and going through the case I did realise what a common man in India has to go through if he or she has no connections and that was overwhelming. It is one thing to see it on television or read it in papers and quite another when you have to live it.”

Be it her dress sense or her choice of roles Vidya is turning out to be a thinking man's actress, a space created by Tabu many summers ago. Paa, Ishqiya and now No One Killed Jessica are subjects that some years ago could have easily ended up in Tabu's kitty. “I admire Tabu's work and it feels great to be compared with an actor of her calibre but I feel my career graph is different. My films have been much more commercially successful,” Vidya rubs in her commercial viability but also mentions that she is lucky that she is active in times when there are no fixed norms. “A good film works and a good performance is always appreciated.” But she had her share of bloomers where she also tried to fit into the stereotypes by doing a Salaam-e-Ishq or Kismat Konnection. “The films were part of my learning curve and I can't discount the role they have played in shaping my career. To each her own but I needed to do something different to create my space. Thankfully, I got some great filmmakers to work with and now when Sujoy Ghosh says that he has written Kahani keeping only me in mind, it gives me a great feeling.”

Bold step

Her next bold step is a biopic on Silk Smitha, whose working title is Dirty Picture. “I can relate to so many things that Silk Smitha did or believed in but one thing that I can't identify with the offensive overtone of her sexuality. So therein lies the challenge.”

Does she have second thoughts? “Once I have committed to it I will give it my best shot.” One is talking about Vidya, the person not the actor? “That's why I mulled over it for a long time but once Vidya the actor sinks her teeth into something, the girl is either a party to the decision or follows her.”

Talking of experiment, the young brigade seems to be getting a bit over the top with the language. In the name of real they are letting female characters mouthing the choicest of abuses. Rani Mukerji's character in No One Killed Jessica is the latest example. “We no longer make just aspirational films and in the real world men have begun to identify women in different roles. Also, we should keep in mind that films are not about ideal situations and mostly talk about intriguing cases and people.” But if it's so normal then why create the publicity around the abusive scenes? “I don't feel anybody buys a 200 rupee ticket to watch a woman abusing. There has to be a solid context.” Point taken!

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