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Vidya Balan: I wore a hat with a veil

Another mother of a story Vidya Balan

Another mother of a story Vidya Balan   | Photo Credit: K.V.S. GIRI

In Hyderabad for a few hours, Vidya Balan talks about the secrecy around ‘Kahaani 2’, between reminiscing about her favourite parts of the Old City

She’s on a fleeting visit to Hyderabad. Just a few hours, to be precise, before she heads to the next city on a promotional tour for her latest film, Kahaani 2.

Given a chance, Vidya Balan says she would have loved to make a quick trip to the Old City, where she shot extensively for Bobby Jasoos. “Nampally and Kachiguda are areas I like and am familiar with. Some of the havelis were we shot, like Shamshabad haveli, were large but the others were small houses. They were well maintained; the white walls and gulmohurs at the entrance made for a beautiful sight,” she gushes.

She talks with fondness of locations that aren’t typically filmi. Having shot for a number of films in Kolkata, from the Bengali film Bhalo Theko and Parineeta to Te3n and the soon-to-release Kahaani 2, she credits filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh for setting his stories in areas of Kolkata that haven’t been seen on screen before. “This time I got a whiff of Bengal as well since we shot in Chandan Nagar and Kalimpong,” she says.

Kahaani 2 is a franchise and not a sequel to the 2012 thriller. Sujoy Ghosh had pitched a few other ideas to her soon after Kahaani. Back then, she found the thought of a second instalment daunting. She also says she and Sujoy couldn’t agree on a story that would take the franchise forward. “We decided to make a film called Durga Rani Singh. But that didn’t take off since I had health issues and took a break. Much later, Sujoy came to me with this story. When I began reading, I asked him why he wanted to take the Kahaani route but he insisted I read it fully. When I finished, I knew this story could be Kahaani 2,” she says.

The actors were given bound scripts but on a day-to-day basis, assistant directors ensured that no sheets that described the scenes were left unattended. The onus was on them to see that the plot or key scenes didn’t find their way to social media. “With Kahaani, viewers were also cooperative and didn’t give out spoilers. As of now, those who’ve seen the trailer are consumed with piecing together the puzzle,” laughs Vidya.

The effort to maintain secrecy was so compelling that for scenes where she had to shoot with prosthetic makeup, Vidya was given a hat with a veil. “I used to wear that hat to reach the shooting spot and no one recognised me on the way,” she exclaims.

Kahaani brought her much appreciation, and she still searches for words to describe what it meant to her. “We think we’re narrating a story. We have no idea of its impact. When people told me how much they like the scene where I look up with a tear, with the gun pointed at me, just before I take off the fake stomach, I didn’t know how to react. It felt awkward. That film was universally loved. A Japanese man came up and said he recognised me from the film,” she says.

Vidya had reached a peak with The Dirty Picture and Kahaani, which came after Paa, Ishqiya and No One Killed Jessica.

“I was hailed as a female hero and the fourth Khan… It left me overwhelmed. I wasn’t prepared for any more. We all set out to become famous and win best actor awards. But somewhere, I felt it got too much.”

Then, there were dampeners like Shaadi ke Side Effects, Ghanchakkar and Bobby Jasoos. “I was heartbroken. I was in denial and even thought of conspiracy theories. We look for something to blame it on when films don’t work...”

She hopes she’s on the right track with her next project, Begum Jaan, a fictional film set during Partition when a brothel in Punjab finds itself torn between India and Pakistan. Then comes a biopic on writer Kamala Das in Malayalam. “I began my career in Malayalam and it took the story of Kamala Das for me to re-visit that industry. In between, I did a special appearance for Santhosh Sivan’s film,” she says.

At the moment, though, she hopes the audience will embrace Kahaani 2. “Since we approached the film after a couple of years, we were more objective. I think we’ve made a good film,” she signs off.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 3:58:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/Vidya-Balan-I-wore-a-hat-with-a-veil/article16675353.ece

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