Bombay Showcase

Constantly on the move

Overlooking a beach in her hotel room, Vidya Balan is juggling makeup and interviews with journalists. The actor is prepping for the promo launch of Ek Albela , her debut Marathi film. Despite the flurry of activity, Balan smiles easily, laughs wholeheartedly and is warm to speak with, much like her character in Parineeta .

Balan’s a busy woman: this week she’s got Ribhu Dasgupta’s thriller Te3n releasing and then at the end of the month, Ek Albela will hit theatres too.

Balan is no stranger to the thriller genre; she’s starred in four before, amidst the bevy of varied projects she’s taken up. However, the actor does accept that she is “big on the genre” and her decision to sign a film is solely driven by her interest in the script.

Te3n is different because of the fact that the central protagonist is an elderly gentleman,” she says, referring to the role played by Amitabh Bachchan. “Normally in thrillers, you have sprightly, young, gun-toting people. The film also features a cop turned priest [Nawazuddin Siddiqui], which is interesting.” In Te3n , Balan plays Sarita Sarkar, “A no-nonsense police inspector who commands much respect. There’s a certain silent aggression about her and I like that.”

Shooting for Te3n turned out to be an incredibly memorable experience because of Dasgupta’s unique approach in addition to her co-stars. “He’ll tell you exactly what he wants in the gentlest fashion,” she says. “So much so, that even if he’s telling you to do a take completely differently from the way you’re doing it, you don’t take offence.” One incident remains etched in Balan’s memory; where the cast and crew were at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and Bachchan decided to play the piano. “He played the theme song from Satyajit Ray’s Charulata ,” Balan says. “It was this beautiful moment where inside a magnificent structure was a marvellous grand piano played by a great personality.”

Staying on her toes

This isn’t the first time Balan has worked with her Te3n co-stars.

She’s previously acted with Big B in Paa , but still Balan was in constant awe of his acting skills, work ethic and personality. Then there’s Siddiqui who Balan worked with six years ago. “During Kahaani , he was a new actor; nervous on set.” But this time, he knew who he was; he’d come into his own. “He was Nawazuddin Siddiqui.”

After Te3n releases, there’s no rest for the weary; Balan’s got to stay on her toes for Ek Albela . “Working in Bollywood films can be hectic; there is a sense of immediacy and urgency on sets,” she says, comparing regional and Hindi cinema. “People are running helter-skelter for things that were supposed to happen yesterday.”

Her experience in Tamil, Bengali and now Marathi films prove that the regional industry works with compact units. Ek Albela ’s sets were “a happy and peaceful atmosphere to work in.”

The upcoming Marathi feature film is a biopic of Bhagwan Dada [played by actor Mangesh Desai], who rose to fame with the 1951 Hindi film Albela , which became the third-highest grossing film of its time. Even though Balan’s role is short, she plays a powerful character, Dada’s co-star, Geeta Bali. Despite it being his first film, director Shekhar Sartandel was, according to Balan, “very secure and knew what he was doing.” Balan’s role in Ek Albela mostly comprises shooting songs for the film, but Sartandel gave her and the choreographer a lot of creative freedom. “He was mostly a silent observer and would make pertinent suggestions from time to time.”

The actor has had to tread a difficult path before becoming a household name, but Balan has persevered on, getting her inspiration from other women. “My sister inspires me to no end. Shabana Azmi inspires me for the choices she has made, Priyanka Chopra for her resilience and her never-say-die attitude, Mata Amritanandamayi for her funda : she believes in hugging and spreading love.” And towards, the end of our conversation, Balan makes a quick addition: “I think Hillary Clinton is a big inspiration for me. A small part of me is rooting for her,” she says, while the room erupts with laughter.

The writer is an intern at The Hindu

I think Hillary Clinton is a big inspiration for me. A small part of me

is rooting for her

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 12:02:35 AM |

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