|Photo by B H Shivakumar|
She’s been known to be true to her art, putting on weight for some films, wearing hideous clothes in others. But it’s that devil-may-care attitude that makes Vidya Balan stand out in the sea of Bollywood actresses today. She tells Metrolife about her upcoming film Ghanchakkar, her love for Bangalore and married life.
As can be seen from the trailers, Vidya is playing Emraan Hashmi’s over-the-top, funnily dressed Punjabi wife in the movie. “I’m not too much like my character Neetu Bhatia except in the sense that she’s very happy being who she is. She’s bizarre, gregarious and vivacious. Her take on modernity is the clothes that she sees in fashion magazines and eating roti with a fork. But she doesn’t know or care that people find her funny or outlandish. That’s my point of identification with her,” says Vidya.
After ‘No One Killed Jessica’ in 2008, this is her second film with director Rajkumar Gupta. Comparing the experiences, she states, “He’s one of those directors who will go down in history as someone who did groundbreaking work with every film that he made. I have a sense that whenever he does a comedy, it will be fantastic. There was a scene in ‘No One…’ where my character Sabrina bursts out laughing in court. It was such an unexpected moment but that made me realise that there was some comedy waiting to come out.”
Though her look in the film has been a topic of discussion, she confesses that she signed the film partly because of the challenge it presented. “Raj came to me after ‘The Dirty Picture’ and told me not to lose weight that I had put on. He said he wasn’t going to shoot me like a heroine, that the clothes may not be flattering. But he explained that this was only because Neetu was a real person. If ‘The Dirty Picture’ challenged my vanity, Ghanchakkar has destroyed my vanity,” she laughs, adding, “it isn’t me at all, but that’s the fun and joy of it. When I can’t recognise the woman on screen, it’s another high!”
Is she a natural at playing the role of a wife in real life too? She grins and replies, “Yes, married life is treating me very well. Ghanchakkar is Siddharth’s (Roy Kapur) and my first film together after marriage and so, it’s even more special for us. But he and I don’t discuss the film at all.”
She’s no stranger to the City and has, over time, accumulated fond memories of the gardens and restaurants here. “I have lovely memories of Bangalore. My sister used to live in Cox Town and I used to come down at any given opportunity. It’s just so airy, bright and cheerful,” she says, recalling how she used to have coffee at Indian Coffee House for only Rs 4.'
(The interview was published in Metrolife, Deccan Herald on June 29, 2013)
What was your point of identification with Neetu Bhatia? How did you adapt to the character?
"You invariably find that point of identification with any character. That one strain is very important. I don’t think I’m a lot like Neetu Bhatia except in the sense that she’s very happy being who she is and I think that was my point of identification with her. The moment I began to accept myself the way I was, I became a happier person. She’s not just over-the-top, she’s bizarre, gregarious, vibrant, vivacious – all of that but obviously she wants to be modern and her take on modernity is clothes and eating roti with a fork. She does that and thinks she’s the cat’s whiskers. She doesn’t know or care that people find her funny or outlandish. Just the fact that she doesn’t care what people think of her was my point of identification.
What are the considerations for picking a film?
It’s a combination of a whole lot of things. I’ve to instinctively connect. I always ask myself whether this is a film I want to watch on screen, if it’s a story I want to tell as that character because sometimes, I like the other characters more but you know it’s not for you. The rapport with the director, the studio backing it also matter a lot.
How does it feel working with Rajkumar Gupta again?
Incredible. He’s one of those directors, if I may say so, who will go down in history as someone who did groundbreaking work with every film that he did; someone who pushed the envelope with every film. Whether it’s an Aamir or No One Killer Jessica or Ghanchakkar, they’re all extremely different from each other. Having made the first two, I know that the suspense thriller is his genre. But in this, he’s combined it with comedy. I had a sense that whenever he does a comedy, it’ll be fantastic because there was this one scene in NOKJ because Sabrina, my character, bursts out laughing in court. It was such an unexpected moment but that made me knew that there was something waiting to come out.
There were reports that you gave some of your own belongings to the sets to make it homely?
No way! My Mom would kill me. They dressed up the house as very loud and my house is nothing like that. From my travels, people gift us things and those were lying around and some of those came handy. There’s no bling element to my house at all but some of these crystaly photo frames and things in silver that I had and don’t use were lent, or gifted to the Ghankchakkar sets. Also, because Rajkumar allowed me to visit the sets in advance and I gave some suggestions which they found valid and incorporated.
Compare the two experiences of working with Rajkumar.
It’s interesting that the same director who cast me as Sabrina wanted me to play Neetu. They’re like the North and South pole. As little as I spoke in No One, that much more in this film. Even in terms of the colours; Sabrina was so stayed, as Plain Jane as Plain Jane gets. And this is a woman who is dressed like a Christmas tree most of the time. I’ve realised that his humour and drama are derived from real situations, real people and that’s what I find most exciting. When he came to me with this, he said she’s a real person, someone who doesn’t know much about fashion but who goes by what she sees in fashion magazines. After The Dirty Picture, when I gained weight, I’d just started exercising to get rid of the weight. But he came to me and said, if you hadn’t put on weight for this film, I’d have asked you to put it on. Don’t lose it. He said he’s not going to shoot me like a heroine, that the clothes may not be flattering. Because it is a real person. If The Dirty Picture challenged my vanity, I think this film has destroyed it. But I’ve enjoyed playing her. I saw the film a week ago and I understand now more than ever why he made me do what he did. I see a completely different person, which is so interesting. Initially, my costume designer had a problem because she did my costumes in Parineeta and said, how can I do this to you? But Raj said you’re not doing that to Vidya, you’re dressing up Neetu. There are fur nightsuits, which aren’t flattering. Some of the prints are too much. It isn’t me at all, but that’s the fun and joy of it. When I see that people and don’t recognize her. It’s another high.
I love Bangalore. My sister used to live here in Cox Town and I used to come here in any given opportunity. I have lovely memories and there’s good weather through the year! It’s beautiful to just drive by. We used to have coffee at Indian Coffee House for four bucks. It’s just so airy and bright and cheerful.
How's married life treating you?
Married life is treating me very well. This is our first film together after married life and so it’s even more special for us. But he and I don’t discuss Ghanchakkar at all. He was asked whether Vidya’s anything like Neetu and he replied, ‘definitely not her dressing’. But I think he likes it.