Vidya Balan: I wanna be a junior Madhuri
Vidya Balan, 34, may have been termed the ‘jinx factor’ at the start of her career, but today she has won the award for the best actress back-to-back four times, a feat achieved by none other. In an hour long conversation, she opens up to TOI about her reasons for falling in love with Siddharth, her sister Priya, who is her hero, and the men who changed her life. Excerpts:
The obvious question first. Tell us about your love journey with your husband Siddharth Roy Kapur?
We met for the first time at the Filmfare awards. I had won an award for Paa after which I got introduced to him for the first time. I had started shooting a day before for UTV’s No One Killed Jessica and knew of him, but had not met him till then. But we didn’t meet during the film. We met again much later and we started seeing each other even later. A live-in relationship is not for me. I did not see myself living in with Siddharth till we were married. He is my first serious relationship. Marriage was the most natural progression for us and it has happened and I am happy to be married. I don’t think marriage has changed me in any way, except that it allows me to wear the sindoor that I really enjoy wearing.
Apart from his looks… just the person he is. He is non-judgemental, which is rare. He lets people be. He is self-assured and is accepting of people the way they are. He is very easy to be around. He likes to have a good time and lets you be the way you are and that’s what I respect about him.
Is work priority going to change post marriage?
Not at all. I have taken my month-long marriage break. I am an actor and will always be. That’s part of who I am… and I am also married now.
In a corporate setup, it becomes awkward when you are married to your boss. How different is it for you as an actor with Siddharth being your producer on Ghanchakkar?
I did not fall in love with Siddharth when he was my producer. It happened after No One Killed Jessica. Siddharth will not be involved on Ghanchakkar where it involves me. He wasn’t even involved in the contract. When I read the script, we both decided we will not discuss it with each other. That way we guard our relationship and our work. We are both passionate about what we do. Our professions mean a lot to us as does our relationship.
You have won the Best Actress award back-to-back four times. Did you struggle to reach here?
I was born and brought up in Chembur, which is like a mini Palakkad. When I watched Madhuri Dixit in Ek Do Teen, I decided I wanted to be in films and be a junior Madhuri. Every South Indian child is initiated into dance and music but no one really makes it a profession, so while my parents would indulge me, they would hope that I didn’t mean it. I went to St Xavier’s College where I started acting in the first year itself. I did Hum Paanch and several ad films. As an actor, one needs to bide time and so I did MA in Sociology. At 21, I got my first break in a Malayalam film opposite superstar Mohanlal. He was the clincher for my mother as we were all fans of his work. Also, the director of the film in terms of personality was like Gulzar sahab and that made my parents comfortable.
I was confirmed for the role and my mother went along with me to shoot. Mohanlal and the director had a fallout and the shoot was stalled. Mohanlal and director Kamal had delivered eight superhit films before this one and so the blame of their fallout was pinned on me… I was the jinx factor. I was devastated.
In the following months, I got replaced in the dozen other Malayalam films I had been signed for. I started doing another Malayalam film with Mukesh and as luck would have it, that too got stalled. That’s when I too started believing that I was jinxed. I was then signed for a Tamil film, which also I got thrown out of. Fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy and I had this sneaking feeling that I would be replaced. My mother, who so far had apprehensions about letting me become an actor, began to pray that I should get at least one film if that’s what I really wanted. Once I remember, I went to Nariman Point and just started walking fast in the scorching heat to clear my head. Don’t know what I was thinking, but I was not willing to give up and was resilient. It was a purposeful walk, but there was no destination. It was around that time when I shot for the Euphoria music video with Pradeep Sarkar (dada) and he said to me, ‘Eh ladki I will make a film with you someday’.
While I began to resurrect my self-confidence, I got to do my first film in Bengali with Soumitra Chatterjee and was so thrilled in my head that the jinx had been broken. All of us said our Thank Yous! I remember, one week before the release of Paa I cried bitterly. It wasn’t that I was worried about becoming Nirupa Roy, but it was a gamble for me playing a mother of a 13-year-old Amitabh Bachchan.
I had been panned to death for Kismat Konnection and Heyy Babyy and therefore, I felt it was a do-or-die for me. At such times as an actor you don’t know where to draw your strength from when you lack the confidence. My father said, if he has brought you to it, he will take you through it… and he did.
Apart from your parents, you are attached to your sister. Tell us about her?
My sister Priya is my hero. She plays every role effortlessly in her life, be it of a mother, wife, sister, daughter or professional. When I was growing up, my friends used to call on the landline and tell me not to pick up the phone and instead let Priya pick it up as she had a sexy voice and was cool and sexy. I have always looked up to her. And with Priya’s marriage to Kedar, it’s like I got another set of parents. My brother-in-law is my most objective critic.
Today, every director and actor would like to work with you. Who are your favourites?
Mr Bachchan and Emraan Hashmi are possibly the most professional co-stars. Like the rest of the country, I am also an Amitabh Bachchan fan. Sujoy Ghosh and I share a tumultuous relationship and it’s not the easiest director-actor relationship. We were like that couple who fights but stays together for the children — the child being Kahaani. Milan Luthria, I surrendered myself to in The Dirty Picture and trusted implicitly. Balki helped me reclaim myself. While working on Paa, we were on this flight back from KL and I was wondering which way to go and he said, ‘You are the quintessential Indian woman and there is only one you, so why are you giving it up to be one amongst many’. That really hit home.
I had gone through the criticism for Heyy Babyy and Kismat Konnection and was not following my instinct. The problem was not in the films, it was me in those films. I enjoyed playing other people on screen, but off screen I am just me. In these films, I did not do that and I have no one to blame other than me. Sabyasachi, for the fact that he said if you like wearing saris and cotton, wear it. Fashion is not about right or wrong, it’s about what’s you or not you. Lastly, please ask Gulzar sahab to make a film with me.