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Happy Birthday Vidya Balan: A Woman Of Substance

The film industry gives Vidya Balan, the actor and the human being, a standing ovation on her 40th birthday

She arrived in the world of entertainment via the small screen when she played the nerdy girl-next-door in the popular ‘90s show Hum Paanch. From leaving a mark in the television industry, to making appearances in trendy music videos, to becoming the face of commercials, the woman we know as Vidya Balan has done it all.

After dabbling in all these mediums, Balan made her debut in cinema with a powerful Bengali drama film called Bhalo Theko in 2003. Two years later, she made her foray into Bollywood and changed the course for all actresses to come.

With her first Hindi film, Parineeta, Balan sent out a message, loud and clear. She told everyone, in no uncertain terms, that she was a beauty with plenty of substance. With two substantial mainstream actors by her side, Saif Ali Khan and Sanjay Dutt, Balan made a huge impact, which won her all the debut performance awards the following year. After this award-winning debut, she rose a notch higher with every successive film she’s done. For her next two films, Balan worked with esteemed filmmakers like Rajkumar Hirani in Lage Raho Munna Bhai and Mani Ratnam in Guru.

Following that, the actress experimented with both content and commercial cinema, in movies like Eklavya: The Royal Guard, Salaam-e-Ishq, Heyy Babyy and Bhool Bhulaiyaa. Then, with back-to-back, power-packed hits like The Dirty Picture, Kahaani, Paa and No One Killed Jessica, Balan paved a path as a bold and fearless actress. She proved that she was not afraid to take a risk with her roles and would never take a back seat. Last year, we saw Balan in Tumhari Sulu, which showed us just how versatile she is as an actress and how she can light up the screen, regardless of the roles she plays.

One of the best things about this talented actress is that, no matter how big a star she is, she is just as humble with the teams of the films she is working on. And this week, on the occasion of Vidya Balan’s 40th birthday, on January 1, 2019, we spoke to 40 people from the industry who have worked with her over the years and sought their thoughts on Vidya Balan as an actress and as a person. Here’s what they have to say:

Aakash Dahiya, Actor-Casting Director

After working with Vidya, I realized that despite being a star, she is very down-to-earth. That is something worth learning from her. It doesn’t take her long to break the ice and become friends. We became friends when the workshops (of Bobby Jasoos) were taking place. Vidya loves playing pranks. When I went to the sets for the first time, I figured that a prank was being played on someone. I later came to know that the mastermind behind the ghost-related prank was Vidya.

She is a very fun-loving person and easy to talk to. During the shoot of Bobby Jasoos, she received the Padma Shri. When she came to the sets, I realized that she was the first person I personally knew who was a Padma Shri recipient. I kept looking at her and could not stop thinking about how down-to-earth she was. I know for a fact that should the need arise, she will be there for me. Vidya has dismissed the stereotype that only a man can be called a ‘hero’. She is always the hero in her films. God bless her!

Abhishek Chaubey, Director

It has been a really long time since we have met or worked together. But every time we meet, there is a familiar warmth in her eyes. It would be lovely to team up again. She literally carried our film, Ishqiya, on her shoulders. It was a very important part, one that carried a lot of responsibility. But Vidya, as Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) bhai called her, was a ‘giggler’ on the roof, she just couldn’t stop laughing. She had the confidence to pull off such critical parts at an early stage in her career. But she used to do it with a sense of humour, without taking herself too seriously. She always kept the set a light-hearted place. I remember her for her smile and laughter and her wonderful relationship with my parents. They were very fond of her and she of them. I want to wish Vidya a very happy birthday! 

Aditi Sandhu, Manager

Vidya is the most real person I know. She’s beautiful, inside and out. Her passion and love towards her work is incredible. I really lucked out that I get to work with such a powerhouse. She’s family to me. I wish her lots of love, happiness and success, always. She’s the best and deserves only the best. A very happy birthday to my favourite.

Akshay Kumar, Actor

A bubbly South Indian foodie, she loves with a big heart, she works hard, and she enjoys lots of food and lots of gossip. The greatest pleasure is to not only work with her but also to share screen space with her. I’m so glad her career has taken her from strength to strength. She is anything but the girl-next-door. She is an actress with substance. Watching her from Heyy Babyy to Bhool Bhulaiyaa was an incredible feat to witness and she has risen with humble tidings and grace ever since. Wishing her a fantastic birthday and a successful year ahead with the gang at Mission Mangal.

Amar Kaushik, Director

I worked with Vidya during the shoot of No One Killed Jessica and Ghanchakkar as I was assisting director Raj Kumar Gupta at the time. She is one of the best actresses in the industry right now. She is also a great human being. When we were shooting for our films, she would talk to everyone and greet them with each of their names. She is very good at remembering the names of people she has met even once. That’s a great quality for a person to have; you listen more than you talk. After entering her 40s, I think she will continue to shine with her roles. There are so many good roles written for this age group especially for female-centric films. There is not only one character for you, the whole film is yours. I wish her a very Happy Birthday.

Anupriya Goenka, Actor

Working with her was a wonderful experience. During Bobby Jasoos, I was completely new. She was extremely gracious and very supportive. I had always admired Vidya even before I had started to act. She has carved a niche for herself in the industry and is a pioneer of change. I remember sitting in a meeting and the director kept on telling me that there were not many roles written for women. And we both simultaneously said, ‘except for Vidya Balan’. I was like ‘thank God for Vidya Balan for because of her I could at least say that.’

Vidya has challenged many norms when it comes to how an actress should be. She has made some very bold choices. She has stuck to them, even though her characters were not typical heroines. I have always, always admired her and meeting her was the cherry on the top. She is so warm, so loving, and an extremely giving as a soul.

Whenever I meet her, I can chat with her and depend on her to give me advice. She is a wonderful actress. In Tumhari Sulu, I was in awe of her. It is so nice to have an actor like that in India. Many, many happy returns of the day, Vidya. Hope you have a beautiful 2019 and continue to inspire women around you like you always have.

Atul Kasbekar, Producer

Tumhari Sulu was a 42-day shoot. On day 28, when Vidya Balan walked onto the set, there was spontaneous applause from everyone… the lightboys, the gaffers, the production team, the direction team, the basically everybody. This wasn’t a special day by any means. The applause all round simply happened EVERY single day that the lead star walked in to work. In the numbingly tiring business of making movies, Vidya is a breath of fresh air. She brings a positive, happy energy to the set that pervades the work space and energises everyone present.

When she walks onto the set, she galvanises everyone to give that extra bit of effort, but with a smile. To have that kind of effect on battle-hardened men and women, the person must have a pretty special gift. In the decade-plus that we’ve known and represented her, Vidya has been an absolute joy to work with. She is exacting and demanding but effusive with praise and she always has a warm word.

She turns 40 on January 1. Be warned, she’s just getting started.

BH Basha, Distributor, Mysore

People in my territory are huge fans of Vidya Balan. All her films do quite well here. All the films she has done in the last decade have been very impactful and every film of hers has worked amazingly here. Be it Kahaani, The Dirty Picture, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Paa or Tumhari Sulu, people love to watch her movies.

Bhushan Kumar, Producer

Vidya Balan’s working relationship with T-Series goes back to when we worked with her in a film called Bhool Bhulaiyaa, which we produced. We worked together again in the award-winning Tumhari Sulu. From then to now, she has grown tremendously as an artiste and is today regarded as an actor par excellence. Vidya is an extremely committed actor. During promotions, she goes the extra mile to fulfil the vision of the marketing team. We wish her all the best from the T-Series team on her 40th birthday.

Dabboo Ratnani, Photographer

Vidya and I have been shooting together for over 12 years. Vidya, Manisha (Ratnani) and I hit it off right from day one. I guess there was an instant connection because all three of us are Capricorns and we share the same thoughts, passion and sincerity towards work.

She completely trusts me and therefore is always open to experiment in our shoots. She is extremely versatile and makes stunning pictures. Her passion towards shoots is super consistent. Every shoot we have done together has created magical images. I wish nothing but the best for my dear friend on her birthday. 

Dia Mirza, Actor

I have worked with Vidya in two films as a co-actor and I have produced a film with her in the lead. Vidya is and has always been a committed artiste. Her contagious laughter between shots, her energy on the set and the madness she’s willing to participate in off the set makes her one of the most lovable people to work with. My message to Vidya on this birthday is:

Dearest Vidya,

To the one whose smile lights up a room and hearts, a very happy birthday! Keep evolving, keep pushing the envelope, keep inspiring and most importantly keep doing all that resonates with your heart. You are special and it’s a joy watching your growth.

Love always,

Dia

Flora Saini, Actor

I am Vidya ma’am’s ‘Madhuri Dixit’ as she lovingly calls me, because she feels I resemble Madhuri Dixit. Vidya ma’am is one of the sweetest, cutest, kindest souls I know, on and off screen. She is a superstar with a heart of gold. On the sets of Begum Jaan, the way ma’am pampered us with gifts to shore up our spirits, the way she took care of us and never let us feel homesick on such a tough shoot, shows how amazing she is as a person. From the bottom of my heart, I wish her happiness and success.

Jagan Shakti, Director

The magic on her face comes from her heart, both on screen and off screen. Am blessed to have an actor of her stature and sincere humility in my first film, Mission Mangal.

Jayantilal Gada, Producer

I want to wish Vidyaji a very Happy Birthday. I’ve associated with her twice for her films, Kahaani and Kahaani 2, and I can say that I have never met anyone as dedicated and fond of their work as she is. She respects her work and never gets tired, which is something I love about her. My entire PEN team is waiting to work with her again. They keep asking me when we will make another instalment of Kahaani with Vidyaji. We are looking forward to that now.

Kausar Munir, Writer-Lyricist

Vidya Balan is one of the most ‘real’ people, on and off camera that I’ve ever met in the film business. She has no airs, no defences, no agendas – only an all-around open-heartedness! I suppose that’s why she is one of the most genuine actors we have, not performing a role, but embracing it, just like she does with people. Happy Birthday Vidya, rehna tu hai jaise tu.

Krish, Director

Vidya Balan is an iconic actress that I’ve worked with and I am an admirer of her work which consists of a broad variety of roles and in many cases, with very specific characters in a way that nobody but she is able to play and do justice too. In the NTR biopic she approached a real character with an extremely distinctive style and does justice which I can’t imagine anyone else doing.

Manav Kaul, Actor

Vidya is super professional, a mad, good friend, the finest co-actor I have worked with. She has the ability to bring out the best in anyone she’s working with. I can’t wait to work with her again.

Milap Zaveri, Writer-Director

We became very good friends during Heyy Babyy. We spent 25-30 days in Australia and we all bonded very well. I affectionately call her bhanji and she affectionately calls me bhanje. We share a great rapport. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to work with her after Heyy Babyy but we make it a point to stay in touch. She messaged me during the success of Satyameva Jayate, to say she was very happy for me. When my short film Raakh released, she messaged me telling how surprised she was that I had come up with such a dramatic and powerful concept. She has always been a great support.

She is one of India’s finest actors and more than that she is a wonderful human being. She is experimental with her roles, be it The Dirty Picture, Kahaani or Tumhari Sulu. She has been a path-breaker and has gone against the norms. She is possibly the first actress who despite being a star has done impactful, women-oriented films in the last decade. She changed the perception that a heroine needs to play a certain kind of role. My message to her on her birthday is, keep doing the great films that you are doing.

Namit Das, Actor

She is a good Capricorn, very helpful and a very kind person. There was a scene in Ghanchakkar in which I am in my underwear and she is hitting me with a broom. And let me tell you, when you are not wearing pants, the broom really hurts! She was so kind and was trying to find a way to not hurt me. After every shot, she used to ask me if I was okay. I was, like, you don’t have to do that.

Also, Vidya and I have the St Xavier’s connection. Then there is also her husband Siddharth Roy Kapur and brother-in-law Kunaal Roy Kapur connection. Kunaal and I are very close friends and now she is so closely associated with the family. So there are a lot of common connections.

She is just lovely. I wish the world for her. I just want her to keep marching on and keep doing what she is doing. As the years go by, she is getting better and better. She was fantastic in Tumhari Sulu. She is in a league of her own. Bollywood is a tough place to survive in. And she has not just survived, she has lived here and that too on her own terms. She is an inspiration.

Nandamuri Balakrishna, Actor

My heartiest birthday wishes to Vidya. Working with her in my film NTR was an exhilarating experience. She played the role of my mother, Smt Nandamuri Basavarama Tarakam, and was totally dedicated to her role and went to extra lengths to enact it. Her seriousness and devotion to the role impressed our entire unit. I can emphatically say that no other artiste could have justified the role like she did.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Actor-Director

Vidya Balan is one of the finest actresses in the country and has been so for the last decade or so. It is really wonderful that she chooses her scripts and films very wisely. We last saw her in Tumhari Sulu. I thought it was a brilliant, sweet and heart-warming film. She came in after a hiatus and stole all our hearts. I consider myself very, very fortunate to have worked with her in Bhalo Theko and Kahaani. Kahaani is such a cult film, almost a mythical film. I look forward to working with her again. I wish her a very, very happy birthday. I wish her luck, happiness and joy in her life.

Priyadarshan, Director

More than a star, I have always considered Vidya an amazing actor because of her discipline, her commitment and her understanding of her characters. Most heroines in the industry are interested in how beautiful they will look or what costume they are going to wear. Vidya doesn’t mind playing a pregnant woman; she doesn’t mind playing a ghost; she doesn’t mind playing any character that the script demands. She is always  prepared to set aside glamour in favour of the character she is playing. I wish her all the very best on her birthday.

R Balki, Producer-Director

I first worked with Vidya in Paa and now nine years later I have the pleasure of seeing her in Mission Mangal. She has the same passion for her craft. She has the same attention to detail; the same hunger to be 100 per cent in character. To have Vidya performing in your film is the most any director could ask for. I have never met anybody who loves her craft so much! She is one of the best performers this country has produced. I am glad I have had the privilege of working with her.

Raj Kumar Gupta, Producer-Director

I have worked with Vidya Balan in two films and both times it has been a great experience. She is one of the finest actresses and one of the finest human beings that I have worked with. I thoroughly enjoyed working with her. I always look for an opportunity to work with her and I hope to get that very soon. I wish her all the very best, a happy birthday, love, prosperity and happiness.

Ramesh Taurani, Producer

Besides being a good actress, she is an amazing human being. When we were making Kismat Konnection, we never once felt that we were working with such a big star. We enjoyed working together and it was so seamless that we didn’t even realize when the shoot ended. She has a very good understanding of the script. She has created her own niche and has made a mark for herself in the industry. For three consecutive years, she has swept up all the awards. She is a very sensible actor and a star. I wish her all the best on her birthday.

Ravi Varman, Cinematographer

Vidya is a thespian, who lives by the adage that gratification comes from the doing, not the results. She is an embodiment of kindness and talent. They say that for an actress to be a success, she must have the face of Venus, the brains of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros.

Vidya has proved that you can rise from ashes like the phoenix. Undaunted by rejection and failure, she swam against the tide, only to conquer – and HOW!

Rick Roy, Costume Designer

Vidya is unique and very grounded as an actor. Even at this level of success, she is very much in touch with her roots and with reality. This is very refreshing. I respect her as an actor and as a colleague but beyond work, she is just another fun girl I can hang out with, someone who doesn’t have hang-ups or brings her star status in to her personal equations.

Ronnie Screwvala, Producer

When an actor like Vidya, who has played diverse roles that are real-life, human stories, funny or intense,  and shown immense talent playing  a 20-year-old and a mature 35-year-old – actually turns 40, one can say she has been there before but really it’s the person she is in real life that gives such depth to the characters she plays. It is her commitment to what is good and right in real life that has made her choose her roles so well so as to  inspire many generations who look to cinema for role models.  She is just getting started and any creative industry needs 40 more Vidyas. Cheers to that!

Saket Chaudhary, Director

I remember, before we started shooting for Shaadi Ke Side Effects, Vidya asked to see the set, which was the house that she and Farhan (Akhtar) would be living in. She walked around, got a feel of it and offered suggestions on how some things should be, depending on her character. She would tell us what to add or what to remove. That is how committed she is to the characters she plays. Even the space that she is going to inhabit, the properties around her, all that matters to her. She is very professional and that speaks volumes about her as an actress. She is a wonderful actress and a wonderful person, which is a rare combination in the film industry.

Sanjay Kapoor, Actor-Producer

We all know that Vidya is an extremely talented actor and an even better person. I had a great time shooting with her for our film Mission Mangal. And it’s great that January 1 is her birthday and I am shooting with her again on January 3. Just like me, she is from Chembur, she is a Chembur girl, and I want to tell her to keep on doing a great job so that we can make Chembur proud. Chembur and the whole of India are very proud of her and her achievements.

Saurabh Goswami, DoP

Her sheer presence lights up the set. The positive energy she brings, wherever she goes, is infectious. I would always want to be a part of any project she’s involved with. I also want everyone in this industry to work with her just to experience the sheer energy, enthusiasm and dedication she has towards her work. The beautiful human being that she is is clearly visible in her eyes. It’s always a treat to work with Vidya Balan! Wishing her a very happy birthday!

Setu, DoP

It’s fantastic working with Bidda (Vidya Balan) didi!  The warmth she brings to a set permeates the unit and makes the shoot very relaxed and focused. Always look forward to working together! Hope there are many more opportunities to work together! Happy Birthday and God bless!

Shanti Sivaram, Director, Bling Entertainment Solutions Pvt Ltd and Ellipsis Entertainment

I have the good fortune of knowing and managing Vidya for over a decade. Her passion, ethics and love for her craft is enviable and so inspiring, it has a ripple effect on any and every one that comes in contact with her, professionally and personally. She has the warmest heart and I can’t remember a single instance of her forgetting a name and person that she has met before, be it a fan, intern or CEO. Vidya is also a very great prankster, so there’s never a dull moment with her. These are just a few of the reasons why she is ‘The Vidya Balan’. On her birthday, I wish her nothing but the best and I look forward to many more adventures with her!

Shashaa Tirupati, Singer

I have never met Vidya Balan but am very privileged to have sung for her. I have sung the song Hawa Hawai in Tumhari Sulu, which is a recreation. She is an artiste who I admire because she is phenomenal. I find her very natural and very convincing as an actor, so it is a massive privilege for me to have sung for her. My heartfelt wishes for an even brighter career for Vidya Balan because she is one of the most stunning and most convincing actors I have sung for and look up to.

Srijit Mukherji, Director-Writer

Vidya is unbelievably grounded. The image of a Bollywood superstar is very different from what she is in real life. She is possibly the most helpful actor I have worked with. She is very humble and it goes without saying that she is a fantastic actor. On this birthday, my wish to her is to keep on giving us legendary performances. It is she who has revolutionized female-oriented and female-driven roles in our industry. It started with her with films like Kahaani and Ishqiya. I hope that continues.

Sujoy Ghosh, Writer-Director

She is an incredibly special actress. It’s not just me but I think anybody who has worked with her is immensely impressed by her work. She is a genuinely very nice person to work with. With Vidya, I look forward to work and that’s very important. When I have a script with Balan in it, she is like one of my pillars. I can give her something and not worry about it. She is like an incredibly safe nanny who you can give your child to. That’s a huge advantage when you are making a film. Usually, everybody leans on me as I am the director but I lean on Vidya. I hope she gets wiser over the years. I wish her a great birthday and she deserves it.

Suresh Triveni, Director

I clearly remember what my wife told when Vidya agreed to do Tumhari Sulu. She said, how many people in their career get a chance to make their first film with Vidya Balan. For many whom I knew and who knew me, were just happy that Vidya said yes to my film. Now that’s what certification means and Vidya Balan is no way less than a certification.

It’s a rarity in our industry where roles are written for actors. She has reached that stage, and as a writer-director, I am very particular that I do justice to her talent when I think of her for a role. Her skill and her discipline is an example to all of us. It’s a master class to see her on a set.  What’s more, I had always dreamt of working with her and it finally happened.

I call her my rock star and I wish her a lovely year ahead. Someday, I will work with her again and get another YES for my script.

Taapsee Pannu, Actor

Vidya is an actor who made me believe that an actress can lead a film and get commercial success at the same time. There might be many who did this before but when I came into the industry, she became a reference point and a benchmark. Today, it’s a beautiful feeling to share screen space with her. At the risk of sounding boastful, I can say there are very few actresses I don’t mind being second to and she is one of them. And only people who work with her know how magnetic a personality she has. I am already looking forward to doing another film with her soon.

Tanuj Garg, Managing Partner, Ellipsis Entertainment

Vidya is unarguably one of the finest, most passionate and diligent actors I have had the good fortune of working with. Given a choice, I would do a film with her every year. We’ve been lucky for each other. I released her first film Parineeta internationally. Thereafter, I co-produced The Dirty Picture, and recently, Tumhari Sulu. As an actor and as an individual, she spoils you with her professionalism and warmth. She will hold a special place in my heart, now and always!

Tarun Tondon, Distributor, Nizam

Vidya Balan’s films have always done very well in our sector. She has a huge fan following here, which started when she did the film The Dirty Picture. The audience just loves her and she always gives them new kinds of films. Her films do excellent business in theatres here and even her last film, Tumhari Sulu, was well appreciated. The only thing is that there are large gaps between the films she does and I wish she would do more movies. With her talent and the kind of films she does, it would be great for her, for us distributors and her fans too.

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