She loves offbeat roles and is an actor par excellence. Most of all, she truly believes in herself. Not surprisingly, with so much in her favour, she’s the only actress today, who dares to attempt what gives others the shivers. Vidya Balan in conversation with Jigar Shah
How dirty is The Dirty Picture?
Ha ha! Go watch it!
If you had to choose any other actress for the The Dirty Picture, who would it be?
There are three of them – I, Me and Myself!
There’s talk that you’re planning to launch a clothing line based on The Dirty Picture, so that you can bring back the ’80s look.
Oh God! I did mention this to someone but I was joking. But the idea of bringing back the ‘80s is not bad, hai na? I must give it a thought.
Speaking of activities other than acting, you apparently write poems/ shayaris. Are you planning to compile them and publish a book in the foreseeable future?
Now, this is not true at all. I don’t write poems or shayaris but I do read a lot. But people have been trying to get me to write as I have been told that I cook up really nice stories. And I don’t believe them, they are just being nice. (Laughs)
Judging by the kind of movies you’ve been accepting from the beginning of your career, are you trying to create a special niche for yourself?
My work is an extension of me and I’m going solely by my gut. My choices are a reflection of my beliefs and I’m choosing films I like. I enjoy playing different characters. Maybe there is a schizophrenic person in me who wants to be different people on screen (ha…ha…). I am not trying to be something; I’m just this way. Most people are under pressure to adhere to norms. I haven’t had this problem.
If a filmmaker wants to cast you, what kind of subject he should come up with?
I want to play a person who is believable and interesting, someone who is not just different from me as a person but different from the characters I have played so far. The script has to be engrossing, it has to have a story I want to tell. After the story, the director or the captain of the ship is very important to me. I need to have complete faith in him or her. They need to inspire me. A film is nothing but a director’s vision. I need to completely trust the director. For example, if it is midnight but Balki says it is afternoon, I will believe him. I will go with his conviction and belief. It was due to Balki’s conviction and belief in me that I accepted to play mother to a 67-year-old man (Amitabh Bachchan).
And while promoting a film, you try to convey the character you played in the film. Is that correct?
It only makes sense to promote the character, so that it is a direct association with the film. Right now, I want them to see me and think only of The Dirty Picture. This is possible only if there is a special look for you in the film. Like in No One Killed Jessica, I couldn’t do much with the look so I played around with my spectacles during the promotion. So if you don’t have a look and even if you can go out with just an element of your look, it’s great.
Marketing a film is very essential these days…
(Cuts in) Absolutely! We live in a time where there is information overload. We can get to know what is happening in Antarctica with just the click of a button. It is very important to aggressively promote your film. People might know of your film but amidst all the craziness in the world, you need to tell them that your film is releasing on so-and-so date and what’s it all about.
Who, according to you, is the best marketing brain in our industry?
Undoubtedly, Aamir Khan. He is incredible. The kind of time he puts into every project he does is amazing, right from scripting to shooting to post-production to promotion, like there are no shortcuts in life.
Back to The Dirty Picture… Did you ever ask your director Milan Luthria and producer Ekta Kapoor why they were so keen to sign you for the film?
I did ask Milan and he said, “Let’s do the film together and when the film ends, I will tell you why.” So I ended up doing the film just to know why. Milan said he wouldn’t make the film if I didn’t say yes to the project. It was a very challenging role, almost felt like playing five characters in one. I have nearly 100 changes in The Dirty Picture, whereas if you assemble all my costumes from my other films, they won’t add up to 100.
Now that the film is complete, have you asked Milan?
I am yet to ask him. I will ask him on the day of the release, which is December 2.
What is it like to work with Ekta Kapoor, your first female producer earlier in television and now in films?
Only a woman could have thought of making a film on the lines of The Dirty Picture. Initially, a lot of people advised me not to do the film. Ekta was very passionate about it and that’s why she is so aggressive. She has the guts to back a project like this. She thought of the film as a very marketable film from a producer’s point of view. She also has a creative bent. That mix is fabulous.
There is still a massive controversy around the film. Is it based on Silk Smitha or is it inspired by her?
The film is not based on the life of Silk Smitha. In the ‘80s, there were many dancing girls and Silk Smitha was one of them. But Silk Smitha was the dancing star of her times. Rajat Arora, the writer of the film, must have been most influenced by her but it is not her story.
Were you apprehensive while kissing Naseeruddin Shah, Emraan Hashmi and Tusshar Kapoor during the shoot?
Doing these scenes were a part of the approved script. If I wasn’t Ok with it, I wouldn’t have signed the film or I would have signed only after making some changes. But I believed in the moments, so I went ahead and did it. The character I play is of someone who wears her sexuality on her sleeve.
Why are you attracted to off-beat subjects?
I am happy to do any film that offers me a good role but the definition of ‘commercial’ has changed. There is no particular formula that works and there is also no guarantee that a ‘different’ film will work for sure. So for me, a good film works and I have been very fortunate to be part of a few of those good films.
You haven’t tried your hand at comedy.
(Laughs) Me not doing comedy is sad, right? But I am dying to do it. Hopefully, after reading this, someone will come up with a comedy script that suits me.
Finally, news is that you sacked your manager K S Sanjay.
Untrue. We have taken a break for some time.