Guest Editor Vidya Balan in conversation with the Box Office India team
The Best Year,2011
Well, I think it’s getting better with each year. The Dirty Picture (TDP) had been successful beyond my imagination. I just wanted people to like my work. I had not imagined this kind of astonishing reactions. It has been simply great coupled with the box office appreciation. All the films have been successful in some or the other way and it makes me happy. So yes, 2011 has just been a great year. It’s a phase that started with Paa and continued through Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica(NOKJ) and TDP, each one of these films did so well. And I’d like to believe that even better things are yet to come!
Yes, I am very happy. I was hoping that my hard work in NOKJ would not get over shadowed by TDP. And when I got to know that NOKJ also got nominations, I was thrilled to bits. The film was a clutter breaker, where Rani (Mukerji) and I went all out to promote the film. It was then that I got confidence that films with two actresses in lead roles can work. I am glad that people acknowledged NOKJ .After which TDP happened and it was a masaledaar film.
There was a phase when everyone said thappad marna hai toh iseymaar lo (want to slap, slap her).There was a reason for that. I think I started out playing a woman, and then wanted to play a girl! I was very happy that I got such a great debut in Parineeta and that got me so much recognition. After which Lagey Raho Munna Bhai came. Then I did other films that went onto become huge hits as well.
The films were successful. I was there, but I was not making much difference. Then Kismat Konnection and Heyy Baby happened, after which I was criticized a lot because of my dressing sense and other things too.
I am grateful for that phase of my life without which I wouldn’t have realised about the kind of films I should be doing. The criticism made be sit back and think about my choices, as in what was going wrong with my career.
It was my dream to become an actress. And when I became one, the pressure for me was how am I going to sustain here? I did some other films at that time including Salaam-E-Ishq and Halla Bol, but people still criticized saying that I was still not doing hard-core commercial cinema. So I decided to do what other heroines do. But even that didn’t work. People began talking about my weight and much more.
And then Paa happened. I took a longtime to decide on this film because I didn’t want to get stuck as a mother of a thirteen-year-old kid, that too of Amitabh Bachchan! Later I thought that even if the film doesn’t do well, at least the audience will always remember the fact that I played Amitabh Bachchan’s mother! And believe me, it was a story which needed to be told and frankly I wanted to be part of that story.
R Balki has a knack of convincing actors. He said, I will not make this film if any one of you (Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and I) say no and that’s how Paa happened. That was the turning point of my life. Before that, I had signed Ishqiya, which was another good choice… as I was back to playing a woman. A woman who is oozing sensuality, who has these two men running after her, fighting for her. Throughout the shoot I realised that this is what I wanted to do. It does not mean that being a woman, your possibilities are limited. It actually opens up a lot of possibilities. Then my choices began to change. Paa and Ishqiya were the agents that changed my life. Then came NOKJ, where two women fought for what was right. This was followed by TPD.
Variety Is The Spice
When TDP came my way, many people advised me against this film. They told me that you have a certain dignity around you. There is an image. I was like, I don’t want to stay with the same image for life. I’m here to break images and do a variety of films. Off screenyou have an image but on-screen you should have different kind of images. Look at Al Pacino or Sean Penn or say Amitabh Bachchan. Amit-sir went ahead and did all kind of roles. Talking about these things is easy; hardship comes when you actually do it, that’s when it all makes sense.
On The Dirty Picture
Milan (Luthria) came to me and said he was thinking of making a biopic on Silk Smita. I didn’t want to do a sad film where people die in the end and where there is no hope. He said you read the gist of the film and then decide. I read and realised that the story was not based completely on Silk Smita’s but rather it was an amalgamation of many lives. There was a certain spirit in the character that touched me and I liked it. But I took my own time and then Milan didn’t get back to me for awhile as he was busy with Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (OUATIM), so I though the must have gone ahead with some other actress.
Interestingly, one day my mother asked me, ‘I heard some Silk Smita film has come to you, And I am sure you have watched her films? You know what kind of films she did, right?’ I told her that it was not exactly on Silk Smita but something which is akin to her life.
Then we saw OUATIM in a theatre and after watching it, I decide I have to work with this man, Milan Luthria. Even in OUATIM, there were many scenes which could have looked cheap but they did not.
Soon I got a call from Milan. I accepted TDP and I am very glad that I did the film or else I wouldn’t have known this part of me as an actor. In Ishqiya and even in NOKJ there were pauses, when silence spoke. But TDP was a commercial film, which gave me space to showcase my potential.
Take On Conventional Cinema
I am open to doing a love story. In fact, I am open to doing all kinds of cinema; it has to be mazedaar that’s it. I don’t have any limitations. But even the films that I’m doing are commercial cinema where woman power is being highlighted.
My next is Ghanchakkar with Emran Hashmi directed by Rajkumar Gupta. It’s a good script. I have always wanted to do a comedy. Rajkumar has a quirky sense of humour but it’s massy too so I like that, because over the years you want more people to watch your films.
First Time Working With The Same Director
A few days ago, someone said that this is the first time you are repeating a director. I replied that it’s the first time a director is repeating me!
Risky to Carry A Film On Her Shoulders?
I am not worried really because in Kahaani the story is the real hero. It’s a mystery film where every new scene adds suspense and the culmination of this film is like a blast. I think we have done all that we could do to make the film work. We had discussed Kahaani before
Her Way Of Promotion
I can sit and discuss anything under the sun. But the moment the audience sees me like this as a pregnant woman they will connect with Kahaani. They will remember that, I play a pregnant woman in the film. So even if I am talking about other things the moment you see my picture like this, you will remember Kahaani. That’s what my motive is. I prefer to be in my character around the promotional period. I have been lucky that I have always got to play a different character each time and that has helped me to establish different looks during the promotions.
Marketing in today’s time is very important. I have worked on the promotion of Ishqiya, NOKJ and TDP. During TDP I was the one who was doing all the promotions because Naseerji doesn’t prefer promoting a film, Emraan and Tusshar were shooting at that time, so I was the only one. They promoted the film when they had the time. Sometimes, I did ten appearances a day along with press conferences too. At that time I use to wonder and even asked Ekta (Kapoor), “Aren’t we doing too much? We are here, there, everywhere!”And she replied, “No, we are covering every medium, every access point to the public”. And it worked.
Her Criteria For Choosing Films
It’s the story. A story which I want to tell to the audience. And then, whether I like the director in terms of the rapport. In the first meeting itself, you know whether you want to work with that director or not. When I met Rajkumar Gupta, it just clicked between us though I hadn’t watched his Aamir. I loved the way he narrated the story. Rajkumar is full of energy, he is so sincere and honest. Every day he would come in our van and tell us that in today’s scene we will rock, so we actors would get all pepped up with his enthusiasm. Then the producer is also important. We actors and the technicians give our best, but then, it is the producer who takes our hard work further and presents it to the audience.
I think Vinod Chopra has been a pioneer in a lot of ways. We used to have our first meeting only after the bound script was given to each one of us and we had read it. I have sat through production meetings where we used to just sit and listen to which scene will be shot on which location. So as an actor, you know every aspect of your role. So Vidhu Vinod Chopra Production has always been ahead of its times. When I had just joined the industry I would hear people say, ‘All these corporate people have entered and what will happen to them?’ But I really think there is no difference and it’s an artificial divide. Aren’t solo producers like Ekta or Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s also running companies i.e. corporations
How I wish
I hope that at some point I get to work with Gulzaar saab. I love his writing and his films. Even now if you see his films, you will not find them dated at all and still relevant. I told him if not a movie, why don’t you direct an ad film! He said that, when I direct a film, I will definitely cast you. As for other directors , Inshaallah at some point or the other our paths will cross.
It’s tricky. If you have commercial success you want critical acclaim and vice versa. TDP is a rare phenomenon. Critical acclaim is welcome, but everyone wants their film to be a hit.
On Directing A Film
I can’t be on a set and be behind the camera. I have to be in front of it! And therefore I don’t visit people on the sets. If I am there, I need to be in front of the camera. To become a director, you need to keep track of so many things and the people around you, which is not my cup of tea.
NO for Social Networking Sites
I am not on any social networking website. I talk to the audience through my films.