Of the nine years that Vidya Balan has been a part of the Hindi film industry, she has spent the better part delivering stellar performances in films such as Paa, Ishqiya, The Dirty Picture and Kahaani. During awards seasons, she has been a regular on stage, accepting the top honours. This year was proving to be a dry season for the actor, with the tepid Ghanchakkar as her only release in 2013. That changed when Balan was recently awarded the Padma Shri.
She calls it a “great honour at such a young age”. The 36-year-old attributes the honour to the “kind of cinema that is being made these days”. “All these honours wouldn’t have come my way had the characters I played not been written,” says Balan, who is now awaiting the release of her next, Shaadi Ke Side Effects, on February 28.
Looking back at her journey, Balan says she is glad that, despite the ups and downs in her career, she never had to go out in search of roles, that interesting author-backed roles have always fallen into her lap. Of these, Parineeta, Ishqiya and Paa are special to her. “Parineeta, because it was my first Hindi film and it won me the industry’s acceptance,” she says.
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Following the acclaim she won for her debut, came criticism for her attempt at the “Western look” in Heyy Baby and Kismet Konnection, which Ishqiya helped her tide over. “I had started to wonder if the industry was the right place for me but working in Ishqiya reinstilled my faith,” she adds. The response for her poignant performance as a mother of a child with disability in Paa sealed her position further, making her comfortable in her own skin. “It’s been a fulfilling life,” she says.
Life has come full circle for Balan. In Shaadi Ke Side Effects, she will, once again, be seen sporting dresses. Except that, this time, she exudes confidence. The look is for the character of a contemporary, urban and independent married woman, whose life takes a turn when she becomes pregnant.
While, at the outset, it may seem that for the role, she must have simply borrowed from her characters in Ghanchakkar and Kahaani (where she plays a married woman and an expectant mother, respectively), Balan says it required her to approach it from a fresh perspective. “Trisha is an independent, working woman in a two-income household. She and her husband are enjoying their lives when she gets pregnant and the situation seems to spiral out of control as the couple attempts to hold it all together, including their relationship,” says Balan.
For Shaadi Ke Side Effects, she was not tempted to borrow from her real life and experiences of her married life with husband Siddharth Roy Kapur. Instead, she relied on the basic man-woman instinct. The film, directed by Saket Chaudhary who made Pyaar Ke Side Effects, says Balan, uses the man-woman stereotypes and plays them out, although in a more subtle manner. “He has allowed Farhan (Akhtar, who plays her husband) and me to interpret the scenes and play them out as we would like to, letting us find our own ground in the space our characters share,” she says.
Termed an unusual on-screen pair, Akhtar and Balan don’t appear odd in the promos. “It’s probably because Farhan is funny and I laugh easily. In fact, it’s my tendency to laugh that almost always breaks the ice with all my co-stars,” says Balan.