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Vidya Balan: I’ll do anything to bring a character alive

With two weeks to go before her latest appearance as Bobby Jasoos, Vidya Balan talks about the tools an actor uses to slip into a role.

Written by Alaka Sahani | Updated: June 19, 2014 8:36 am
Vidya Balan loved experimenting with male disguises. Vidya Balan loved experimenting with male disguises.

You seem to be playing an oddball character, yet again. What draws you to them?

She is not an oddball character. You are probably saying this because we have not had a woman detective in cinema before. She is an average, middle-class girl, the kind you see all around you, who aspires to do something different.
When I asked Samar Shaikh, the director, why she wants to be a detective, he said that’s the beauty of this character. Bobby Jasoos has seen her aunt (played by Tanvi Azmi), who is a matchmaker, do background checks on people. That inspires her. She is spunky and full of life. In Hyderabad, they call a girl potti but she is more of a pataka.

What made you take this project up?

What endeared me to Bobby jasoos is that it is not just a detective movie. I have never been a great fan of detective films even though I like thrillers. What attracted me was that Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh, the writer, has managed to weave a humane story, that of a girl from a small mohalla who defies social norms to follow her heart.

Most of the scenes have been shot on location. How much does that add to an actor’s craft?

What Kolkata is to Kahaani, Hyderabad is to Bobby Jasoos. While shooting for Kahaani, I was, very identifiably, Vidya Balan. Here, people often did not know I was on the sets since I was in disguise. I have heard people ask: ‘When is Vidya Balan coming?’And I would just giggle.

I don’t enjoy shooting in Mumbai, unless the movie explores not-so-familiar facets of the city. Also, when I go away from Mumbai, I am able to focus better. When you shoot on locations, a number of unplanned things can happen. That adds magic to the scenes.

How intensive was the process of costume changes?

I have 12 costume changes. However, I had to just sit back and enjoy the process while costume designer Theia Tekchandaney and make-up artiste Vidyadhar Bhatte had to put in all the effort. I loved the male disguises more, using beard, moustache and even bald patches. It was a lot of work because we wanted the male disguises not to look womanlyat all.

What about your body language?

Once I got into a male disguise, my voice and body language would change. It was a great experience for an actor and we all collaborated to create this. It was a lot of hard work but we were never tired of trying
new things.

I will do anything to bring a character alive — make-up and costumes are external tools available to an actor. Through voice and mannerisms, one can bring in that change. Still, if an actor can physically appear a little different, it’s like seeing another person. For instance, in No One Killed Jessica, my look was kept simple to create the character of a diffident person.

You have been doing woman-centric films. How tough is it to get such scripts?

I am enjoying these films because there is such a nice variety. In the last few years, there have been several remarkable attempts. Actors like Kangana Ranaut have done some good work. Unlike the scenario five years ago, people are interested in investing in a woman-centric story today. I do one or two films a year and I am getting many exciting scripts.

Does the question of saleability still arise vis-a-vis a woman-centric film?

Be it a hero- or heroine-centric film, if it is not commercially viable, people are not going to invest. However, people are open to such projects now. Both independent producers as well as studios have approached me with such scripts. The actors should also be willing to take up such roles. If an actor is doing these kind of films, she has put extra effort into it too.

What is the next stage as an actor for you?

I don’t have an agenda. I hope Bobby Jasoos does well. At the time of Kahaani, I said that I felt like I was carrying this baby, a metaphor for the film. With Bobby Jasoos, I feel I am the baby and everyone has carried me.

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