Vidya Balan looks totally into her character in the trailer of Tumhari Sulu. She looks sensual and magical in the ‘Hawa Hawai 2.0’ song, which is a tribute to Sridevi. She is playing a saree clad married woman, a homemaker who turns into a late night radio jockey. In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, the actor opens up about her fight with weight gain and loss, and finally embracing her body and her size. Tumhari Sulu is releasing on November 17, and Vidya is all ready for it.
Why is Sulu so special to you, what is it about the character that you like most?
You know Suresh told me that it is a late night RJ (Radio Jockey), someone who talks in a husky tone, a sensual tone, and almost a sultry tone. He also told me that every listener should feel like I am whispering in his or her ears only. And I have heard late night shows on radio while on my way back home from work or during travel, and I know they speak like that, you feel they are talking to you and you alone! That is why I picked up that tone. How did I do it? Suresh felt my voice was apt for this.
You are playing a ‘Sexy Bhabhi’, and a homemaker in Tumhari Sulu. Why is a woman in a saree called a ‘bhabhi’ automatically?
I love the idea of a homemaker turned late night RJ. When Suresh narrated the script to me, I thought it was very well written, beautifully story where Sulu and every other character came alive. And I decided that I want to do it. And about the ‘Sexy’ Bhabhi’, I think every bhabhi is sexy! If a woman is seen wearing a saree, we call her a bhabhi! And I don’t know why we do so. I am very comfortable in a saree, and I feel very sexy!
We associate glamour mostly with western clothing, maybe? Indian wear also, but mostly if it is a westernised version of the Indian garment. For some reason we don’t see Indian dressing as glamorous at all. Even a lot of sarees that these designers make are like western outfits. Very few designers actually do it the traditional way. I think a saree can look elegant, you can go to a boardroom wearing a saree, you can be a politician like Priyanka Gandhi wearing a saree, you can be a Sridevi in ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’ wearing a saree and ooze sexuality, you can be Sulu, you can be anything you want to be, wearing a saree. A saree is so versatile!
I didn’t know I had it until I did Sulu, but I am not a patch on Sridevi. Talking about comedy though, I always liked Hrishikesh Mukherjee kind of comedy, but I didn’t know I would find today’s Hrishikesh Mukherjee in Suresh Triveni, I am not comparing the two, Suresh Triveni is Suresh Triveni, I am just trying to state a fact that when Suresh narrated the script to me, I knew this wasn’t one of those mindless comedies. Here he has made a female protagonist funny, she is tongue-in-cheek, which is so refreshing!
Talking about the film, you are looking great, you are embracing your body with a lot of pride and love.
You know I was a fat child, but I was a happy child, I thought I was beautiful, that’s how I was made to feel about myself, at home. And then when I stepped out, people started telling me how I should lose weight and started teasing me too. And then while growing up as a teenager you are bothered about the opposite sex and when you want their attention, all this becomes very crucial for and you start believing that maybe I won’t get the attention I need if I am not thin! I tried to lose weight, I went through crash diets, I spent a large part of my life dismissing and rejecting, and being sorry about my body. And then I realised that there is no end to it. Becoming an actor had a huge role to play in that, at various points I lost weight, I worked out crazy, I starved myself, but my weight would come back because this is my body structure.
But you know, whatever body I have been in, I have had desires, bodily desires. I felt attractive, it didn’t stop me from wanting to live my life to the fullest. So I realised that these are the limitations in other people’s heads which they impose upon me, because they have a certain ideal, and now I don’t fit into that and I am okay. I am not going to take away from the fact that I am still a living, pulsating human being. I decided that at least I should be on my side, because otherwise there is no end to rejecting your body and spending a lifetime doing that. But what really happens, it is not your body’s fault, your body needs at least one person on it’s side, and I said to myself that this is my body and I love it. It is not that I haven’t tried, to an extent that I have killed myself some times, trying to lose weight, but it would come back on. I can keep wanting to be thinner, and I have realised that people all around want to be thinner, there is no end to it. If I do that to myself, I will be unhappy throughout thinking if I was a little less last week than this? Or I will wear that dress after losing weight, but ‘zindagi nikal jaati hai’ (life goes by), so I decided to live in this body and embrace it. But this happened only a few years ago, it happened after doing The Dirty Picture, where I had all my flab overflowing from everywhere, and people told me I was sexiest in that film among all the films I had done.
The Dirty Picture changed the trend for you. You became the hero of your films. How does it feel being a hero in your head?
It feels natural! (Chuckles). I think we women are heroes, we are just not acknowledged as heroes. We make things happen within our families, within the world, in our cinema now, look at all the exciting content, it is hugely female driven. And I believe we do, I know we do. I am not being an inverse sexist or not even talking as a feminist here, this is the truth today. I take great pride and joy being a woman. They say ‘aap mahilapradhan filmein karti hai’ (you do female centric films), but then I say it clear that I am the most important person in my life, and I happen to be a woman, so I play roles where I am the most important or I play the hero, or whatever you want to call that. I am enjoying the variety of scripts being offered to me, and I am making the most of it.