By Neeraj Nanda*
A 40 minutes drive to The Prince, St. Kilda, the sight of sea waves, a bit of sun and some gossip while waiting were worth it to meet and talk to Bollywood diva Vidya Balan. She was in Melbourne to launch the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2012 as festival ambassador with Premier Ted Baillieu. The ten day festival with about 40 movies and other activities has been funded by the Victorian Government and will be managed by the Mind Blowing Films. In a candid interview, a smiling Vidya dressed in a beautiful traditional saree answered my questions with ease.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: The success of ‘The Dirty Picture’ & ‘Kahaani’ has put you on the top. What is the next big achievement that you are looking for?
A: I have never thought in terms of achievement; I never had a plan and pace. Things have worked out the way they have and have followed my heart. And I intend to follow my heart. My next film is Ghanchakkar which is a comedy thriller. It’s directed by Raj Kumar Gupta of No one Killed Jessica fame with Imran Hashmi. I just hope to keep doing in what I believe in.
Q: Seeing ‘Parineeta’ and ‘The Dirty Picture’ it seems you do not need a hero in your movies in the traditional sense.
A: We are in the best of times for heroines and such characters are being written for them which ten years back we could not think of. Cinema is the mirror of reality and it is today’s reality that women are establishing their identity in all fields of life. They are living life according to their principles. And that is what you are seeing in movies. I suspect it is a great thing to be an actress these days.
Q: And you are leading that trend.
A: This is my good luck. I feel blessed when someone says this to me. The credit of all this goes to the times in which such movies are being made and the film makers who have given me a chance to act characters which they want me to do in movies.
Q: When Indian Vice President Dr. Ansari was handing out the National Award for Best Actress to you recently what came to your mind?
A: I had butterflies in my stomach as I walked up the stage to get the award from him and suddenly I looked and saw everyone and my parents clapping and I choked. It was a moment I had dreamt all my life. Such a situation makes you numb.
Q: What was your parent’s reaction?
A: They were very happy and I could see their eyes were wet with happiness. In fact, I was missing my sister and brother in law there because I consider them my second set of parents. It was one of those moments which give you a massive confidence.
Q: So, does that give you a boost. For example, you are in a shoot and you do better because you got a national award?
A: I would say one feels very satisfied that your work is being appreciated. You basically want your movies to be seen. The Dirty Picture was a tough movie to make and my work is being appreciated so much that, I feel, if asked again, I would work again in it.
Q: You are bilingual. Does that give you an edge over others?
A: I can’t say but I love learning languages. There are so many languages in India that even if I learn a little of them I feel happy. Malayalam and Tamil are my mother tongues. I am good in Bengali. I know Marathi, Hindi and English as I grew up in Mumbai.
Q: How was it acting with Amitabh Bachchan?
A: One feels that when you work with a legend it is the years of dedication towards work that is before you. And one feels inspired by it.
Q: Aamir Khan has raised a social issue with the first episode of ‘Satyamav Jayate’. Do you agree that people on top such as Aamir Khan and yourself should raise such issues?
A: Absolutely, yes. If you are able to leverage your appeal beyond films then it is great to raise such issues. Aamir has always been a frontrunner and he is an inspiration. I also believe in a cause and I am the brand ambassador for national sanitation drive. If you believe in such a thing then it does make a difference.
Q: Tell us about ‘Ghanchakkar’?
A: It’s a comedy thriller. Because I am doing a comedy for the first time, I feel a bit nervous also.
Q: You have done commercials, music videos and now movies. Where do you get the most satisfaction?
A: Whether in is on the stage or before the camera, being an actor is the most satisfying. I am an actor and always will be an actor. When you work in movies you work for posterity to watch. People after your grandchildren will also see them and that is a very satisfying thought. Basically, I love acting and the medium does not matter.
Q: You are the festival ambassador. What is your message to B’wood lovers in Melbourne?
A: Many films which you do not see in the theatre we are bringing them to you. Come to see the festival movies and also bring you non Indian friends to see them to celebrate the type of movies we make in India.
Q: Many girls in Melbourne want to become Vidya Balan. What is your advice to them?
A: Just be you and then move ahead.
*Kulbir photographer assisted with recording and still photos.