Tag: Vidya Balan

QUICK REVIEW: Shakuntala Devi, Amazon Prime


By Neeraj Nanda

SHANKTULA DEVI, Hindi, 2h 7m, 2020; Director Anu Menon; Starring Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra, Jisshu Sengupta; Genere Drama; Subtitles English

MELBOURNE: Shanktula Devi, the wonder mathematical genius came to my school probably in the late 60s for a show, which made me crazy about her speed of calculations. A few teachers (probably including the Math teacher) shouted at her towards the end of the show and it was abruptly ended. They were upset at being humiliated (a presumption) by her being a woman and a declared genius. Me myself not good in Maths never forgot her but she faded in my memory as I pushed ahead in life. I had no idea about her life or her struggles.

At a senior age now seeing Shanktula Devi on the small screen I feel elated at her achievements and her coming to my school. Her extraordinary story, her struggles as a human and as a woman forms the rather zig-zag path to glory. When she becomes a mother and her career as a mathematical celebrity the strains of society become visible, but she says, ” Kya Maa Banne Ke Baad Aurat Ka Dimag Chalna Band Ho Jata Hai”, quite liberating in her times. And, her oft-repeated dialogue, “I never lose”.

Her husband is gay and (we are told) she later wrote a book on the subject, a taboo subject in ‘sanskari’ India. What, in reality, the film focusses on is her relationship with her daughter, who herself is trying to be herself and be independent of her mother’s shadow of a celebrity. The mother’s and daughter’s struggles independent of each other and the contradiction of their relationship are beautifully crafted in the movie. The humanization in both the women is evident but tense. Maybe, that is what life is.

The movie clearly reflects how Shanktula Devi lived on her own terms of battling with society. Vidya Balan gives a sterling performance. Maybe, she always shines in a biopic. I attended her recent IFFM Film Club interview (on Zoom) by Rajeev Masand, where she said, ” I hope the best content comes to me. I have no idea or plans, but I am crazy to do a biopic on Sridevi”. Any producer listening?

Other actors in the movie sail smoothly with astute direction. At times Vidya Balan looks similar in different stages of Shakuntala Devi’s age. Plus, for international audiences, the movie can be a bit shorter. The movie on Amazon Prime means it can be seen globally. The pandemic has impacted the movie industry. It’s a different cinema experience compared to a cinema hall. As Vidya, herself says, ” OTT streaming will have an impact on mainstream cinema. It’s going to change things but theaters are there to stay. Both streaming and theatres will work.”

This biopic movie should be seen for its content, which encompasses issues still plaguing the 21st century. I give this movie three out of five stars.

IFFM Film Club: Rajeev Masand to interview Vidya Balan followed by Q-A


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 27 July: Former brand ambassador of the IFFM and leading film actress Vidya Balan whose new movie ‘Shakuntala Devi’, is releasing on Amazon Prime on 31 July, will be interviewed by Rajeev Masand for the IFFM Film Club on Wednesday 29 July. The live streaming event on Zoom will have a Q-A session after the interview.

This is the fourth streaming event of the IFFM Film Club. In the three earlier events Soojit Sircar and Ronnie Lahiri (First), Aparna Sen (second), and Anurag Kayshap were interviewed by Rajeev Masand.

Vidya Balan in Shakuntala Devi

Vidya’s latest Shakuntala Devi premiering on Amazon Prime Video also stars Sanya Malhotra, Amit Sadh, and Jisshu. Sengupta. The Hindi movie is directed and written by Anu Menon and produced by Sony Pictures Networks India and Vikram Malhotra under his banner Abundantia Entertainment.

The biopic is based on the life of exemplary mathematician Shakuntala Devi known as the ‘Human Computer’ with Vidya playing her role. The movie is being released on OTT because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The time of the event will be soon announced and registrations can be done at – info@mindblowingfilms.com

Vidya Balan praises IFFM for moving beyond movies

Photo: SAT/NN.

By Neeraj Nanda

Melbourne, 19 August: IFFM-2016 Brand Ambassador Vidya Balan is impressed with the iconic festival taking up issues beyond films. Speaking today at a function at the Victorian Parliament she said, “I am grateful and honoured to be at the Parliament of Victoria promoting the film festival’s core values of the diversity and inclusiveness.”

Praising the festival director Mitu Bhowmick Lange’s initiative of moving beyond films, Vidya Balan said, “breaking down walls and boundaries with the La Trobe University’s project of students taking part in a new effort to help children with special needs in India and the good work being done by the Royal Children’s Hospital is basically breaking barriers in the minds of the people.”

“People do not know how to handle children with special needs and the need of the hour was to treat people as people,” she said.

“The La Trobe University’s initiative was an icing on the cake,” she commented.


About her being the Brand Ambassador of the film festival, Vidya Balan says, “The journey of the past five years has been so wonderful. I come back here year after year and go back with memories cherished for ever.”

“When Mitu first asked me to be the Brand Ambassador of the festival, I thought it will be a one off, but next year again she came to me and then continued to ask me to remain in the position year after year and that kicked off my love affair with Melbourne,” she nostalgically says.


The Bollywood legend was honoured by Hon. Luke Donnellan, Minister for Roads, Roads Safety and Ports, the IFFM Gold Medal for her contributions to cinema and interest in social issues.

A large number of festival organisers, parliament MPs and officials, Indian Consul in Melbourne Manika Jain, Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick and others were present at the function.

- SAT News Service.

Difficult to accept any regulation of the film industry: Vidya Balan

Photo: SAT/NN

By Neeraj Nanda
Melbourne, 12 April: Since ‘Parineeta’, Vidya Balan has not looked back. Her stake has been rising with her being one of the busiest leading ladies in the Mumbai movie industry. Her movies ‘Hey Baby’, Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, The Dirty Picture and Kahaani established her as a strong female protagonist changing the very concept of a film heroine. Her newest movie ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahani’ is keenly awaited as she is working for the first time with Mahesh Bhatt.
In Melbourne, for the launch of the Indian Film Festival Melbourne 2015, she had a short but candid talk with SAT. As usual she was well dressed (with an ethnic touch), a new hair style and smiling. Vidya Balan, answering to my question on the recent censorship troubles and the banning of a few words in movies she said, “It’s difficult to accept any regulation of the film industry.”
“The industry is talking to the Minister to sort out the issue,” she told SAT.
Talking about her new movie ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahani’, Vidya said, “It is an intense love story and working for the first time with Mahesh Bhatt has been a wonderful experience.”
It is directed by Mohit Suri and produced by Mahesh Bhatt under the banner Vishesh Films and Fox Star Studios. The film also stars Emraan Hashmi and Rajkummar Rao. It is based on the love story of Bhatt’s parents, Nanabhai Bhatt, Shirin Mohammad Ali and his stepmother. The movie is likely to release on 12 June 2015.

- SAT News Service.

Exclusive Interview: ‘Blessed’ Vidya Balan happy to be an actress

Vidya Balan getting the Best Actress award for 'Kahaani' from Indian Vice President in New Delhi. PHOTO: PIB

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.