When Vidya Balan took over a newspaper's photoshoot: Journalist reveals the difference between B-town's ‘privileged’ and ‘outsiders’

The death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput sparked the debate over actors who come from a privileged background versus outsiders who make a mark purely because of their talent and skills.

Weighing in on the difference between the two clubs in the entertainment industry, a journalist took to social media and shared how an ‘outsider’ helped him.

The ‘outsider’ is none other than actress Vidya Balan. The Twitter thread reveals how Balan took over the photoshoot of a Bengali newspaper when the Bureau Chief was grieving his mother’s death and was unable to meet his deadline.

He wrote, "Bollywood actors who come from a privileged background are arrogant and have scant regard for those who can't cater to their needs. That is what separates them from those who come from the "outside". I will narrate one such personal story about a Bollywood actress.

During May 2012, I joined a media group as Bureau Chief in Mumbai. My brief was to work with a newly formed team in Kolkata which was launching a Bengali newspaper. The stakes were high and so was the work pressure. At that time my mother was suffering from terminal stage.

It was very difficult for me to run around for the treatment of my mother between two cities and rise up to the challenge of launching a newspaper in a market where the leader had already created firewalls to prevent entry of a new player. But we had a very determined, young team.

Durga Puja was fast approaching and we decided to launch a special Puja edition with the perfect 'Bengali' face in Bollywood. Many editorial meetings later, Kolkata team decided to move over all Bengali actresses in Mumbai and voted overwhelmingly for a Tamil actress. Vidya Balan

As we were brain storming for the Durga Puja edition, my mother breathed her last in Kolkata. I immediately took a flight to Kolkata. My world had come crashing down. My job had no meaning for me. My existence had no meaning for me. My world had become grey and blurred.

The next few days were a blur. My editors asked me not to worry about office anymore and told me that nobody from any of the offices will call me. My colleagues in Kolkata came to see me at home. They were being supportive but the guilt of not completing my work kept pinching me.

Two days later, my mobile received a message. It was Vidya. She sent a short message. "How are you?" I didn't want to tell her anything. She told me that she learnt about a photo-shoot and she enquired about the delivery deadline. I said I had only seven days to deliver the shoot.

I asked her not to think about it as it was too short a time to deliver a photoshoot. On top of that I wasn't in Mumbai.

I sent her an apology text for not following up properly with her team and said that I understand why she won't be able to do it. Vidya just sent a smiley back.

The next day, her manager called. Then her PR team. Then her assistant...Before I knew it, the ball was set in motion.

They sent me a mail saying that she will be doing the photo-shoot. Her team mentioned a point clearly and boldly: Vidya Balan won't be charging us a penny!

Most of us who are aware of special shoots know the work that goes behind it. I again sent a message to Vidya again saying that I am not in Mumbai and I won't be able to arrange for the shoot. I was making sure she knows what she was agreeing to. She sent me a smiley again.

The message exchange wasn't happening in real-time. She messaged when she was free between shots and I got back when I checked my phone, usually hours later. Yet, it never made a difference. Her manager said that they have been instructed to conduct the photoshoot without me.

How can that happen? How will they know what to shoot & the concept of the shot? Her staff said that she will be arranging for everything on her own. Her personal staff will be roped in for the shoot. I wanted to send her a saree from Kolkata. Vidya said she will arrange that too.

Vidya Balan's creative team then got in touch to know about the concept of the shoot. They told me to send me a photoshopped picture of the exact shot that we have in mind. Vidya will replicate that shot. We sent her team the below photoshopped image as a reference. Sindoor Khela.

In the middle of this, I started to feel better. Some demons had descended over me. It was like a heavy object that was constantly pressing against my chest. Every time I looked at my mom's picture, dark thoughts would cloud my mind. But thanks to Vidya, I started feeling better.

Two days later, around 11 am, Vidya's PR team called to inform that she is in the studio and was getting ready for the shoot. I was dumbfounded. They told me that she had arranged everything on her own. I asked where the food is coming from.

They said, it was from Vidya's kitchen.

For the next three hours, her PR kept updating me about the progress of the shoot, even informing me about the exact time when the first shot was clicked. By late evening, I got a text message from Vidya saying that the shoot was done and that “the photographs are very nice”

Next day, I received the sample pictures. See a sample picture below. Look how exactly she replicated the concept picture.

Photo credits: Hair – Shakala Bhonsle, Makeup – Shreyas Mhatre, Stylist: Subarna Roy Chowdhury, Saree by Sabyasachi.

The photographer refused to take credit.

That a leading Bollywood actress would go to such lengths to get a photoshoot done, was beyond me. I couldn't fathom why Vidya Balan cancelled her film's shooting and submitted the final pictures within five days when the deadline was of seven.

I didn't know how to thank her.

I just sent her a brief "Thank You". I was actually at a loss of words. Then came her final message, "My deepest condolences to you". It was accompanied with one more text message. I kept looking at her final text as tears rolled down my cheeks. It was the first time I cried.

Those tears helped me recoup. I realised that Vidya Balan single-handedly helped pull me out of a very dark, depressive phase. Magazine cover shoots & concept shoots with privileged actors born into prominent Bollywood families are usually a nightmare. They drive you up the wall.

Actors who come from a middle-class background aren't like the ones who are born with a movie role written for them. The nepotism products are condescending and patronising. "Outsiders" are usually empathetic and never dither to do those little acts of kindness that help others.

No other Bollywood actor has ever done for me what Vidya Balan did. I don't know if I could ever come back to the profession had it not been for the kindness of Vidya. I had thought of retiring and leaving Mumbai forever. That kind act of Vidya Balan changed my life's course.

Her acts of kindness didn't just end with the shoot. Most stars carefully select pictures that they want to share with the media. But Vidya shared all the rough shots so that I don't have to involve myself with selecting the shots. Her photographer also sent mugshots. Here's one.

After years, I had heard about another Bollywood actor who had a similar level of empathy like Vidya Balan. He would go out of his way to help people, he would provide for his friends in need, he would donate money freely for the distressed. He was Sushant Singh Rajput.

Bollywood is a toxic place full of bad guys. All of you should know the backstabbing, petty politics and rejection Vidya Balan faced in her professional life. I have heard those horror stories too. Yet she soldiered on till she achieved stardom. Thanks for listening."

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