“My happiness is of utmost importance”, says Vidya Balan’

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – that’s what Vidya Balan did with her films. In the bubbliest of moods, she talks life lessons and priorities with Viraj Sawant. 

Vidya Balan’s choice of roles has been eclectic, to say the least. Mother to a child suffering from progeria in PAA, a seductress in ISHQIYA, the most sought-after erotic actress in THE DIRTY PICTURE a vengeful pregnant woman in KAHAANI… Ithas been practically impossible to draw parallels between her characters so far. The only common factor is the brilliance she brings to every single role. What takes the extraordinary meter a notch higher is her straight-forwardness and her uncompromising stand on things…

Are there any set parameters that you follow while signing a film?
Primarily, it’s the role and then I want to be sure if I want to be this other person because for two months you are living, breathing this other person’s life. So first it’s whether I want to tell the story or not, then the director comes in. If I am seeing the film the way the director is then that’s a good sign. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and our thoughts go in a tangential direction. Then the producer, because the producer makes sure the film is made. Also getting a good release is important. These things, in this order, are important for me to make my film choices.

How important is it for you to relateto your character?
I like to relate to the character. When I watch a film, I look for a point that I can relate to in the film. I know INCEPTION is a great film but I couldn’t relate to it at all. So I look for that relatability while choosing a script also. I think I am invariably doing films that are so real; relatability becomes easy for the audience also.

From your debut film till today, what is that one lesson you have learnt as an actor?
One thing that I have learnt is that, it’s never the end of the world. I come from a complete non-film background. Initially I used to look at positive or negative feedback and think that the world is looking at me in a certain way. I didn’t quite feel good about it. Then with time I realised that it’s not the entire world who is making perceptions about you based on what you do. So all this isn’t really what the entire world thinks about me. So I decided to not take things seriously. At that point I stopped reading about myself or watching any entertainment news. I keep away from it. For me, as a person, that’s been my biggest lesson in life. There will never be a day when everyone praises you or everyone criticises you, so it’s all good in the world.

TE3N is your second film with Nawazuddin Siddiqui. What was the experience like? Did you two exchange acting tips?
We don’t really take tips from each other – we observe Mr Bachchan and learn from him. Maybe I can’t put in words what I learn from Mr Bachchan… I admire the fact that, even after so many years, he is so driven as an actor. I have a certain comfort level with Nawaz because this is our second film. We met after a long time so there was a lot of catching up to do with him. We talk about many other things but we never talk about acting, as such. It’s something you feel.

THE DIRTY PICTURE and then KAHAANI… you are titled as the pioneer of women-centric films in India. How do you take this compliment?
I think it’s wonderful when people give me the credit to have started the trend of women-centric films in the industry. I think someone had to take the first step and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

On the other hand, you’ve been at the receiving end of fashion criticism even today…
Again, I have learnt from experience. As long as you are happy with what you see in the mirror, duniya gayi tel lagane! I see a lot of things on the ramp and I wonder what this exactly is…can you really wear this? If that’s fashion then I am glad people think I am dumb when it comes to fashion!

Does criticism have its adverse effects on you?
I am more worried or more concerned about my own happiness. I think I have no qualms in admitting that my happiness is of utmost importance to me. At times we spend a lot of time pleasing everyone else apart from ourselves. I finally reached a point where I realised that I cannot make everyone happy. Everyone may not be pleased with you on any given day. Just do what makes you happy. There is not a single film I regret doing because I have no one else to blame my failure on or to share the credit of my decision.

Just recently a filmmaker was narrating a film script to my manager and she didn’t quite like it. The filmmaker got upset and asked me if that meant I wouldn’t do it. If I like the film, I’ll do it anyway. If I don’t like it, not my manager or anyone can convince me to do it. The decision to do a film is solely mine. That’s how it works for me.

Does KAHAANI’s success add pressure to KAHAANI 2 or is it an advantage?
The success of the first film is definitely an advantage for the second film. But KAHAANI 2 is a different film altogether…In terms of a different story. Let’s hope it’s better or as atleast as good as the first one.

We heard you were ill for a while and had stopped working. Did you miss work?
I have been working from my college days and I realised what my work means to me when I was unwell. After a short break, I resumed work and this year I have worked harder than I have ever worked in my entire life. I completed TE3N in January and then I shot for KAHAANI 2 and BEGUM JAAN and the Kamala Das biopic will happen soon. I am not complaining at all!

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