‘Every character has left an impression on me’

The insatiable Vidya Balan talks to Priya Adivarekar about her earliest memories of cinema, career-defining moments and more

There is no stopping Vidya Balan. With resounding commercial success, critical acclaim for some of the most powerful performances Indian cinema has seen in the last decade, several awards and accolades, and more, the actress is clearly one of Bollywood’s finest gems. Close to 12 years after her debut as the charming Lalita in Parineeta, Balan continues to dominate as one of B-town’s leading ladies. Currently, the vivacious actress is all set to don the garb of Sulochana, the protagonist of Tumhari Sulu – a fun, slice-of-life film set for release on December 17. She will be seen multitasking as a homemaker and late-night RJ. Ahead of the film’s release, Balan discusses cinema, life and more in an exclusive chat.

Like Sulu, do you think women today are more open to experimenting with their professional choices?

Absolutely! They are even open to multitasking professionally. However, while they have more opportunities now, there are also more responsibilities and greater pressure. Which is not to say that women didn’t have either in the past, but the hectic lifestyle of today has changed a lot of things around us. Everything is so fast-paced! Most women spend hours travelling from home to work and back. They also have personal commitments and responsibilities to look after. So while the scope is much greater, the pressure has also increased.

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

I don’t think I am good at maintaining a balance. I don’t multitask much, as compared to women who travel great distances, work for long hours and also run their homes successfully. That’s one reason I think the term ‘housewife’ should be replaced with ‘homemaker’ for good. A homemaker is the one who truly brings the home together. It’s not an easy task! I remember, while travelling by local trains as a student at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, I used to see women cutting vegetables on their way back home. I, on the other hand, am in a position where I don’t have to cook, buy groceries or perform some of the tasks that homemakers have to do every day. Hats off to them!

What has been the most special takeaway for you, from any of the characters you have essayed so far?

It’s interesting how every character I have played on screen has been so different from the other, and each of them has had traits that are very unique. It is difficult for me to make a choice, because all of them have made impressions on me that will stay with me forever. From among the recent ones, let’s take Sulu as an example. She is a go-getter. Her response to everything is, “Main kar sakti hai” (I can do it). That kind of confidence is very hard to find. It is very inspiring and encouraging.

What is your earliest memory of cinema while growing up?

As a child, I wasn’t really into watching movies. We didn’t make frequent trips to movie theatres either. The only time we used to watch something would be on Doordarshan, when they would play Hindi films on Sunday evenings. My mother introduced me to regional cinema, which was also telecast on Doordarshan on weekends. My first exposure to world cinema was in college. I remember, MAMI Mumbai Film Festival had just begun and they were looking for volunteers. I had signed up and was assigned the task of announcing the film’s name with details before every screening. That was my first tryst with world cinema. I was mesmerised by the enchanting universe of movies, and felt lucky to witness some exceptionally crafted films from Iran, Japan and France among others. From that point, there was no looking back. I had fallen in love with cinema.

What, according to you, has been a careerdefining moment for you as an artiste?

There have been so many important moments that have not only brought me awards, acclaim and recognition but also helped me become what I am today. Right from bagging a film like Parineeta as a debutant to essaying a challenging character like Manjulika in Bhool Bhulaiyaa and working in a film like The Dirty Picture – all of them have contributed in one way or another. Among my earlier films, I feel Bhool Bhulaiyaa was extremely important, as was Ishqiya. I ventured into a new space with the latter, and that gave me immense creative satisfaction as an artiste.

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