Who knew the geeky Radhika Mathur from comedy serial Hum Paanch would, one day, become the queen of Bollywood? Balan’s ethereal beauty and nuanced understanding of the acting craft paved her way into the industry back in 2005, when she burst into the limelight with the critically-acclaimed period dramaParineeta.
Ever since, the actor has only strengthened her position, churning out one commendable performance after another. From Silk Smitha in The Dirty Picture (2011) to Bobby from Bobby Jasoos (2014), Balan is known for her unmatched conviction towards roles that emphasise a realistic portrayal of the female being. For instance, her work as Vidya Venkatesan Bagchi, a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani (2012), won Balan her first Filmfare Award for Best Actress. This year, she will be completing a whole decade in the industry with Mohit Suri’s upcoming venture Humari Adhoori Kahaani.
Written by Mahesh Bhatt, the film features Balan and Emraan Hashmi in the lead roles and looks to be the former’s first romantic saga postParineeta. “The film is an intense love story under the genre of drama and is not melodramatic in terms of performance. It’s very realistic,” said Balan in an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune. “The writing is dramatic, done by one of our best directors.” About sharing the limelight with Hashmi for the third time now, Balan claims she truly enjoys it for they have an unconventional and natural chemistry. “It was different this time because we were doing different characters in a different genre,” she said. “As actors, we respond to the script and that dictates how we are on set. I have truly enjoyed working with Emraan yet again. There is a great comfort level between us.”
As an avid fan of Pakistani art, Balan believes local artists have always made a substantial contribution to the success of Bollywood films over the years. “We all love soulful, melodious music and Pakistanis are known for that,” she said. “Personally, I love Rahat and have listened to many episodes of Coke Studio Pakistan as well. I absolutely loved Arieb Azhar’s Na Raindee Hai and got to meet Abida Parveen a few years ago too. My God, she has a powerful voice!” During her visit to Karachi in 2006, Balan also had the opportunity to attend a performance by the Sabri brothers that she enjoyed immensely. Unfortunately, her busy schedule makes it difficult for her to keep up with Pakistani serials. “I don’t get to follow any of the shows as I always miss the timings, but I catch them in bits and pieces. I grew up watching Umer Shareef’sBakra Qiston Pe as a child, although no one in our house spoke Hindi and Urdu was totally out of the question, we used to watch and enjoy it.”
Balan claims she is open to Pakistani scripts and is nothing but praise for the actors of the local production Bol (2011). “I would be happy to be a part of such lovely Pakistani stories. Bol was an extremely powerful film and as an actor, I felt that Manzar Sehbai and Zaib Rehman — who played the protagonist’s parents — did a wonderful job!” Interestingly, it isn’t just Pakistani arts and crafts that Balan likes — she is just as enthralled by women of the country. “Genuinely speaking, Pakistani women are beautiful! They look great, no matter what they wear, be it traditional saris or something else.”
Looking back at the last 10 years, Balan is very fortunate to have made it thus far and witnessed the changing tides of Indian cinema first-hand. “I came into the industry at a time when it was changing or had already begun to change rapidly. Right after Parineeta, everyone kept saying ‘Oh, kitni alag film hai!’” she shared. “I have experienced this change and been brought up by a different kind of cinema. But that is what interests me: contemporary, more realistic but entertaining stories.” Despite this, the strong-headed Balan has not changed a bit herself. “The most valuable and precious lesson I have learnt in my time here is the importance of being one’s self, at all times. When there is success, there is also failure but being yourself can help you cope much better.” Hinting at the aspiring actors of the Pakistani entertainment fraternity, Vidya suggests it is important to trust instincts in order to make it big. “I am a greedy actor and when a good script comes my way, I respond. I have never strived for a special identity and worked honestly,” she said. “There is no one way to get to where you want to be. Just follow your heart; it will guide you right. Remember: nothing is impossible in this world.”
Hamari Adhuri Kahani releases in cinemas across Pakistan on June 12.