Amitabh Bachchan once rightly said in an interview: When Vidya Balan laughs, it feels as if it’s coming right from the depth of her stomach. Prepping self for the daunting series of interviews for her upcoming film ‘Begum Jaan’, Vidya is grace personified. It’s evident as she sits in a six-yards elegantly, with her hair let loose and her nose-pin that conspicuously entices attention. She notices and enjoys little things happening around her. The actor seems at her comfortable best as starts indulging in an exclusive conversation with Times Of India.com.Vidya plays ‘Begum Jaan’, a brothel owner, in the story of survival set against the backdrop of the country’s partition in 1947.
The trailer has got an outstanding response, clearly indicating increasing expectations from the flick. Interestingly, Vidya says the trailer launch was just one of the events, but the reaction to its success is surprising. “I didn’t think about it. The trailer was another event I had to attend that day, and then I had a TV shoot scheduled for the day. I was taken by surprise. I wasn’t even thinking about it when Srijit called and informed me that it had crossed 7 million views — and now it has crossed 20 million. I think it’s done much better than what I expected,” she says excitedly.
The preparations that one has to do to portray such intense, hard-hitting character seems excruciating but Vidya shares the credit. “I think it’s the script that prepares me. It had it all. Srijit’s writing and Kausar Munir’s dialogues really did half the job. Then, you get into the look of the character. You try the costumes the makeup and hairstyle. I think all of this contribute their little bit…then slowly when you see the character as that person, something transforms. I spent a lot of time with Srijit trying to understand ‘Begum Jaan’. Where she came from. I think through all my chats that preparation happened,” Vidya admits.
Donning a fiery role in ‘The Dirty Picture’, a taut character in Kahaani, or the unreformed character in ‘Begum Jaan’, reflects Vidya’s intense love with her craft. She confesses that her confidence is based on her intuition. “It’s always the instinct first, and then you know what to do. When you work unquestionably you know that the audience will accept it. Even with my films which haven’t done well, by god’s grace, I have been appreciated. Maybe because I have unquestionably done my work. I have never judged myself. I enjoy what I do. I think I am committed to what I do. I thrive on it. So maybe that’s why that happens,” she says.
We ask her if doing such power packed roles makes it challenging to come out of the skin of the on-screen character later and she says, “You are living in a parallel reality when you are shooting for a film for 12 to 14 hours. For the shoot, we used to travel one and half hours one way. Which meant three hours used to go in travelling. We were sleeping in our cars during the shoot of ‘Begum Jaan’.”
“Once I went back to the hotel as I needed time for self. I know my other female co-stars used to hang out together almost every night but I never did that as I need to be myself– I need to be ‘Begum Jaan’,” she adds.
Whenever there is a ‘Vidya Balan’ film up for release there is a certain amount of trust involved before the audience buys a ticket. We asked if it makes her feel responsible towards them or if it pressurises her? “I feel very grateful that people have those expectations from me even though few of my past films haven’t done well. However, it’s not been a pressure at all,” confesses the actress.
“I never ever think if this is the right film to do. I always think whether I want to do this film as an audience. Whether I would want to watch this film. As an actor whether I want to do the film. Do I want to play this role? If those criteria are fulfilled then I go ahead and give my best. I don’t think it as a pressure,” Vidya adds.
She acknowledges Bollywood can sometimes be unforgiving about failures. “When a film doesn’t work it breaks your heart. It’s a reality you have to face. I talk about it with Siddharth, my family. Sometimes, I cry, weep, crib; but eventually, I move on,” she says; even though her eyes reveal that she might have just witnessed a flashback of few such moments.
Yet, Vidya is unpardonably uninhibited, vivacious and completely unconventional. But she claims that usually she doesn’t regret it but for one instance. “There is only one statement that I regretted. I don’t even believe that I could say that. Thankfully that was during an interview with a channel, and it passed without creating much controversy,” Vidya asserts without missing a beat.
Deftly pulling the conversation back to her upcoming flick, Vidya says she is delighted with the praises showered by the audience for the trailer of ‘Begum Jaan’. “Everyone has been saying I got goosebumps…there is a different kind of energy in the film. Everyone’s calling me badass and I love it!,” she quips, “I have never been called badass before.”
Vidya has managed to challenge the existing notion of what works, and probably that’s why she got into doing films that would have made many of her contemporaries think twice before committing. With ‘Begum Jaan’ too journey wasn’t easy for her. “I remember that we were two or three weeks away from the shoot. Srijit was at my house discussing the costumes and Rick Roy (costume designer) had also come over. Srijit received a call; he went into the corner and then his face looked like he had just seen a ghost. I went up to him and he said the set was completely destroyed by a storm. I will never forget his expression,” remembers Vidya.
She adds that Srijit was worried that it would be difficult to set up a new set in less than two weeks, and moreover, he didn’t have enough dates of Vidya. “I said we will make it work. I told him he could take the time to rebuild the set. That moment I realised it’s not going to be easy and it wasn’t. That moment was what prepared me for the film,” recalls the national award winning actress.