It was almost 9 at night when our turn arrived for a tête-à-tête with Vidya Balan at the T-series office. One would expect the actress to be bone-weary after giving a continous set of interviews throughout the day. But guess what, it turned out to be quite the opposite.
We entered the room and there she was, greeting us with a big smile and twinkling eyes! Exuberant and candid as always!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview-
'With Tumhari Sulu, Finally I Was Given A Role Where I Could Smile & Laugh Like Myself'
Q. After playing such emotionally challenging characters in your last two films- Begum Jaan and Tumhari Sulu, Tumhari Sulu comes across as something fluffy. How was it playing such a character this time?
A. You know this is not fluffy at all. This is a happy film. This was refreshing for me to do. (pauses) Because like you said that I have been doing the emotionally heavy films, when this came to me, I just felt like...you know in my personal life I smile and laugh a lot all the time. So finally I was given a role where I could smile and laugh like myself. And I just felt it's a happy film. I don't know what if someone asks me what genre is this! One can say it is a slice of life film but for me, it is just a happy film. That's why people have been seeing the trailer and saying, ‘Main na muskuraa rahi thi dekhte waqt or I just kept smiling through out.'
But in that sense I am saying that it is not fluffy because fluffy makes it sound like there is no substance, there is substance to it. It is about a housewife. I don't like the term housewife, so we will call it homemaker, who lands herself a job as a late night RJ. And you know you will never imagine that there could actually be a housewife sitting behind the mic and saying ‘hello' and talking to you in a sexy, sensuous, sultry tone. So that for me was very interesting.
The fact that she almost has got two different personalities. It's so much fun. And for her, nothing is impossible. She is ready to try everything. That's the spirit she has. She is just one of those who will not say no to any experience. So, I just loved how she is a regular woman who is doing this very intimate show, invariably where you get male callers that to lonely male callers (laughs). But she brings her own brand of humor to it. She is so herself. She is such an unique piece (laughs). I loved it.
'I Have Heard So Many Women Saying, 'Main Sirf Housewife Hoon'...Sirf Housewife Ka Kya Matlab?'
Q. Like you mentioned earlier, Sulu is a homemaker in the film. Do you think that in real life, homemakers ain't given due respect?
A. I think so! I don't think they also take them seriously. I have heard so many women saying that, ‘main sirf housewife hoon'... Sirf housewife ka kya matlab? You know I was in the 4th standard when my class teacher had told us that you should always say 'thank you' to your mother after a meal. You should always tell her the food was good because you know no one appreciates mothers and no one appreciates people who stay at home. Because uske liye paise nahi milte na toh value nahi hai. Value is only measured in terms of money. So when a woman doesn't make money because she sits at home, there is no value for it.
I used to go and say thank you and sorry to my mother for everything. And my mother at some point said, ‘What is this?' I said, ‘No no! I just want to say thank you for everything because my teacher had taught me that.' Uska matlab tabhi samjh me nahi aaya, bade hone ke baad jo mere teacher ne kaha uska asli matlab samjh aaya because stay-at-home mothers, housewives or homemakers have no value and therefore they don't value themselves also.
'Sulu Is Like 'Raat Ki Rani'
Q. You played an RJ before in Lage Raho Munnabhai and now you are playing an RJ again in Tumhari Sulu. How different was it this time?
A. Like night and day! (laughs) Because Janhavi does a morning show and Sulu does a night show. Unka bolne ka tarika, unki energy levels, everything is different. And Janhavi & Sulu are at different stages of their lives.
Janhavi was more energetic, she woke you up in the morning, and she was like a sunflower. This one is a raat ki rani (laughs). You know singing songs to you sweetly in a sultry way. So, it is completely different and their personalities are also very different. At that time I used to feel that my personality matches with Janhavi's personality but I guess now after 11 years my personality has also evolved. So now I feel that I identify completely with Sulu. Not completely, but I identify a lot with her.
Q. If you had to imbibe a trait from Sulu, what would that be?
A. Main kar sakti hai! Sab kuch try karne ko taiyaar hai... (Laughs). One thing common between us is the pagalpan (laughs). But woh trait ‘main kar sakti hai!', that I would I love to imbibe.
'It's Heartbreaking When You Give So Much But Your Films Don't Do Well'
Q. Vidya, you know your last two film didn't do well at the box office though they had solid content. Were you disheartened by those failures?
A. For sure! It is heartbreaking when you give so much. But luckily after Begum Jaan, I didn't have time only to think about it. Because Tumhari Sulu was starting in 12 days. On the day of release I was sitting with Suresh Triveni from morning to evening, so I didn't get time to even think about it. I think it was a boon (laughs). Nahi toh soch soch ke bahut rona aata hai.
Q. What do you think went wrong with Begum Jaan? Is it because people tend to label such films as women-centric?
A. No, I don't think so. I think it is not about the labelling, it is about the content itself. Maybe something in that content didn't appeal to people. They probably found it too intense or something like that. So that's why it didn't work. But not because it was labelled as women centric. Because today there are lots of women centric films that are doing well also.
Q. Do you think it is even correct to label a film as 'women-centric'
A. I think it is okay because in so many years we have not had women in the center of films. (laughs)
'Box Office Numbers Do Matter To Me'
Q. After being in the industry for so long and giving so many power-packed performances, do box office numbers still matter to Vidya Balan?
A. Yes, they do! (laughs) I would love for my films to be very successful, to be a huge box office hits. But I have understood over time that success doesn't mean only a 100 crore film. Different films do different kinds of business and yet they might be successful. But having said that it matters ya! You want more people to watch your work. You put it so much into a film, you want it to be a successful film. Success means people have watched your work.
Q. Right from the first time you faced the camera till now, what changes have you seen in Bollywood? And one thing you would like to change about the film industry if you had the power?
A. You know what is changed is things are becoming more and more professional. I really enjoy that. If there's one thing that requires change, I think it would be the fact that people here always behave like ‘arey kal hona chaiye tha abhi kar do!' Bich raat ko, Sunday ko. The value of time is so less.
'If You Have A Great Content Then Having A Star In It Is A Bonus'
Q. We talk about content-driven cinema today. But do you think that our industry is still star-driven?
A. No. I think it is moving towards being content driven. And it is great to be star driven. If you get great content and have a star, it is a bonus. I don't think it is only star driven.
'There Is No Bigger Award For Me Than Shabana Azmi Saying That I Should Do Arth Remake'
Q. Finally, recently Shabana Azmi had said that if Arth is ever remade, they should cast you. How would you react to that?
A. There is no bigger award for me than Shabana Azmi saying that because I have always idolized her and her performance in Arth is like a Bible for me. So I can't even believe she said that, I had to pinch myself literally. I read the article and I read it again because my sister sent it to me. I don't read entertainment news otherwise. I said, ‘Ab sab theekk hai yaar, ab sab hogaya mera!' (laughs) It doesn't get better than this. But you know we human beings are so greedy, I am still saying how can this get any better, what else is possible...what more can we receive! (laughs)