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Begum Jaan gives Vidya Balan an outlet for her pent-up anger

Actress reveals she had bottled up a lot of emotions from the early part of her career when she had to deal with rejection and criticism in the South.


Vidya Balan is known for her power-packed and soul-stirring performances, but in Srjit Mukherji's Begum Jaan, she says she is venting her anger.

The National award-winner acknowledged that she has finally begun to express her anger and become more vocal, contrary to the belief that only men can exhibit their displeasure.

Begum Jaan, a Hindi adaptation of Mukherji's stellar Bengali offering Rajkahini (2015), stars Vidya in the lead as the madam of a brothel in Punjab during Partition in 1947. Though actress Rituparna Sengupta essayed the lead in the Bengali version, Mukherji's first choice for the adaptation was Vidya.

"I am glad that Srijit decided to come back to me," Vidya told IANS during an outdoor shoot of the film in Patjor village of Dumka district in Jharkhand. "It is feminine power in full glory. You see the charm, the sensuality, the compassion, but you also see the wrath of an angry woman. I think it is also giving vent to a lot of my angst."

"As girls, particularly, all of us carry some amount of angst in us. I think we have been brought up to believe that only men can express anger. A woman becomes undesirable when she expresses anger: the notion is that this is not how a good girl behaves. There is a conditioning which we can't get rid of," she said.

But what makes The Dirty Picture (2011) actress angry? "Lots of things," she said. "When I went through rejection down South, I thought I had dealt with a lot of things and with criticism and I guess I was dealing with those emotions to make sure they don't overpower me so that I can go on. I am an eternal optimist and I manage it all with a smile, but deep down I don't think I have really actually dealt with the anger and rejection.

"I would not express it before: which is why I didn't deal with it; but now I have begun to express it and I have become more vocal," she asserted.

Recently Vidya's comments supporting actress Kangana Ranaut in her bitter conflict with actor Hrithik Roshan over their alleged relationship, sharing of personal pictures, messages and police complaints, ruffled quite a lot of feathers.

"I supported a girl who had the courage to stand up for herself," said Vidya. "I don't know them personally well enough to know what the issues are and even if I did I am not anyone to sit and judge. I just felt it was incredible for a girl to have said that. I am not saying it's Kangana versus Hrithik or vice-versa. I have no reason to please neither. People look at things conveniently and myopically."

Attesting to her belief in women's empowerment and gender equality (she has raised the issue of the gender pay gap in the film industry), the Parineeta (2005) star married to producer Siddharth Roy Kapur conceded that marriage tests that belief.

"I thought I was the coolest woman who believed in equality, but marriage actually tests those beliefs and those values. A lot of times I would end up making choices that were placing Siddharth before me and he would actually say 'you don't have to do this'. The funniest thing was, I wasn't aware that I was actually doing it," she explained.

With Kahaani 2 (2016) wrapped up, the actress is looking forward to Begum Jaan and the Kamala Das biopic in Malayalam. Produced by Vishesh Films and Play Entertainment, Begum Jaan marks Mukherji's directorial debut in Hindi films.

"This is the hardest I have worked in my career. The scripts get more and more exciting and the range of scripts coming to me have only expanded in the last nine years, which is very exhilarating," Vidya said with a contented smile.

(Sahana Ghosh, who wrote this report, visited Patjor at Srijit Mukherji's invitation.)