Vidya Balan: It's cool to see Priyanka Chopra standing among Hollywood stalwarts

The Parineeta actress shares her thoughts on the kind of films she loves doing and also comments on the work of her contemporary. Read interview... 

Keyur Seta

Vidya Balan is one actress who has always emphasised on playing relatable characters. She will continue to do the same with Ribhu Dasgupta’s Te3n, in which she plays a cop. In a friendly chat with, the Kahaani (2012) actress shares her views on her choice of films, Priyanka Chopra’s success and the supposed competition between Hindi and Marathi cinema, among other things. Excerpts:

It is said that you have an extended guest appearance in Te3n. But you are being portrayed as a lead in the promos. What exactly is the screen time of your character?
I don’t know the screen time. It is an extended special appearance. The reason you see me a lot in the trailers is because there are three different perspectives. So we couldn’t have given footage only to Mr [Amitabh] Bachchan and Nawaz[uddin Siddiqui]. The makers wanted a balanced trailer. 

You and Sujoy Ghosh did not speak for a year and a half after you rejected his film Durga Rani. Was it because of that that you were under pressure to agree to act in Te3n?
No, not at all. Actually I wanted to do Durga Rani, but I couldn’t due to health issues. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the script. And when we met after a long time, we patched up in just 10 seconds. It seemed as if nothing had happened. We felt as if we had just met a day before. There was no pressure, since Sujoy knows I agree for a film only if I am very sure of the script. 

What are your criteria for signing a film? 
Primarily it’s the role. I instinctively know that I want to be this other person. For around two months you live and breathe that person. Then the director comes in. My vibe with the director is also important. 

Most of your characters have this relatability factor. Have you been conscious to choose roles that relate with the audience? 
First, I have to relate with the character. For example, if I am watching a film as an audience, I am looking for that relatability factor. I know Inception is a great film but I didn’t relate to it at all. So I look for this relatability even in the scripts I choose. And since I am doing films which are real, relatability becomes easy for audiences. 

From your debut Parineeta (2005) till today, what have you learned?
That it’s never the end of the world. I come from a complete non-filmi background. Earlier, when people used to write something negative about me, it used to affect me. But I realised that it’s not the entire world that is against you. It’s never everyone’s opinion; it never will be. That’s when I stopped reading about myself or watching entertainment news.

But how do you cope when you know you have faltered somewhere?
You always know instinctively if you have done well or not worked hard on some aspect. So I think you are your best judge. As long as you are honest with yourself, it’s great. It’s difficult because you know what the truth is and you don’t need another person to tell you. 

You, Amitabh Bachchan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui are actors first and then stars. So how much did you all learn from each other on the sets?
We only learnt from Bachchan saheb [laughs]. I have only two scenes with him but still you just learn observing him, although I might not be able to describe it in words. I admire the fact that after so many years, he is still so driven by the actor in him.

A lot of young new actresses have thanked you for doing Kahaani since the trend of women-orientated films doing well started with that. Does that put any kind of pressure on you?
It’s wonderful that people give me that credit and I am grateful to them. Someone had to take the first step. It’s very sweet when people say they are thankful to me. But I think they are just being sweet. 

These days, doing a thriller is tricky since people give away the ending on social media. Does this concern you?
I don’t know much about that. But I think it was wonderful that people were recommending Kahaani but weren’t giving away the end.

Kahaani didn’t face any pressure at the box office. But as the film did well, do you think Kahaani 2 will face that pressure?
I think it’s an advantage that people already know Kahaani. The sequel is a different story entirely. Let’s hope it’s better than the first, or at least as good. 

Are you playing Vidya Bagchi again?
Jaani na [I don’t know]. [Laughs].

You have mostly played powerful roles. Do you feel the need to do a light-hearted comedy?
I attempted comedy in Ghanchakkar but it didn’t turn out to be that funny [laughs]. I still love the film. If I am offered a comedy again, I will of course do it.

Some actors are very happy that different types of subjects are being attempted by filmmakers these days. What is your take?
There is an excellent variety of films these days. I and Siddharth [Roy Kapur, her husband] go to the theatre every Friday or at least every weekend. You have such a variety of films to choose from because there are some kind of films for which I would say,“No way!” But Siddharth can watch anything. He has no imaan dharam [laughs]. But there is always a film for me to watch.

A few Bollywood stars are getting good offers from the West. Are you looking forward to such opportunities?
If there is something substantial for me to do, then of course I would love to work anywhere.

Have you seen Quantico? What do you think of Priyanka Chopra’s work in it?
I saw a little bit of the first episode. She [Chopra] is too cool. Absolutely way too cool. We are seeing her everywhere standing among the stalwarts and holding her own. You just feel like saying, “Go Priyanka, go!” 

You are playing the madam of a brothel in the remake of the Bengali film Rajkahini. The character uses a lot of abusive language.
I am waiting for it [laughs]. It will be true to the world it’s set in. 

You are also acting in the Marathi film Ek Albela. These days, Sairat is in the news for earning close to Rs100 crore. People have started looking at it as a competition between Marathi and Hindi cinema. 
There is no need for such competition. Good films will do well, irrespective of language. This shouldn’t be seen as competition.