GET SNAPPY — Vidya Balan: “Begum Jaan Taught Me What I Am Capable Of.”

Vidya Balan
Vidya Balan

She’s been doing films back to back, with barely a breather, over the last two years. Considering the way she approaches her roles, getting back to ‘normal’ in itself must be an exhausting process. Suguna Sundaram does a quick update with VIDYA BALAN, while she’s doing ‘maasi duty’, baby-sitting her sister’s five year old twins, before the promotion madness of her next release hits the circuit.

How did you receive the response of Kahaani 2?

I was very heartened by the response because it was a very tricky subject. I would have been over the moon if it had done the kind of numbers that Kahaani did. It didn’t, so that was a bit disappointing. But I was really happy with the kind of response I got from people. My character was just so far from the person that I am, someone who is hopeful and positive, eternal optimist. And she was the opposite…I had hoped for the film to do better numbers-wise, but I am glad they recovered the money by God’s grace. More power to people like Jayantilal Gada who invest in a film like this. A lot of people would not really touch a film about child sexual abuse. Highway, Monsoon Wedding, and films like that dealt with it, but in a more peripheral manner. So I am glad by the response.

Begum Jaan you had said, was a film that heated you up from inside as well. What is the aftermath of the shooting?

It is crazy, it was like going from a frying pan into the fire, because I shot both the films back-to-back. Begum Jaan is also extremely different from the person I am, in the sense that she is extremely aggressive. She had been a prostitute and now was a madam of a brothel, and she calls a spade, a spade.

 Is she a hardened case or was there any softness about her?

No, there is a softness and a feminity about her. But she is also hardened and quite ruthless. I guess that is what happens when you have had a life like that, because I don’t think anyone chooses to be a prostitute. So it was difficult. I had finished Kahaani 2 and exactly a month later, started Begum Jaan. It was a crazy mind-shift for me. Though, the actor part in me was extremely thrilled and challenged, it was excited. It took a lot out of me, doing two films one after the other, that were so demanding. Also, Begum Jaan was shot in very tough conditions, we finished shooting the film in 36 days in extreme heat and impending rains in Jharkhand. What Begum Jaan taught me is, is what I am capable of (laughs). I don’t think anyone in the film could have imagined working like this, but we had no choice. However, it was fun.

The Bengali one did quite well. Are there butterflies in your stomach for how this will be received?

Yes it did. But this is not a direct copy or a remake in that sense. Shrijeet is the director for both, so he knows the story really well.  Here it is set in Punjab, in Bengali it was obviously set in Bengal.

 You walked out of the Kamala Das/ Madhavi Kutty, film (now called Aami). Did you have after-thoughts about signing the film or was it just a case of differences?

It was just a case of me having some differences with the team, even though it is being made out to be something else. There are all kinds of insinuations, but I think those are very convenient.

 I believe the producer wants to sue you but that the director is not interested in pressuring you, he’s signed someone else and wants to just move on.

Yes, and I think one can imagine all kinds of explanations. But we all know the truth, and the truth is that there were differences.

 Difference at the script level or at other levels?

At the script level. And you know I am not someone who would shy away from playing any such characters. You know that is not true either (laughs).

You have signed another film now recently.

Yes, it is called Tumhari Sulu, where I play a late-night radio jockey. There is a huge difference between an early morning jockey and a late night jockey. And that is what we have to explore. We will start work on it post the release of Begum Jaan. So I am yet to start work, at the moment I am just listening to scripts.

Has Sanjay Leela Bhansali never come to you? I could very easily see you in a film of his?

Never. Though he said that to me. But he has never really come to me. Except for a film that he was going to produce which eventually didn’t happen, back in 2007 or 2008. But not after that.