They call me sexy: Vidya

MUMBAI: I am in a space of my own; I’ve got critical acclaim as well as commercial success...I qualify to be number one,’ says Vidya Balan in a freewheeling chat with Seema Sinha...

She is the thinking man’s dream. Whether she plays the unwed mother, or locks lips with her co-star, or suggestively sucks a thumb, her dignity remains intact. And then a pretty face and a voluptuous figure do not hurt. Vidya Balan is on a roll.

With two back to back hits — Paa and Ishqiya — a lot of compliments are coming her way from the fraternity as well as the audience. “It feels good as I can sense a certain vindication in my father’s eyes. When I was being written about in not so polite terms, there were times when I lost heart and he would tell me ‘things will change’. ‘No one can take your performance away from you and no one can give you a performance. So if that is yours, just hold on to it and that will take you places’. These words of my family gave me strength when I was a little shaky,” says Vidya.

Learning from her past mistakes, Vidya has most certainly decided to stay away from candy floss cinema. Hailed as the next big thing when she made her debut in Pradeep Sarkar’s Parineeta followed by the cult Munnabhai MBBS, suddenly she was courting controversies for her career decisions and unflattering wardrobe. “Most definitely, I tried to be like other girls. There was a certain complacency setting in. My biggest dream of being in the movies had been achieved. Suddenly, I started getting influenced by even stray people who were telling me, ‘Oh, you are getting so boring now. C’mon, glam it up’. I was probably feeling apologetic about doing a Parineeta... and I am extremely ashamed of saying that. I had begun to sway and was suddenly looking at roles very superficially in terms of being western or Indian, which I had not done even for my first film. People could sense that I was losing my identity. But these experiences brought clarity. I have come out of it,” explains Vidya, who has now redefined ‘sexy’.

“Sexy is an attitude and it comes from self-assurance. Today, I have actually gone back to wearing my sari and people are now calling me sexy and raunchy. That gives me a high,” she smiles. “Once, Balki (director of Paa) told me, ‘It takes actors ages to find their niche. Look at you, you have it and you are just about to give it up. Thank God, you held it back in time’. I was fighting that for some reason,” adds Vidya. “The kiss in Ishqiya was so passionate, though I was covered from top to toe. Tomorrow, if I have to play a prostitute and wear skimpy clothes, I will do it,” she adds.

‘I want to retain my curves’

So recently, when she went for a fitness training programme to shed those extra kilos, she decided to get rid of the excess, not the essentials. “I told my trainer to retain the curves. We are blessed with beautiful bodies, why fight that, it makes us look so sensuous,” she says.

On clear terms, Vidya states that she will never compromise on the role front, it’s “only substantial roles for me. I am extremely particular not to do films for the wrong reasons.” A thriller based on the Jessica Lall killing (where she shares screen space with Rani Mukerji), and a comic caper currently excites her. “I could do a mad comedy as long as my role is substantial. But don’t make it floozy. A lot of women’s roles in Hindi cinema are very apologetic, but I am glad to be representing the changing face of Indian women since I have always portrayed strong female characters,” asserts Vidya, who doesn’t want to draw any comparisons with the current crop of heroines. “I am being me, I don’t know better, I don’t know worse,” she merely says.

No wonder, the actor is deeply influenced by the likes of Waheeda Rehman, Hema Malini, Rekha, Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit. Incidentally, the star of the millennium, Amitabh Bachchan has compared Vidya to Waheeda. A lot of people, she says, also liken her to Meena Kumari, Madhubala, “and post-Ishqiya it is Smita Patil.” “Like these actresses, I would like to lead life on my own terms and be remembered forever. But I am not so sure how many from today’s brigade will be remembered for so long,” she can’t resist adding.

‘I’m in a space of my own’

But the numbers game in Bollywood is inevitable. With constant comparisons between a Kareena and Katrina, Priyanka and a Deepika and with their names taken in the same breath, does Vidya miss out being in the A-league? “I definitely don’t have a grouse. With no measure of immodesty, I would like to say that I am in a space of my own. I gave one hit after the other, which continues. I got critical acclaim as well as commercial success. By that measure, I qualify to be number one,” she states.

And with this, we leave the sensitive and subtle performer to bask in her glory. She is back in form. “Earlier, with Parineeta and Munnabhai, stardom hit me literally. I had no time to sit, soak it in and think. Today, I am much calmer about the success coming my way. But that childlike excitement is very much there,” she chirps.