Sans side-effects

Candid talk

Sans side-effects

Vidya Balan is clearly on a lucky streak. After back-to-back hits, her latest film ‘Shaadi Ke Side Effects’ with Farhan Akhtar is also touted as a success. Rajiv Vijayakar speaks to the actress about her choice of films and more...

As an actress, and as a star with audience-drawing power and the ability to carry a film on her own steam, Vidya Balan has nothing left to prove. Ten years after she began shooting for her first Hindi film, Parineeta, she is in the enviable space of being once called ‘The female Khan’!

Post-appreciation and a slew of awards for films as varied as Paa (2009), Ishqiya (2010), No One Killed Jessica and The Dirty Picture (2011) and finally Kahaani (2012), she is in a happy space even in personal life. Her husband, Siddharth Roy Kapur (they wed in December 2012), has also found her to be a lucky mascot: he is now the supremo of UTV Disney.

Through all this, the (Mumbai central suburb of) Chembur girl from a conservative-but-progressive South Indian family has remained unspoiled by the luxuries, success trappings and vagaries of her profession. Grounded to a fault, she keeps her promise of a solo interview despite a frenetic promotion schedule for her latest release, Shaadi Ke Side Effects.

One of a kind

We take off with this very question: whether such frenzied cross-country marketing really helps a film. “If the producers can afford it, marketing is important, just to spread awareness,” says Vidya thoughtfully. “A film gets its own audience, who decide on the basis of various aspects to watch a film or to avoid it, and finally the word-of-mouth decides its fate. But today, we just cannot leave it to chance to make people know that a specific film is coming and what it is about. Yes, I do agree that no promotion ever made a film a hit.”

This is Vidya’s first sequel and we ask how she reconciled to doing a franchise in which Mallika Sherawat, whose image is probably 180 degrees across from Vidya’s, did the first film, Pyaar Ke Side Effects?

“Honestly, that thought did not cross my mind,” chirps Vidya. “This sequel is about a relationship graph — about the next stage of love, which is marriage. The characters too are different. I had signed this film way back in 2010 when I wasn’t married either. And I liked the vocabulary of the script that Saket Choudhary (the director) narrated. My character of Trisha, and Farhan’s character of Sid, are real, relatable people, neither over-simplified, nor over-complicated. They could be you, your friends and even your elders.”

A realistic script also needs drama, and a crisis, we say. She replies, “You know, for me, that was the challenge as an actor, to carve something out of a script that had everything, yet nothing, if you know what I mean. There is nothing really to create in real life-like characters. Saket gave Farhan and me lots of freedom, but he was there to veto anything that he did not want. He was secure about his script.”

She goes on, “And it was really refreshing to do something so ‘regular’ and in the Hrishikesh Mukherjee-Basu Chaterjee zone. The film shows how we make small issues bigger than they are — first in our head and then with our spouses. So the drama is there, but it’s real drama, not something for effect.”

In general, however, Vidya is not too enthused by sequels, and has not watched the sequel of her own film, Dedh Ishqiya, either. But she has agreed to do Kahaani 2. “That film will not take off very soon, because I am doing another film with Sujoy Ghosh that co-stars Irrfan Khan,” the actress says.

What is her approach to films, now that she has nothing left to prove? “I think success is relative,” says Vidya in contemplative mode. “For me, getting to do Parineeta itself was such a measure of success that I do not think I ever had to prove anything to anyone. Today, I would rather focus on and enjoy whatever I am doing.”

Varied roles

Another film that Vidya has just completed shooting for is Dia Mirza’s co-production Bobby Jasoos, in which her male disguise look has already been raved about. “That film has really shaped up well,” she reveals. “It was a unique experience that before we shot non-stop for 51 days we had a six-day workshop. And the best part was that it was not a workshop about the script, but just for all the cast to get to know all the other actors. Bobby Jasoos is a detective thriller, in which I am detective Bobby, plus it is a human story, and we have all put our best foot forward.”

Yet another film that she has just taken up is Mohit Suri’s film for the Bhatts — Hamari Adhuri Kahaani, her third film with Emraan Hashmi, and her first with Rajkummar Rao.
We ask her if she does not miss being considered a leading lady with the three Khans. “Honestly, I know Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan socially on a casual note, but it is up to someone to come up with scripts that befit us. I am not complaining, because I am working with fab actors too.”

None of her recent films have been produced or co-produced by UTV. “Unless it happens organically, Siddharth and I have decided to avoid my forcibly doing a UTV film just for the sake of it,” she says clearly.

So what would she say are the side-effects of shaadi or marriage? Vidya laughs and says, “Oh, I would recommend marriage very strongly to everyone! It’s for the good of all, something to be savoured, and I am enjoying it thoroughly.”

We gently mention that we are talking about side-effects and not effects, and she says, “Hmmm….maybe you could call it a side-effect that my inner restlessness has reduced quite a bit. My concentration at work has thus improved a lot. I would also get hyper whenever someone asked, ‘When are you settling down?’ So that has gone now.”

Is she dominating, we inquire, and that tinkling laugh comes again. “No, I don’t think so, unless I am doing it subtly. But I don’t think I am a pushover either. In fact, Siddharth and I had not even had a spat when I began to shoot for this film. So my first fight after my real marriage was not with Siddharth, but with Farhan — on screen!”

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