Vidya Balan gets chat­ting on her child­hood, ca­reer, mar­riage and more…

Savvy - - Contents -

I feel blessed to have been brought up in a fam­ily where my sis­ter and I were given ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore and dis­cover our­selves.

An ac­tress with a defin­ing pas­sion for films and an ex­tremely hard worker, I am Vidya Balan. A woman who fol­lows her in­stincts and be­lieves in liv­ing her life by her rules with de­ter­mi­na­tion.

THE GOOD LIFE

My fam­ily comes from Palakkad, Ker­ala, but I was born and brought up in Mum­bai, and have lived most of my life in Chem­bur with my par­ents and el­der sis­ter. I feel blessed to have been brought up in a fam­ily where my sis­ter and I were given ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore and dis­cover our­selves. My re­la­tion­ship with my par­ents has al­ways been an hon­est and happy one. Most of my ex­tended fam­ily lived close by, so we were pretty close-knit and since I was the youngest of all my cousins, I was the pam­pered one. Mem­o­ries of my child­hood are some­thing I will al­ways cher­ish. My maasi (mother’s sis­ter) has two daugh­ters too, so we used to play all sorts of girly games like house-house , along with other things like car­rom etc or just prance around danc­ing and singing. My sis­ter, how­ever, was more in­ter­ested in play­ing out­door games. But the four of us were very close and got into all sorts of sit­u­a­tions. I still re­mem­ber how we once made a mess in the bath­room play­ing Holi with wa­ter and soap.

MY SU­PER SIS­TER

My el­der sis­ter Priya is my all-time hero. She is my true in­spi­ra­tion and is some­one I have al­ways looked up to and admired. She stepped into ad­ver­tis­ing at a time when few peo­ple in our com­mu­nity and none in the ex­tended fam­ily con­sid­ered that an op­tion. To­day, she is Branch Head of Mullen Lin­tas in Mum­bai and I couldn’t be prouder. She also played a big role in help­ing me achieve my dreams.

SCHOOL DAZE

I’m proud to say that in my fam­ily, women and men have al­ways been treated equally. Girls are en­cour­aged to pur­sue a ca­reer of their choice with full sup­port. Grow­ing up in this kind of at­mos­phere, I didn’t re­alise that some peo­ple ac­tu­ally dif­fer­en­ti­ated be­tween boys

and girls. This prob­a­bly came as a shock­ing re­al­iza­tion in my later school years.I stud­ied at St An­thony’s Girls High School.

Grow­ing up, I was al­ways on the shy side but once I hit pu­berty, I be­came more out­go­ing. School-wise, I was an above av­er­age stu­dent but that re­quired a lot of hard work. My sis­ter was su­per smart, but I didn’t see that as some­thing I had to com­pete with be­cause my par­ents never drew com­par­isons be­tween us. I just con­tin­ued fo­cus­ing on my work and do­ing my best.

I was also in­volved in all kinds of school ac­tiv­i­ties es­pe­cially em­cee-ing events and par­tic­i­pat­ing in dra­mat­ics (the lit­tle that we had)... In fact, it was dur­ing the last three years of my school phase that I re­alised I wanted to be an ac­tor.

CHAL­LENG­ING COL­LEGE

My sis­ter stud­ied com­merce at Pod­dar but when it was time for me to go to St Xavier’s Col­lege, my par­ents were a lit­tle wary of me go­ing that far. Even at that time, Priya was the one who con­vinced them that I would be okay. Col­lege was a lot of fun. There was an en­tire bunch of us trav­el­ling by train and it was su­per fun... We made friends with eu­nuchs, we lis­tened to all the work­ing women gos­sip about their fam­i­lies, hus­bands, bosses and what­not!

Af­ter com­plet­ing Std 12, I de­cided to pur­sue a spe­cial­iza­tion in So­ci­ol­ogy and was try­ing to bal­ance out study­ing along with my first act­ing gig. Of course, col­lege life was also filled with fun times with friends, crushes, first dates and some heart­break too.

BE­COM­ING AN AC­TRESS

When I first told my par­ents I wanted to act, they didn’t take me se­ri­ously. Once they re­alised I was se­ri­ous about it, my fa­ther was al­right with my de­ci­sion but my mother was scep­ti­cal and a lit­tle wor­ried - she, like most peo­ple, had heard all sorts of hor­ror sto­ries about the film world.

When I first told my par­ents I wanted to act, they didn’t take me se­ri­ously. Once they re­al­ized I was se­ri­ous, my fa­ther was al­right with my de­ci­sion but my mother was scep­ti­cal and a lit­tle wor­ried.

Siddharth is a very good look­ing, charm­ing and in­tel­li­gent man. It is his per­son­al­ity, the en­tire pack­age, that I got at­tracted to.

While I was in col­lege, a friend of mine read about a pro­duc­tion house that was look­ing for ac­tors for a TV se­ries based on col­lege life. I im­me­di­ately told my sis­ter who helped me put my bio­data to­gether and get a few head­shots taken. Both she and my mother ac­com­pa­nied me for the au­di­tion. I re­mem­ber that we reached the venue at 11 a.m but I got a turn only around 5 p.m as there were about 150 hope­fuls au­di­tion­ing that day. My mother turned to me and asked, ‘Is this re­ally what you want to do?!’

Prior to this, I had only done an act­ing work­shop but I was con­vinced that I wanted to act. When I got the call say­ing that I had been se­lected to be a part of ‘La­bella’, I was ec­static.

Pro­tec­tive as she was, my mother ac­com­pa­nied me to the set ev­ery day as well as to ev­ery work­shop I had to at­tend. I am truly grate­ful and feel blessed to have had such amaz­ing sup­port from my par­ents and sis­ter.

LAND­ING ‘ HUM PAANCH’

Un­for­tu­nately, ‘La­bella’ never took off as the chan­nel shut down for some rea­son. But I got a call from Ekta Kapoor’s pro­duc­tion house Balaji Tele­films about a new se­rial she was launch­ing. This was for a daily soap she was launch­ing... but Ekta saw my au­di­tion and asked if I’d re­place one of the ac­tors on ‘Hum Paanch’.

While I was do­ing the show, I re­alised that I did not en­joy this for­mat where we would be given a script in the morn­ing and ex­pected to per­form with lit­tle or no time to re­hearse. My stud­ies too were af­fected by the hec­tic sched­ule. Of course, I en­joyed my time on the show but re­al­ized I couldn’t do this for­ever.

One thing led to an­other and af­ter quit­ting ‘Hum Paanch’, I got the chance to au­di­tion for an ad film which I bagged and be­fore I knew it, I was do­ing five ad films a month... They were not as time con­sum­ing, paid well and also in­tro­duced me to many fab­u­lous di­rec­tors and pro­duc­ers. That’s how I also met Pradeep Sarkar and even­tu­ally landed ‘Pari­neeta’.

But get­ting there was not with­out its strug­gles. I got the call to au­di­tion for a Malay­alam film and im­me­di­ately spoke to my par­ents and sis­ter about it. They are huge fans of Malay­alam films and en­cour­aged me to do it. They liked my au­di­tion and I went to meet the di­rec­tor with my fam­ily in tow, and that’s how my first film came about. We started shoot­ing in Ker­ala but the film was un­ex­pect­edly dis­con­tin­ued and even­tu­ally shelved.

The next three years were ex­tremely hard. I signed more South In­dian films but I was ei­ther re­placed or the films would get shelved for some rea­son. I think this hap­pened around 12

While ev­ery film has its own chal­lenges, I al­ways won­dered if I would ex­cel at com­edy. Then ‘Tumhari Sulu’ came along and I dis­cov­ered the comic side as an ac­tor.

At the time of ‘The Dirty Pic­ture’, there were peo­ple who said, ‘Why did you sign this film?’ or ‘Your im­age is that of the girl-next-door, why would you risk that by play­ing Silk Smita?’ But af­ter the film’s re­lease, even those peo­ple praised my work.

times. And all of this was in the news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines. Every­time I read about it, I would be heart­bro­ken and an­gry, and would take out that anger on my mother which led to mas­sive fights. My fa­ther and sis­ter of­ten had to play ref­eree and get us both to calm down. But thanks to their love and sup­port, and my de­ter­mi­na­tion and ded­i­ca­tion, I made my dream come true.

FIND­ING MY PLACE

The South In­dian film in­dus­try didn’t work out but I think God and the uni­verse had planned some­thing else for me. And so I made my film de­but with ‘Pari­neeta’ which was noth­ing short of a dream role. I re­mem­ber when I met Rekhaji on the set, I was not part of the song they were film­ing that day, but I still went to watch her. I still re­mem­ber that she was hum­ble, lov­ing, car­ing, gentle and po­lite to me.

Ev­ery film I have done is very spe­cial to me. I have learned some­thing from each one of them as well as from my co-stars - be it Arshad Warsi, Naseerud­din Shahji or Amitabh Bachchan.

Ru­mours and re­join­ders are very com­mon. But I re­ally don’t pay at­ten­tion to what peo­ple say about me. I rarely ever read mag­a­zines or en­ter­tain­ment news, and of­ten only know what is be­ing said from hearsay.

Work­ing on ‘Paa’ with Mr Bachchan was a priv­i­lege. Ini­tially, it was dif­fi­cult for me to digest that I would be play­ing his mother in the film. But through­out the film­ing, I didn’t see the leg­endary ac­tor, all I saw was Auro - which truly is a tes­ta­ment to him and I guess the rea­son I could ac­tu­ally play his mother.

While ev­ery film has its own chal­lenges, I al­ways won­dered if I would ex­cel at com­edy. Then ‘Tumhari Sulu’ came along and I dis­cov­ered the comic side as an ac­tor. Thank­fully, it was a com­mer­cial suc­cess and has got so much at­ten­tion, ap­pre­ci­a­tion and love. Since its re­lease, I’ve met loads of peo­ple who say, ‘My mother is Sulu’, ‘My wife is like Sulu’, or ‘You know, I am Sulu’ - it’s very touch­ing and I feel blessed that the film touched so many peo­ple.

At the time of ‘The Dirty Pic­ture’, there were peo­ple who said, ‘Why did you sign this film?’ or ‘Your im­age is that of the girl-next-door, why would you risk that by play­ing Silk Smita?’ But af­ter the film’s re­lease, even those peo­ple praised my work. Peo­ple got to see me in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent avatar, the film was hugely suc­cess­ful and my per­for­mance was well ap­pre­ci­ated and earned me many awards in­clud­ing the Na­tional Award.

THE OTHER SIDE OF BOL­LY­WOOD?

I am re­ally blessed to have worked with those that I have worked with. I don’t claim to be friends with any­one from the in­dus­try. But I am in touch with some who I al­ways call and who call me on spe­cial days like birthdays and an­niver­saries. But I am very close to some friends I made in school and col­lege. Also I have a fab­u­lous team work­ing with me.

Ru­mours and re­join­ders are very com­mon. But I re­ally don’t pay at­ten­tion to what peo­ple say about me. I rarely ever read mag­a­zines or en­ter­tain­ment news, and of­ten only know what is be­ing said from hearsay. I pre­fer to go about my life un­in­ter­rupted by these dis­trac­tions.

Hon­estly speak­ing, ru­mors have never af­fected me. When I signed ‘Pari­neeta’, there was this ru­mor go­ing around that I was hav­ing an af­fair with Pradeep Sarkar. It came as quite a shock, more so be­cause

Work­ing on ‘Paa’ with Amitabh Bachchan was such a priv­i­lege. Ini­tially, it was dif­fi­cult for me to digest that I would be play­ing his mother in the film.

dada is like a fa­ther-fig­ure to me. It felt re­ally weird that some­one would just come up with some­thing like that. But I didn’t let it in­ter­fere with the pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship I had with dada, nor any­one else.

As for the cast­ing couch… I’ve never been at the re­ceiv­ing end of it. Ini­tially, I was al­ways ac­com­pa­nied to au­di­tions or meet­ings by my par­ents and later on my man­ager, San­jay. I guess I made it a point to let peo­ple know that act­ing was a pas­sion and that my sur­vival didn’t de­pend on it.

MY JOUR­NEY

I am very grate­ful for ev­ery­thing I have achieved in my ca­reer so far. I feel blessed to have had the op­por­tu­nity to meet so many peo­ple and learn from them, to have my work ap­pre­ci­ated and re­spected, and, of course, the op­por­tu­nity to see the world.

My jour­ney thus far has been in­cred­i­ble. Of course, there were many ups and downs, but I learnt from them and that has made me stronger I think. The most valu­able les­son that I have learnt is to ac­cept my­self just the way I am... In do­ing so, I’ve learnt to ac­cept other peo­ple too.

Life changes from one mo­ment to the next... Change is the only con­stant. So yes, my life has changed af­ter mar­riage. But what re­mains un­changed is that Siddharth lets me be my own per­son.

Of course, there were many ups and downs, but I learnt from them and that has made me stronger.

LOVE OF MY LIFE

It feels awk­ward to talk about Siddharth, but I find Siddharth good look­ing, charm­ing and in­tel­li­gent. It’s his over­all per­son­al­ity, the en­tire pack­age, that I got at­tracted to. One thing we have in com­mon is that fam­ily is ex­tremely im­por­tant to us both.

I think we were meant to be and there are a few peo­ple like Karan Jo­har and Meghna Gulzar who know­ingly or un­know­ingly played cupid for us. I say this be­cause there were many in­ci­dents like din­ner at Karan’s or Meghna bring­ing me into a film that Siddharth was pro­duc­ing and so on… that gave us the op­por­tu­nity to get to know each other bet­ter.

Life changes from one mo­ment to the next. Change is the only con­stant. So yes, my life has changed af­ter mar­riage. But what re­mains un­changed is that Siddharth lets me be my own per­son and that, I think, is very rare in re­la­tion­ships. But we have an easy un­der­stand­ing and are ac­cept­ing of each other’s qual­i­ties whether they are alike or dif­fer­ent. While I be­lieve that mar­riage is a part of life, I think peo­ple should

only get mar­ried when they’re ready and to the per­son they feel they are will­ing to give it a shot with.

SIGN­ING OFF

My mother and I were avid read­ers of ‘SAVVY’. The ‘I Be­lieve’ sto­ries were in­cred­i­ble and sim­ply marvel­lous. It was a priv­i­lege to be fea­tured on the cover of ‘SAVVY’ the first time, just as it is now. More power to all the fab­u­lous ‘SAVVY’ cover women, and more power to all the women out there who are liv­ing or try­ing to live life on their terms.

For more jaw-drop­ping and in­spir­ing cover sto­ries (I Be­lieve), log on to savvy.

I think peo­ple should only get mar­ried when they’re ready.

Glimpses of me with my fam­ily

With hus­band Siddharth Roy Ka­pur

With ‘Tumhari Sulu’ co-ac­tor Manav Kaul

In ‘The Dirty Pic­ture’

Vidya as Rad­hika in ‘Hum Paanch’

Stills from var­i­ous films

(Clock­wise) At ‘Paa’s’ event with Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Ka­jol, Aish­warya Rai and Ab­hishek Bachchan

With hus­band Siddharth Roy Ka­pur

With Neha Dhu­pia (r) and RJ Mal­ishka in ‘Tumhari Sulu’

Pho­to­graph Cour­tesy ‘Star­dust’

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