Just a minute with Vidya Balan

'Paa' star talks about strong female characters and her image

MUMBAI -- Vidya Balan is a busy woman. In between sweeping awards for her performance in "Paa," promoting her new film "Ishqiya" and moving house, the 32-year-old actress has hardly time to breathe.

Balan took some time out to speak about why she likes strong female characters, her image in the media and why she would like to do theatre.

Q: Your last two characters have both been very strong women. Do you think such roles suit you?

A: "Well, I don't know whether they suit me but I do know that I naturally veer towards such roles. I have of course done films like 'Heyy Baby' which some might call uni-dimensional roles, but roles like 'Parineeta' and 'Ishqiya' come naturally to me. Also I am glad that such roles are being written for me.

"A film like 'Eklavya,' for example, might have been a small role, but it was one that had so many layers."

Q: Why aren't more such roles written for female leads in India?

A: "Whether you like it or not, I think 90% of Indian men find it difficult to accept strong women. Not everyday do you have people like Gulzar Saab. I think it's just a bit threatening to them. And at the end of the day they like to believe that their women are…I think it's just convenient for their women not to be questioning."

Q: Your performance in "Paa" is being appreciated a great deal now, but before the film came out, everyone was only talking about the Bachchans. Were you okay with that?

A: "It was being pitched as a father-son film and it is truly the most unique thing for a real-life father and son to go through a role reversal. But as far as my role was concerned, I knew that once people saw it, they would realize what it was about. I wasn't worried about that at all. And of course the kind of response I have received has been really overwhelming."

Q: Before all the accolades for "Paa," so much was written about, whether it was your weight or your clothes. As a woman and an actress, what do you tell yourself to keep your chin up?

A: "For one, prayer gives me a great deal of strength. You see things from a larger perspective and realize that there are a lot more troubles in life. This is not the be-all and end-all of life. But what was heartening was that I was still getting roles.

"It was at that time that 'Ishqiya' came to me, it was at that time that 'Paa' came to me, and I said no to a lot of films which got made, which were offered to me. Filmmakers still had faith in me. This is not the end of the road, as much as people some times want you to believe that.

"The other thing is that I stopped reading. That helps to maintain your sanity."

Q: Are you still not reading because now they are saying good things about you?

A: "I don’t want to take either seriously. When I meet people they tell me nice things, and of course my father keeps a record of everything that is ever written about me, but I don't really bother."

Q: Has that changed from the time that you first joined the industry?

A: "You know, my sister says I was to the manor born. I always behaved like I knew this was going to happen so I was never worked up. I am also someone who is very calm and balanced so I wasn't very worked up."

Q: Can't you help feeling a little vindicated now that everyone is suddenly saying great things about you?

A: "I try and look at it more positively. It's my faith in my choices those who have stood by me. It isn't about proving anyone right or wrong. Again, it is a matter of attitude. I think Bernstein said it, 'Keep away from those who belittle your ambition, truly great are those who make you feel you too can be great'. If someone is belittling your ambition, then keep away from them."

Q: So what is your ambition then?

A: "The only thing I ever wanted to be was an actress, but being an actress can be addictive. You keep playing someone else and I am schizophrenic and I really enjoy that. And that is only getting more exciting every day. Better stuff is being offered, better stuff is being made. I am smiling."

Q: Do you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?

A: "I hope so. I don't know whether it will be in cinema or theatre. I don't know maybe it would be cinema and theatre. In my head I am not limited. I just need to be excited about that."
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