“It will take forever to change the mind-set about women in India” – Vidya Balan

By Sunny Malik

BGF017_05072015_ISS01

Celebrating ten years of Vidya Balan

Bollywood actress reveals that she blamed her marriage for her flops at the box office.

Award-winning Indian actress Vidya Balan was last in cinemas essaying the role of a wife in an abusive marriage, who also has an extra-marital affair, in Mohit Suri’s ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahaani’ (Our Incomplete Love Story). ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahaani’ is an adaptation of director-producer Mahesh Bhatt’s book by the same name. The movie also starred Emraan Hashmi and National-award winning actor Rajkummar Rao.

The 37-year-old performer has continuously impressed critics with her on-screen work and her films also have been mostly successful at the box office. She started her career with ‘Parineeta’ (2005), for which she won the Filmfare Best Female Debut award, and went on to star in super-hits such as ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ (2006), Paa (2009) and Kahaani (2012) among many others. She has also been on the jury panel of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and is known for her portal of strong female protagonists.

Everything changed in the last two years for the actress after getting married to the managing director of The Walt Disney Company India (formerly UTV Motion Pictures), Sidharth Roy Kapur, in 2012. Since then, her films ‘Ghanchakkar’ (2013), ‘Shaadi Ke Side Effects’ (2014) and ‘Bobby Jasoos’ (2014) failed at the box office.

The general perception in India is that a married actress can’t have a successful career in Bollywood. Kareena Kapoor Khan, who married actor Saif Ali Khan in 2012, was often asked by the media whether the union will affect her career. Kareena is still working with the biggest names in the industry and marriage clearly hasn’t changed anything for her as she will be seen in ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ next month with superstar Salman Khan.

Vidya never thought about this prior to getting married. However, the three consecutive unsuccessful films made Vidya think whether it had to do something with her being married now. Even in her new film ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahaani’, the character she plays is of a wife who faces abuse and is made to conform to the “typical Indian housewife”.

“The thinking is very deep seeded and it will take forever to change the mind-set about women in India. Women in India are living life on their own terms now. We are doing things that women weren’t doing in the past. We are educated, working and doing well for ourselves. We make our own choices and stand by them,” says Vidya.

“There is a perception that films with married actresses don’t work. I will not deny that fleetingly, the thought did cross my mind. I thought that maybe that is a possibility why my films didn’t work,” revealed the actress.

“I have had some time since my last release, ‘Bobby Jasoos’, and the time has given me a larger perspective. I don’t think that it has anything to do with marriage. It is more about the film connecting with the audiences or not. I was perhaps personalising the failure of my movies. This happened to me after seven or eight consecutive hits. It was difficult for me to come to terms with it when my films then faced rejection. I thought that maybe I did something wrong. I think there is no satisfactory explanation as to why the movies didn’t work. This phase taught me not to personalise failure and that success and failure can’t be pinned down to one person.”

Speaking about the book the film has been adapted from, Vidya said that many incidents in the semi-biography and in the film are based on what occurred between Mahesh Bhatt’s parents. “It is mostly based on events that took place in Mahesh Bhatt’s parents’ life and also on people he was close to. In that sense, the film is derived from real life experiences and real stories. When you personalise stories, they become more powerful. That is what attracted me to the film. The characters and film feels very real. The film doesn’t shy away from complexities in human relationships, feelings of insecurity and inequality.”

Vidya hoped that her latest release was a success at the box office but despite the outcome she is optimistic about her future. “I know how to deal with failure better now. I’m an eternal optimist and always very positive.”

The outcome of ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahaani’ hasn’t deterred the Tamilian beauty as she will soon be taking part in the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne once again. For the fourth year in a row Vidya Balan will be seen as the face of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne that commenced in the year 2012. The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne that celebrates Indian cinema internationally will kick start from 14 to 27 August 2015 in Melbourne.

The Parineeta actress will continue to engage herself in encouraging Indian cinema on a global platform. This year, the festival theme is around equality and Vidya herself has suggested this theme. The festival will provide an opportunity to aspiring filmmakers on the global stage to showcase their craft. Speaking on this, Vidya Balan said, “‘Equality is something that I feel very passionately about… and in today’s times nothing seems more imperative than a free and equal world. I believe that Art and Films can help condition and change mindsets and attitudes and I am over joyed to see such wonderful films and events in our program that will celebrate and embrace the diversity that defines us all.”

Well with 2015 being a significant year for Vidya as she completes a decade in the industry we certainly hope the coming year’s bring back memorable performances from her like we saw in Kahaani and the desperate hunger for success Silk Smitha in The Dirty Picture.

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