After portraying strong protagonists in Paa, Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, The Dirty Picture and Kahaani, there is no doubt that Vidya Balan has been a pioneering force that has broken the stereotypical portrayal of heroines in Bollywood.
The powerhouse is back, this time with a beast of a film called Sherni.
Since releasing on Amazon Prime, Sherni has not only gotten a thumbs-up from her fans and critics but also from film colleagues such as Katrina Kaif, who has heaped praise on the actor.
We managed to catch ten minutes with the superstar to talk about women and films.
It’s been a really lovely and overwhelmingly positive response. I didn’t know what to expect because I was well aware Sherni is not a run of the mill film. Mentally I was preparing myself that people might not watch it on the first, especially as it’s on an OTT platform, so they might take time. So just hold your horses, keep calm and all of that. So, it’s really taken me by surprise, and I am really grateful for this outpouring of love from the critics and audiences. My phone is still full of messages that I haven’t been able to respond to. It’s fantastic, my team and I are so thrilled. This is really wonderful to say the least.
You are really setting a benchmark for female actors in Bollywood. Didn’t the makers of Sherni say that when they were putting the film together, they only had you in mind to play the role? Such scripts are far and few for women. So how does it feel for you that you are being put there as leading the way in terms of how we see female actors in Bollywood?
It wasn’t a conscious attempt, and I am not complaining. I am more than happy, but yes, it is very gratifying to know that people have scripts with me in mind. They have faith that I will be up for any sort of challenge and that actually fuels me.
Normally we are used to seeing you giving back roaring responses, but when I saw the trailer, the scene where your mother-in-law played by Ila Arun stood out for me. It’s where your mother-in-law is saying to your character: ‘You can’t go out looking this dull. Wear that expensive necklace I gave you.’ You simply smile and shake your head. For an actor like yourself to play it down especially in this scene how challenging was it?
Yes, that was tough, because Vidya Vincent, the character who I play in Sherni is very non-confrontational, she can come across as passive most of the time, but I think she proves that she is far from passive because she is a doer, but she is one of those silent doers. She doesn’t like to draw attention to herself. It was tough for me because she is so non-reactive, and I am the absolute opposite to everything. But I think that’s what is exciting for me as an actor, to be able to play different kinds of roles, not just characters that are close to me in personality. I think I discovered through this film that you don’t have to be aggressive to be strong. Vidya Vincent is a strong woman, strong willed and a woman of great integrity, but she is a woman of few words and doesn’t care about impressing you, she will do exactly what she wants to do.
That takes a lot of courage to just stand your crowd and be yourself.
The film is being helmed by Amit Masurkar who made the highly acclaimed Newton, what is he like as a director?
It was a very unusual experience working with Amit, because he does not use any of the familiar or convenient tropes. There was a time, when I struggled because, one the character was very internal and secondly, he likes to be absolutely sure of any sort of drama, because he likes to keep it very realistic. So, it was an unusual experience. His world view is refreshingly different. Which shows in his choice of subjects and the telling of his stories. So, it was a unique experience working with him. It was really like no other experience I have had before.
You’ve been asking your fans to share their Sherni moments. Can you share with us your Sherni moments?
There are plenty of them. For me I feel that when someone puts me down the Sherni within me. Wakes up from her deep slumber, so that gives me a motivation to prove them wrong. I remember from my initial years, people telling me you’re not from the film industry and you don’t have a godfather. How are you ever going to make it? They wouldn’t say it in so many words, but the things they said added up to this and every time someone said something like that or directly passed aspersions on my abilities and the Sherni was never vociferous about being put down, I would just simmer within, but that would give me that added josh to go ahead and realise my dream and to live it.
Watch the full interview here