Last updateSat, 28 Mar 2015 12pm

Vidya: "My work is an extension of my beliefs and values"

Filmmaker Raj Kumar Gupta is a very fortunate man. 

The acclaimed director, whose previous two films were respectively about Islamic extremism and the brutal murder of a New Delhi barmaid by a politician's son, is about to release on an unsuspecting movie-going public his first comedy, 'Ghanchakkar'; a riotous romp about an amnesiac safe-cracker, his ruthless friends and his beloved, over-the-top wife.

The film has already caused significant buzz in film circles, primarily owing to its leading lady, Vidya Balan; if you're going to take a risk as a filmmaker, there's no one better to ensure that your film doesn't fall flat on its multi-hued face.

At the age of 35 - considered "advancing years" in Bollywood - Balan is arguably the most respected actor in the industry, a fine ambassador of her craft and for the often embattled women of her country.

Her position as the queen of Bollywood cinema was most recently bolstered by an invitation to sit on the jury at Cannes alongside such luminaries as Steven Spielberg and Nicole Kidman; the culmination of a splendid career stretching back to 2003.

Having won numerous plaudits for inhabiting such iconic characters as Silk Smitha, Vidya Bagchi and Sabrina Lal, Balan is to take on a wholly new challenge, her first comedy.

Not just a bit part player in a comedy but lending female comic relief in the thriller as the brash, thrusting, air-guitar playing Neetu Athray, wife of Emraan Hashmi's Sanjay.

Poonam Joshi caught up with the actress to discuss perfect wives and role models.

Poonam Joshi: Vidya, many people are saying that your character is the "perfect wife".
Vidya Balan: Interestingly...it isn't the role of a perfect wife.  People might look at it and then imagine that she's the perfect wife but I can assure you she's not!  She's fun but a bit too over the top to be honest.  I'm not sure if she's the definition of the "perfect wife".  But I think the great thing about her is that she not aware that she is loud. 

PJ: The role is a massive departure for you...
VB: This is my first comedy.  I was amazed by the script that Raj Kumar had written.  It's such a wonderful mix of very authentic drama and comedy involving real, authentic people.  There are so many elements in the film that I personally identify with and characters that are very similar to many people I've met in my life.  As an actor you're always looking for references from your own life and I found it fascinating that he kept up the thriller element of the film even whilst making you laugh out loud.  It is a departure.  It was dramatically different.  In fact the film is a departure for both of us.  I think we have put our best foot forward.  We feel that certain types of comedies, in Hindi cinema for years now.  Most comedies tend to stretch the imagination but I think what Ganchakkar has done is to combine a lot of entertaining elements.  It's the kind of comedy that's rarely seen in Hindi cinema and that's why it will be a game changer. 

PJ: Even though it's quite different to what you've done in recent times, it is still the role of a very strong, independent woman.  To what extent are your characters a reflection of you as a person?
VB:  Invariably you will find a point of connect with every character you play.  My work is an extension of my beliefs and my values.  I tend to veer towards characters that are strong or do emerge as strong women towards the end of the story.  I suppose those kinds of films are attracted towards me as well.  Having said that I don't want to limit myself by playing one kind of character.  I think more and more filmmakers are discovering the value that a strong female character can bring to a story.  I was actually initially apprehensive about taking on the role because I had just come out of the Dirty Picture where I had again played an over the top female character.  Someone who wore her sexuality on her sleeve.  She was very out there as well.  I thought people would immediately draw parallels between the characters.  There's a certain aggression in her but when I read the script I knew immediately that the two characters are completely different expressions of the same woman. 

PJ: Now that you're married (to Siddarth Roy Kapur, CEO of UTV Motion Pictures, distributor of 'Ghanchakkar') will that change your approach to films and roles?
VB: I've always been an actor and I hope to be an actor forever.   Every year I grow an year older.  I don't think that effects my choice of roles.  Whether it be marriage isn't going to affect the work that I do.  People have told me that I've got bolder since I got married but I don't even know what that means!  I think I'm still the same person. 

PJ: What do you make of the adulation that you have received in recent years and the fact that you're considered a role model for many?
VB: It's very humbling.  I'm very passionate about what I do.  The reason I became an actor is to be able to live different peoples' lives.  I'm living my dream.  Of course the best outcome is that it touches peoples' lives.  None of this was planned.  I just want to carry on being honest towards my work. 

'Ghanchakkar' is released in the UK on 28th June.



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