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Vidya: If you look like a chessboard, what is the pleasure in it?

Last updated on: November 23, 2011 15:31 IST

Vidya: If you look like a chessboard, what is the pleasure in it?

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Patcy N in Mumbai
When Vidya Balan burst onto the silver screen with Parineeta in 2005, many had her pegged as a demure actress. But in a film industry that is notorious for typecasting its actors, she shattered the mould. 

Along with the usual Bollywood heroine in full-blown commercial films (Heyy Babyy), she played the mother of a teenager (Paa) and even a sly temptress (Ishqiya). 

She has done it again with The Dirty Picture, which releases on December 2 (incidentally the birthday of Silk Smitha -- the actress who 'inspired' the film). 

In this first part of a special two-part interview, Vidya speaks to Patcy N about the risk of taking up such a role, the madness that makes her love inhabiting other people's lives, her co-stars and, of course, marriage.

Image: Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture

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'My character in the film is inspired by Silk Smitha, not based on her life'

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Is the film based on Silk Smitha's life?

My character in the film is inspired by Silk Smitha, not based on her life. Everybody thinks that this film is based on Silk Smitha's life, but it is not. This is a story of a dancing star. In the 1990s, dancing stars were very popular, every film had at least one dancing star and the film would have one song like an item song. Silk was one of the most popular dancing stars. She was at the top in her times, therefore, it was easy to get inspired by her. 

She was a South Indian dancing girl, who was nationally famous, therefore, we have named the character Silk too. There were many after her like Polyester Padmini, Disco Shanti, Nylex Nalini, Rayon Revathi, but no one knows them. May be people in south (India) know them, but everyone knew Silk. Silk was the first of her kind.

The character in the film is fearless. She has no restraint, (she is) carefree, and (a) colourful girl. Some may feel she is shameless, but I don't think she is. I think she is a girl who wants to enjoy the pleasure of life at every opportunity. She does not have double standards. Whatever she feels she says it, whatever she wants to do she does it, whether others like it or not. She has realised that till the time she is not happy she can't make anyone happy. She is childlike she does not think before saying anything, that fearlessness is what Silk is.
 
We think that Silk is bold in a sexual way just because she wore clothes that are revealing, but that is just one side of her fearlessness. In this film you will get to see her other sides too.

Image: Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi in The Dirty Picture

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'If you are conscious, you will look vulgar'

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It is a very bold film... 

Of course it is a bold film because she is a bold girl. She feels that my body is great and people like to see it so why not show it. She is not self-conscious. She does not hesitate, that's why it's not vulgar. If you are conscious, you will look vulgar. 

When Silk did her films people called her vulgar. Do you fear you will be called vulgar, too?

No, there is a difference. In those days, the way she was used in films was only to create excitement and attract men. If people add a song in a film to show sex and vulgarity and if they way they shoot a song in certain way all that is vulgar. But I am portraying a character. I am just trying to show that she was like this. I am not saying Silk is vulgar, but the way they captured her on screen they (the filmmakers) were vulgar.

Image: A scene from The Dirty Picture

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'I got a chance to bring out my sensuousness in this film'

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Did you hesitate before taking up the role?

Initially, I was a bit hesitant. When Milan (Luthria, the film's director) came to me, I asked him, 'Why me?' because when I read the script, I did not feel that anyone could cast me in this role. Milan told me 'when the film is about to release I will tell you why I cast you in this film, but right now I can just tell you that I can't see anyone else in this role.' 

So, now I am waiting for the film to release, so that Milan will tell me why he wanted to cast me.

Every woman is sensuous; I got a chance to bring out my sensuousness in this film.

How did you prepare for the role?

No preparation at all. Milan kept telling me... 'You have to be fearless... I want no other preparations. Once you are fearless in your mind then everything will be under control.'

I did not understand what Milan was telling me. I would want to meet him and he would say no need. I would go to his office and sit so that he would give me some tips to prepare, but he would be busy with his work. I was very confused. I read the script lesser times as compare to other scripts because the director wouldn't say anything.

Now I understand why. It was only about being completely free and fearless, uninhibited. I have enjoyed exploring that side of me.

Image: A scene from The Dirty Picture

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'As a character if it is justified, I will wear bikini too'

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Did you do any research on Silk?

It is not only about Silk, so I watched other films too. I had seen Sadma and the song Oh Babua. I have seen it many times before, so I knew that. I saw some films of Nylex Nalini and other dancers.
 
I must say this about Silk -- she was very ahead of her time. Today girls are in complete command of their lives and sexuality and they are unapologetic about it. Silk was like that back then, which is why she was misunderstood. People exploited that in a wrong way, but she took pride in what she did, she was never ashamed of what she was doing.

Today we take pride in what we do whether it is teacher, doctor, journalist or actor. I am sure Rakhi Sawant takes pride in what she does. To each his own. (From) the little that I read about Silk, I got to know that she took pride in what she did, which is why among all those dancing stars she is the one name that we remember after so many years.

Silk Smitha was seen in bikinis. Will you be seen in bikini too?

Aiyyo Venda (No, I won't). I have done what I have in The Dirty Picture because the character demanded it. Tomorrow if I play a supermodel in a film and the scene demands it, I will wear it. As a character if it is justified, for sure. Otherwise, I don't think so.

Image: A scene from The Dirty Picture

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'Directors are coming to me with all kind of roles'

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You started off as a demure actress. You tried commercial films, you have played a temptress and sensuous woman too... 

I am happy being an actor. On one hand I am playing a 14 year old's mother (Paa), on the other hand I am playing a temptress (Ishqiya). In one I am playing Sabrina Lal (in No One Killed Jessica) and in other I am playing Silk. I like this variety. I am very grateful that I am getting the chance to play different people, not just Vidya Balan again and again. I am not interested in that.

Are you trying to get tagged as a sexy woman?

Nothing like that. What is interesting for me is that directors are coming to me with all kind of roles. There are no limitation if it was jut about the sexy tag then I would have not done Jessica after Ishqiya. It is all part of being an actor. I like playing completely different people. It is very exciting.

Image: A scene from The Dirty Picture

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'I am more outspoken and frank now'

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In real life, if you could overcome certain inhibitions, what would they be?

When you do certain roles, it automatically reflects a little bit on yourself. Sure there is certain change in me now. I am more outspoken and frank now, but I have not yet been in any situation where I had to use this, so I don't exactly know how outspoken I am (laughs).

Will this voluptuous Vidya change the trend in Bollywood?

I think it should. It is wonderful to be a woman. We are women and it is necessary that we look like women. If you look like a chessboard, what is the pleasure in it? Then you should have been a man instead. I had to gain weight for this; I happily did that.

How much weight did you gain for this role?

I gained about 10 kilos. I was doing light exercise and eating a lot.

Image: A scene from The Dirty Picture

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