She’s been married a little over two months, but nothing has changed for Vidya Balan. Well, not much. Except for a change in address, a line of vermilion in the parting of her hair and a new label, Mrs SRK (Siddharth Roy Kapur), she remains Vidya Balan. “I thought I’d be miserable without my
parents, but thank God, they are just five minutes away from where I live,” she says.
Vidya has (almost) always come across as a very natural, un-film star kind of person, and that is what has differentiated her in a world where glamour means western clothes in size zero. Which is not to say that Vidya is not glamorous. Far from it. Her glamour
lies in her curves and her naturalness.
But it took her about five years and much unkind criticism to understand, accept and finally embrace herself as herself, whole-heartedly. The result is a stunningly confident and radiant Vidya.
“I have become unapologetic about myself,” says Bollywood’s bravest actor, basking in the glory of five consecutive best actor awards. “That’s why I am happier and able to live my dream today.”
This isn’t the first time she’s had a career high. Parineeta (2005) brought her much applause, but by 2008, after Heyy Babyy, Vidya hit rock bottom, criticised for everything from her looks to her acting skills. Much introspection later, however, she emerged as the woman she is today and the actor who has got nothing but praise for her roles in Paa (2009), The Dirty Picture (2011) and Kahaani (2012).
No wonder there’s a quiet contentment about her as she settles down for an exclusive interview with HT Café. As her household help scurry around doing as Mrs SRK says, we talk about marriage, work and being oneself. How is your new life with your ideal man?
In all honesty, I never had an image of an ideal man. And yet, even if I had any notion subconsciously, when I met Siddharth, everything vanished! He was probably far better than that. I remember someone telling me that when he saw the back of a woman’s head, he knew that was the woman he was going marry. I laughed that away as silly talk. But I guess when a relationship has to happen, it happens seamlessly. Your partner just walks into your life.There was a certain buzz about Siddharth’s previous marriage posing a problem to your marriage with him.
Not at all. I think the beautiful thing about the past is that it leads you to the present. That’s all I can say. And the present means that we are together. And whatever forces it took to bring us together… we are just happy that they brought us together.Do you feel secure, especially now that you are married and settled down?
I started feeling secure in every way once I began to accept myself the way I was. Whether that was emotional, financial or professional security, all of it came and embraced me because I embraced myself. But in a sense I always had the basic financial and
emotional security because movies were not my bread and butter. I had not left everything and come to Mumbai chasing a dream. I was living with my parents in Mumbai and didn’t have to pay the bills and stuff like that. I always had the luxury of choice. But my emotional and financial security swelled with me accepting myself. Your story in Bollywood is like a phoenix rising from the ashes. How did you pull that off?
Outside my family, R Balki (filmmaker) and Sabyasachi (fashion designer) were instrumental in helping me reclaim myself when I was going through a rough phase after Kismat Konnection (2008) and Heyy Babyy. I remember what Balki said — ‘You are the
quintessential Indian woman. You are today’s woman. Why do you want to give it up to become one of the many?’ I’ll always be thankful to him. And Sabya’s advice was equally valuable. He said that fashion is not about what is right and what is wrong, it’s about you and what is not you. So do what is you. That helped me a lot.
‘I outdo Siddharth when it comes to talking!’
There were rumours that you had moved into Siddharth’s home before marriage. True?
No. I’ve never been someone in a live-in relationship. It was never an option in my head. I have not grown up like that. I needed marriage to live with Siddharth. And to me, marriage is the highest form of commitment. We have known each other for a couple of years now, and when we were ready, we just went ahead and did it.
Is Siddharth the quiet type that he appears to be? Who is the more talkative between you two?
Siddharth talks, but I think I outdo him. I wouldn’t say he is shy, he speaks when he needs to, which is great. But I love talking and I think he listens a lot. Ask Milan Luthria, who always has things to say about my being so chatty.
Who has a bigger temper?
We haven’t had our first fight after marriage. In any case, I don’t think either of us scream or raise our voices. But yes, there are differences of opinions.
Now that you have to balance home and work, do you come home on time?
I am a professional, and so is Siddharth. We understand each other’s work commitments and are flexible in this regard. So whatever commitments are expected of me in my work sphere, I’ll adhere to them, but I’ll be managing home as well. Once I get back into work actively, I am sure I’ll get into the new pattern of handling the home front better. I am also sure that I don’t have to come back home on time and all that jazz. And thankfully I am training people to help me at home.
Unlike other star marriages, yours was very simple and strictly a family affair. How did you manage that?
We are both very private people and we just wanted people who mattered to us to be there, or else do it in such a way that the whole world would have been there. The latter was not possible, so a simple wedding was the only option.
Did your friends and acquaintances complain about not being invited?
Fortunately, people I know texted congratulatory messages only. They respected our decision. As it is, in big weddings, the focus is more on managing the people than on the special moments of the wedding. The charm gets lost and the rituals are mechanically
followed. Organising, managing, looking after the guests and all that jazz is too exhausting. Neither of us is ritualistic, but we wanted a traditional wedding and knew exactly what we were doing. We wanted to retain the sanctity of the special moments by keeping it close-knit.
Now that you’re married into a Punjabi home, will you have to make parathas and rajma?
I can’t cook to save my life. But multi-cuisines are prepared in their kitchen, not just Punjabi. I have sampled Jewish food, it’s yummy. Something called Aloo Mallaka is heavenly.
You just said you can’t cook!
Cooking is something I don’t enjoy, so I think I will not do it for a while. People say it’s therapeutic, but I don’t like it.
I am more into housekeeping. I would rather keep the kitchen in order than mess it up. My mother has been for the longest time telling me to learn cooking, but except for making tea and coffee, I am not inclined to it at all. I think I’ll be a disaster. I know what needs to be prepared in the kitchen for the day, but I won’t go there and do it myself.
You have been sweeping all the best actress awards for the last four years. Do you feel you are at the top as far as acting goes?
Absolutely not. There are so many brilliant actresses around. I feel truly blessed because I had nobody else but my family and my faith to help me sail through the journey I undertook. Yes, I was keen to see myself on the 70mm screen, living someone else’s
life and even winning an award one day, but I never rehearsed a victory speech.
Has your success translated into a big banner film?
I have been doing maximum two films a year and I would like to keep it that way. However, while a lot of films are being offered to me, not all are as exciting. I have to connect to it to do it. While acting is my passion, my life has other areas too. I spend quality time with my family, read, holiday, and now I have become a huge TV buff. I am obsessed with the TV series Downton Abbey. Maybe I will learn to cook as well.
You have reignited filmmakers’ interest in women-centric films.
It’s nice to see the change. Real women are very interesting. Women have been living multiple roles — of a daughter, mother, wife, lover, professional and friend, and it’s great if they are writing roles specifically for women. Finally women are being projected as real women on screen. They also balance it as entertainers.
Your husband is a producer. Will you join hands with him someday?
I don’t understand numbers. The business of cinema doesn’t really hook me. It’s nice to know how much business your movie has done, but beyond that, the net, gross, percentage, publicity and other aspects, don’t interest me. I will do everything to make the film work, but when it comes to the business side, I would rather let other people handle it.
Are you open to offers from cinema in other languages?
I have done many language films, but at some point, I would love to do an Iranian film.
Were you scared about marriage?
The way girls are being fed with tales about marriage is ridiculous. People tell you all sorts of things. I remember I was shooting with Emran Hashmi 15 days before the wedding. And he was like Amitabh Bachchan from Sholay (1975). With a straight face he would say the most disastrous things to scare me. ‘Ladki ki zindegi puri tarah badal jaati hai, kabhi kabhi acche ke liye bhi (A woman’s life changes completely, sometimes for the best)’. Initially I was a little uncomfortable, but I secretly admired him for his sense of humour and happily played along.
So how has the South Indian girl blended in with the Punjabis?
Siddharth is a Punjabi Jew. His dad is Punjabi and mom is Jewish. So there’s no typical Punjabi atmosphere at home. And I am not expected to follow the Punjabism as much as he is not expected to follow Tamilism. His sister-in-law Shayonti is half Sindhi and half Maharastrian, and my brother-in-law Kedar is Maharastrian. It’s an extremely secular set-up. So it doesn’t feel that I have gone into an alien set-up. And as it is, I have been exposed to Punjabi culture as I lived in a Punjabi neighbourhood.
Vidya’s women of substance
My mother Saraswathy: She’s one of the most compassionate people I have ever come across. And she taught me to be proud of the fact that I was a woman.
My Sister Priya: My hero. She plays all her roles effortlessly, as a mother, daughter, wife and professional.
Mata Amritanandamayi: She’s known all over the world as the hugging saint. When she hugs, she spreads love.
Every woman: I respect every woman who has been leading her life on her own terms or at least fighting to lead it. Whether she’s from a village or a Miss Universe, a prime minister or the head of a political party or a journalist at work, I salute her for her indomitable spirit.
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