Vidya Balan recalls being asked to work around hero’s dates: ‘Didn’t matter if I had a more prominent role’
- Vidya Balan, who will be seen next in Amit Masurkar’s Sherni, opened up about experiencing sexism in the film industry, especially in her initial years.
Actor Vidya Balan has spoken about experiencing sexism in the film industry, much like her character from Sherni faces. In the man-wildlife conflict drama, directed by Amit Masurkar, she plays a forest officer, who battles sexism both in the professional and personal space.
Speaking about facing sexism, Vidya Balan told Hindustan Times, “I think we face sexism all the time, and not just through men, even from women. Sometimes, we do that to other women too. I think misogyny is so intrinsic to the patriarchal mindset, in which we are all steeped, that it is difficult to get rid of it easily. I face it even today, sometimes. It annoys me, but of course, it is much less now than before. All around me, I see people facing sexism. Not everyone is even aware that they are saying something wrong, most of the time.”
Vidya recalled how, when she was starting out in Bollywood, she was asked to adjust her dates according to the male actor’s availability. “In my early years, I would always be told that, ‘The male actor has given his dates, so you will have to work your dates around his.’ Sometimes, it didn’t even matter if I was playing a more prominent role than him in the film,” she said.
What drew Vidya to Sherni was its ‘unusual story’. She said that while Hindi films have been set in the jungle before, this one is about the jungle itself. “I thought that was a first, and of course, Vidya Vincent as a character is very different from any of the characters I have played so far. All the characters I have played have been very obviously strong. Vidya Vincent is strong but she doesn’t come across as aggressive. She is very withdrawn, so it’s a different personality, and I thought that was again a first,” she said.
Another reason for Vidya to say yes to Sherni was director Amit Masurkar. She described her experience of working with him as ‘wonderful’ and ‘very different’. “He has really got a unique approach to things. His choice of stories tells you that anyway, but also the way he looks at the world, the way he sees humour in things… He is the satire man, so I like the tone that his stories take on. He is a man who likes to keep it really realistic,” she said.
Vidya also talked about filming Sherni in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and said that it was not at all challenging. “Because we were in the jungle, we were very safe. We didn’t have a single positive case on set. We were in a bio-bubble. We shot the first schedule before the pandemic and even then, it was very peaceful. It is probably one of the easiest shoots I have been on. It was easy-breezy because the environment was such, everyone was in a good mood. There was no chillam-chilli (shouting) on set. The sound decibels had to be kept down. At the end of the day, you never felt tired. I always felt like, ‘Oh my God, is the day done? Are we over with work for the day?’” she said.
Sherni, which also stars Sharat Saxena, Vijay Raaz, Ila Arun and Neeraj Kabi, will release on Amazon Prime Video on June 18.