When Vidya Balan first hit the screen in 2005 at age 27 with a debutante director himself about to hit 50 in Pradeep Sarkar’s Parineeta she created a stir. A relative unknown with some vague ad commercials and a video flash to her credit, she projected a startlingly fresh, pure, virginal, totally Bharatiyanaari persona which ran counter to the hot-glam babe looks scorching the screen and scene of that time.
Alas, after that brilliant debut, Balan, through a combination of bad luck and wrong films, went completely off the radar. Heyy Babyy got her screaming headlines (of the wrong kind) and the Film Designer Manish Malhotra’s scathing remarks ending with the vitriolic “How can she even begin to speak about fashion sense with her fantastic figure? Who is she?” was only the tip of the iceberg. A series of duds — Salaam-e-Ishq, Eklavya, Halla Bol & Kismet Konnection — really dumped her deep in flopville and soon the Pari of Parineeta was commonly perceived as a one-flick-chic.
That’s when both luck and common sense came to her rescue. Recognizing the fact that neither her face nor her figure lend itself to the Hot-babe look/image, Balan pulled back, searched hard and long, identified her slot … and filled it. Away from the wow-gasp-pant sizzle of a Katrina, Priyanka, Kareena or the Deepika, Sonakshi younger hotties, she settled into performance-driven roles where histrionics — not glam posturing — was the name of the game.
Paa started her come-back run. For a comparatively young woman to dare take on the role of the Big B’s progenic teenager Mom, was something. True, the limelight was cornered by Bachchan senior, but Vidya Balan’s performance didn’t go ignored. The next was a 360 degrees scorcher, something one couldn’t dream of associating with a sweet, grounded, middle-class Tam-Bram!
Ishquiya saw her in the role of a chaalu, morally flexible woman who has no problem compromising her morality (read: body) to use two men for vested interest. B-town folks, critics and audiences were startled at this fabulously convincing and daring performance in a role with huge doses of grey. Also, they noticed that despite playing against the brilliant Naseer and talented Arshad, she held her own … no mean task. This was followed by a totally different act in a different genre – No One Killed Jessica. Playing the role of the resilient and feisty Sabrina Lal (sister of the slain Jessica), Vidya brought rare passion, grit and conviction into her performance, going shoulder-to-shoulder with her senior colleague, Rani Mukherjee. The industry was beginning to take note of her versatility and the audience was getting curiously interested in this born-again actress who seemed to have consciously chosen heart over body.
Today, with The Dirty Picture, Vidya Balan has come full circle! While producer Ekta Kapoor has grandly described her as the “Khan” of Bollywood, actress Sonakshi Sinha has stated that in a space teeming with heroines “Vidya Balan is the only Hero!” Even the masala-king Karan Johar joined the party with “Every mainstream actress needs a grand lesson from Vidya Balan on how to submit and give your heart and soul to a role. She is beyond words!”
Any wonder that she is alleged to have jacked her price to a Rs. 4 crore heroine … and recently quoted a fee more than her leading man (Farhan Akhtar) for Shaadi ka Side Effects, a proposed sequel to the 2006 Rahul Bose-Mallika Sherawat hit comedy, Pyaar ka Side Effects.
Atta Girl! Way to go! Never was dirt so sexily rewarding!