Vidya Balan Said People Thought She Was Mad For Doing The Dirty Picture, But She Signed It Anyway. It Helped Her Get Over Her Body Image Issues
Millions of young small-towners come to the city of dreams to try their luck in Bollywood. However, talent and a pretty face will only get you so far. It certainly isn’t enough to make it big in the brutally competitive and capricious industry. No I am not talking about connections with the big wigs of B-town (can we move past that debate already?). I am talking about the willingness to take risky roles and and the balls to break the stereotypes even if it raises eyebrows. It takes guts to take up a challenging, unconventional role and it has fared well for some of the finest actors we have today.
One of these actors Vidya Balan who climbed the stairs of success after the breakthrough role of South Indian actress Silk Smitha in semi-biographical film The Dirty Picture. It certainly wasn’t an easy decision to sign up for an overwhelmingly sexual portrayal of Smitha after playing the girl-next-door in several movies prior to that. Vidya debuted with the titular role in Parineeta in which played a dignified daughter who appeals to traditional norms and did similar goody-goody roles in the movies following that. It was The Dirty Picture that saw Vidya in a completely different light, theatrically and otherwise.
Obviously, there were doubts if she could pull it off. People thought she was mad and she couldn’t possibly do this since she had already been labeled as the poster girl for sanskars in Bollywood. In a recent interview with India Today, Vidya opened up about how she signed the The Dirty Picture despite the negative guesswork. She said, “I didn’t have any apprehensions. The moment I met Miland, he inspired faith in me. So I knew that he has a certain aesthetic sense, I knew it won’t be cheap. Also, Ekta was involved and she is a woman. I knew her, I started my career with her. So I was safe on those accounts. But there were people who told me that ‘Are you mad? You are a girl next door and you can’t be doing things like these.”
Thankfully she turned a deaf ear to all those speculations and instead turned to her family for their opinion. They have been the biggest support system for Vidya and they told her to follow her heart. She said, “And I remember speaking to my parents at that time and I asked them ‘Should I do it?’ and my parents, they are obviously not from this industry, so they kept saying ’No, do what feels right’. I asked myself ‘what feels right’ and the answer was loud and clear ‘Do the film’. So I went ahead and did it.”
Vidya admits Silk Smitha has been the toughest role she has taken up in her whole career and it changed her in multiple ways. Not only on the acting front, but doing this film let Vidya let go of her inhibitions and be comfortable in her own skin. She talked about how she never wore shorts but playing Silk, the confident and bold actress, let her loosen up and be comfortable in whatever she wore. She recalled, “As a child, my mom had made me wear shorts and everyone teased me because I was really fat. After that I had never worn shorts in my life. And during the first costume trials, Niharika Singh gave me a pair of hot shorts/hot pants and I came out in that and I actually felt fully okay.”
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She further added, “I remember they gave me a cigarette and a glass, they wanted some pictures. I didn’t even know how to smoke that the time. I only knew how to put the cigarette in the mouth but didn’t know how to take it in and I remember the first time Miland told me to inhale, I coughed like a maniac. But suddenly I felt like, I think I had already been speaking to Miland about the character and I had started my dance rehearsals and the choreographer would keep telling me more thrust, more more thrust. So I think slowly I was letting go of my inhibitions and maybe that’s why when I wore the shorts and walked out I was fine. Because there was no expectation of being perfect. I was not expected to have the perfect body in the shorts. Because silk was big.”
Vidya Balan is sure a woman with a spine. We are so glad she didn’t let the talks affect her and doubt herself and her choices. The only thing she was concerned with was the her family’s consent regarding the sensual portrayal of the protagonist, sex scenes and partial nudity she was signing up for. They were okay with it and we got one of the most refined actresses in Bollywood. Taking up a controversial role like that certainly helped her open up as an actor and break out of the good girl image. She later went on to play more unconventional, strong female characters in movies like Kahani, Begun Jaan and very recently Shakuntala Devi. From playing a nerdy teenager in sitcom Hum Paanch to playing unapologetically flawed, inspiring women, Vidya has come a long way and it was all because of her unmatched acting skills, guts to take challenging roles and her passion to give us entertainment, entertainment, and…entertainment.