Vidya Balan Roy Kapur has always come across as a very calm, poised and confident person – secure in her own space. She is strong, like the characters she plays. What I like best about her is that you get what you see. No pretenses, no guises. Even though in her upcoming film she gets into as many as twelve disguises! Over to Vibs...
In Bollywood this is the first time a female lead is playing a detective. Usually they are the sidekick. Comment.
Bobby Jasoos is not just a detective film. It's not like your Byomkesh Bakshi or Karamchand who are all shaatir detectives. She wants to be a jasoos and trying to use her common sense and presence of mind to solve cases so there was a certain naivety and innocence to her. On the face of it the fact that it was the role of a female detective that excited me. But it also the story of this girl. I loved that Sanyukta Chawla, the writer had managed to make this a human story and a detective story.
Do you think women make better detectives?
(Laughs) I think our instincts are definitely sharper than men so we definitely make better detectives. I discovered while reading about these detective agencies are that a lot of housewives double up as small-time detectives. So they are making use of their talent and their time to make some money and some of them said humko bhi niji zindagi mein acting karne ka mauka mil jata hai, which is interesting and exciting for them. One woman was telling me about how to solve a case she went and stayed in someone's house for six months as a maid. I do think that there are lots of women detectives… (and then adds with a big grin) I think women are just better... (laughs)…at everything!
You had to metamorphosed into a Muslim girl from Hyderabad on screen. How tough was it?
The only thing that I had to work on was the Hyderabadi lehzaa or lingo/accent. We trained with Abbas Malik saab from Hyderabad. We would be allotted timings, I would sit and go through the script with him and he would encourage me to talk normally in the Hyderabadi dialect. And the advantage is when you shoot in a real location that lends a certain energy to the entire story and helps you believe in the world. So for me it didn't take much to transform into Bobby.
How did you understand Bobby – you both come from such different worlds?
I spent enough time with the director Samar Sheikh and Sanyukta, understanding her world. For me, on a film set the only important person is the director because it is a director's medium. So I have to have the kind of equation with the director where if he has to ask me to stand on my head and even if I am not convinced about a scene,, if he's still convinced, I should have unquestioning faith to do it.
What excited you about the character?
I have not played a character like Bobby before. The beauty is in her simplicity – she wants to be the best detective in her mohalla, not in Hyderabad, in the country or the not the world! What endeared me was the fact that everyone talks about big things but for Bobby this is her big thing to be – to be acknowledged by her mohalla.
You have donned six disguises in the film…
(Cuts in) … There are 12 looks in the film - not six.
Which was the toughest?
I think the fat lady with a big stomach in the red saree in the poster – where I have worn the fat suit because that was extremely heavy for some reason and we were shooting at a non-AC studio in Mumbai and it was very tough.It was physically trying to be in the fat suit. That makeup took two hours but some of the other disguises were bit complicated like the beggar or the maulvi with the green turban or the one like a jasoos. In all of them I have worn moustaches or beards and wigs. For the maulvi I have even worn some plastic tubes inside my nostrils to make look flared. And I had teeth, a stubble, a wig, thicker, bushier eyebrows... What was most fun people didn't recognize me. In a lot of real locations the crew was instructed to call me Bobby and not Vidya and most of the time we were shooting guerilla and the team didn't want the crowd to recognize me. So many times people would say 'we have heard Vidya Balan is here but where is she?' These guys would say 'who aanewali hai' and I would be standing right there so it was great fun!
What was your husband Siddharth Roy Kapoor reaction to these disguises?
(Laughs) I think when he saw me in the beggar disguise he just couldn't believe it! He was like – from which angle does it look like you? Even my father didn't recognise me. He opened the paper and said that the face looked familiar but he couldn't recall whose it was. Until he read my name!
Most actresses would shy away from deglamourising/looking ugly on screen but you seem to revel in it.
Beauty is as beauty does especially does – especially in films if you do what you do convincingly it will look beautiful. It also depends on how you define beauty. I don't define beauty in a certain way because I find beauty in most people or things. That's the attitude that I have grown up with, has helped me because my mom would say that everyone is beautiful, it's just how you look at it. That helped me probably get rid of my vanity when I have had to change my appearance and I think it's fun when you have different characters in films and not just Bobby Jasoos. There's no fun if I am going to look like Vidya Balan in film after film. If I am getting the opportunity to create a person with makeup, hair etc why not? Yes with voice, mannerisms and performance one can bring in that much of a difference but if physically also you are able to create a new person, it's great fun for both yourself and the audience. For me that's what an actor is – someone who is breaking out of your own persona and living different people's lives with each role. Sometimes you manage to do that and sometimes you don't but you have to keep trying.
As an actor you don't seem to care about looks, you don't conform to body standards or fashion dictates. People criticise you but you don't appear to be affected.
About seven years ago when I went through bashing from the media. I was trying new things every time and every time I stepped out of the house thinking, 'oh maybe today they will say I am looking fine.' and I realized that I could never make anyone happy. I wasn't happy either so I thought at least one person's happiness is in my hands let me focus on that one person – let me make myself happy. I started doing things that make me happy and that's all I do – whether it's in the way I dress or appear in public or the roles I choose - I am just following my heart. I have just stuck to doing that and it has given me great peace of mind and joy! I think it has brought out the best in me.
Any plans of directing a film?
No, no, no! (Laughs) There is neither a director nor a writer in me. Or a producer. I can't think like that. I don't think I have the capability or the interest to do any of those. I am getting to work with great talent in terms of writers, producers and directors, and I am happy. As long as they bring good work to me that's all that matters. I am not excited by those areas.
A director, amongst the contemporary crop, that you would love to work with?
Mohit Suri is someone who is very exciting for me and I am glad that I have the opportunity to work with him in Hamari Adhuri Kahani. We will be starting the film soon. Ayaan Mukerji is a director whose work I really enjoy.
I do one or two films in a year anyways so I am reading scripts and meeting people but nothing has excited me so far.
Post the success of TDP and Kahani most actresses would have signed a flurry of films to cash in on the success. But you instead took a quiet break from acting. Didn't you feel insecure?
For the past seven years, since 2007, I have been doing this. I do one or maximum two films in a year. What allows me to do is spend enough time on one film, before the film starts and then during the film shooting and promotions I am completely involved. I do then other things in life - I enjoy my time off, travel, spend time with Siddharth, my family, read, go watch plays and films and just be… I need that space because I get so involved in my films that I need that time off to do other things. Thankfully I don't get insecure or I don't feel that I am going away somewhere so I need to rush to reach at a certain time. I am just doing things as they come.
Is it tough for married actresses to find parts?
No I don't think so. Marriage may affect the woman but not her career. It's how you look at yourself post marriage. Fortunately or unfortunately maybe whatever reason you begin to look at yourself differently as your priorities change, that could happen but things change as in all spheres of life women continue to work after marriage and after having kids so why should the film industry be different? It's how you look at it.
Come to think of it you haven't worked with any of the Khans – Salman, Shah Rukh or Aamir. Your loss or theirs?
I think it's their loss…
Thank you. Well you said it not me! (laughs) But I think if there's a great script that justifies the presence of a certain Khan and me working together then it's fine otherwise it's fine too. At one point in my career I really wanted to do a film with a Khan but I can't do it now. Just to work with them I can't do a film which has nothing for me. That doesn't interest me.
In that sense would you play a glamour puss just so you can work with a top hero?
No. I never have and I never will. Never say never (smiles) but I don't think that is a possibility at all.
You have always maintained that SRK is your favourite and you still haven't worked with him. Is there a chance of that changing anytime soon?
No I don't think that happening in the near future because no one is writing scripts for both of us together and as of now it doesn't seem likely.
If you were given a choice to snoop on one person who would it be?
A terrorist organisation because I would know what they are planning to do next and avert any impending danger!
What's your favorite detective TV series?
Karamchand. As a kid we used to watch that on TV and in fact, that was my first association of a detective.
If you had to do jasoosi on your husband what is the one thing you would love to know?
People tell me that he's very shy when he talks about me so I would like to get into a disguise and ask him questions only about me and see what he says (laughs).
Three things about Siddharth that nobody knows.
That he spends every waking second reading, he could watch a film in his film because that's how much he loves films and thirdly, he's also a foodie and even the thought of his father's cooking, (he is a great cook), makes his mouth water.
Do you get tired of defending your marriage to people and telling them to stop?
Tired no. Upset yes. Normally I laugh everything off but recently when these rumours happened I spoke up. I don't mind criticism but when my marriage rumors surfaced I reacted because my husband is not an actor. I know that I am a public figure and that people are interested in, speculate about and judge me and I am okay with all of that but there's no need for anyone to do that with him especially when there's no basis.
You have also done charity work and been awarded for it. What's next?
I am national brand ambassador for sanitation. That's the cause I feel strongly about and I am very happy that the new government has said that by 2020 every house in the country will have a toilet. That is a great situation as it gets tied in with other issues including women's sanitation, safety and security. That's something I continue to be involved with so far. They have not asked me beyond the public service ads I have done. Whenever they require me I am available to them like if they want me to go to the villages I will be happy to do that.
God is… Me, you, and each one of us
Life is… Beautiful… what you want it to be
Love is… what makes the world go round and round
Most amazing actor… Mr Amitabh Bachchan and Naseer saab
I live to… Love and be loved
Sex is… Fun and very important
Freedom is… Invaluable
Happiness is… Within reach always
Plastic surgery is… Unnecessary
I wish I was… I am happy being myself. I don't wish to be anybody
I Iong to… Go for long walks
I will never… Say never
I think… Well
My most cherished moment… when my niece and nephew were born and when I met Siddharth
My biggest asset is… I, me, myself
My phone is… always on silent
My first crush… He had the sexiest voice.
My favorite delicacy… Home cooked South Indian food