Stardom doesn’t interest Vidya Balan. Neither does the 36-year-old feel particularly flattered when people slot her into the category of unconventional talent. She only responds instinctively to the scripts which come her way. Ahead of the release of Bobby Jasoos we met Vidya to know what it takes to portray a spy on the big screen.
For someone who has portrayed a range of interesting characters in a variety of films you have consolidated your position in the industry as an actor whose prime focus is women-oriented films. Did you design your career consciously?
I think the magic lies in the day and age in which we are operating as actors. Yeh daur hee kuch aisa hai. The credit has to be given to the writers who are coming up with these radically different ideas. Often, actors walk away with the all the accolades, but I think those who are daring to do different films need to be appreciated. I am only happy about the offers I am getting. Honestly, I have done only those movies which I have instinctively attracted to as a performer.
And in spite of working in movies which can liberally be termed as ‘your kind of cinema’ the performer in you has managed to give us a variety of roles..
It’s not that I decided to be something different, but I reacted to the scripts I got very instinctively. Within the scope that was offered to me, I tried to choose and do something hatke each time. I need to live different character every time. What is even more fascinating is that even within this domain of women-centric movies, exciting things are happening. More and more women realize today that they can lead their lives the way they want to. You are finding that representation on the screen.
How your character Bobby is different in that case? All we know is that she is a jasoos…
Bobby comes from a modest neighborhood in Hyderabad. She is constantly being told that she should get married because her parents are concerned that their beti should not go past her marriageable age. She is not a rebellious soul, but she is steadfast with her desire to do things in her own way, and on her own terms. She is chasing her dream of being a detective. She is a total zindadil and fun to be with. She is not a trained jasoos, but she believes that she can do anything! What makes Bobby, the character, different is that her story, in my opinion, could not have been conceived and told five years back. And you will know why I am saying that only after you watch the movie.
We haven’t had a female jasoos in Hindi cinema, and here you get to portray one in Bobby Jasoos. Did this unconventional idea have you seduced?
I don’t slot any project as conventional or unconventional. I don’t use that distinction as a benchmark to select a film. All I do is that I ask myself the vital question-Will I enjoy living this character that’s being offered to me? If the answer to that question is yes, then I almost always do it.
Vidya you have this amazing ability to lose yourself completely to the character you portray. But in Bobby Jasoos you are playing so many characters. How did you manage to snap in and out of so many roles for a single project?
These are not full-fledged roles, you see. These are mere disguises. The core character Bobby had to remain intact throughout these disguises without going overboard. I didn’t have to get into the skin of these characters for they are mere extensions of Bobby.
What did it feel like to be a jasoos? Do you think this movie will break the mould given the fact that so far we have had only male protagonists playing spies or moles?
It’s not just a detective movie. It’s a journey of a girl who aspires to be a spy. There’s a human drama to it and that’s what sets it apart from any of the detective film that has been made so far. I wouldn’t say it’s comical or serious in nature. Bobby is learning to be a detective while she is on the job. There’s this childlike enthusiasm about her. Mind you, Bobby Jasoos is no Sherlock Homes. It’s a coming of age story. We called it a ‘dramedy’-it has both drama and comedy. It’s family film.
How do you relate to this character? Do you find streaks of Bobby in you?
Yes, I do, in the sense that Bobby wants to prove her ability. Even if those around her feel that she is just trying her hand at being jasoos, albeit childishly, Bobby knows in her heart that she wants to pursue spying as a profession. Even when I decided to be an actor, my mother was scared about the choice I made but my father was supportive.
Vidya, do the choices you make as an artist cater to the brand you have created for yourself-knowingly or otherwise? Has marriage also influenced the projects you pick up?
I don’t think myself as a brand, really. I only think myself as an actor. In my opinion, image building is very limiting for the artist in me. Once you build an image then you try to do everything for the sake of maintaining that image. I don’t want that to happen to me. I think being an actor is far more important. Even marriage has not changed anything as far as my liberty to choose the kind of films I want to do is concerned. Siddharth (Roy Kapur) and I respect the passion we have for each other’s work. Though Siddharth understands cinematic sensibilities, I don’t really grasp the business of cinema that well!