Vidya Balan tends to portray serious and strong characters with a clear and focused purpose.
Yet, when she smiles, she lights up the screen.
Born on 1 January 1978, she began her acting career on television. Before she pursued a career in film, she finished her education with a B.A. and Masters degree in sociology. After several difficult years trying to start her film career, she finally appeared on the silver screen in 2003 in the Bengali film Bhalo Theko which earned her an Anandalok Purashkar Award for Best Actress. To date, she has appeared in more than 25 films - and continues to receive many awards and accolades for her work.
In 2014, Vidya Balan was conferred with a Padma Shri on the 65th Republic Day of India. The Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian award in India. It is presented to eminent people for their contribution in the fields of the arts, education, industry, literature, science, sports, medicine, social service and public affairs. Other actors who have received the Padma Shri include: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Hema Malini, Anupam Kher, Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and Akshay Kumar.
While waiting for the arrival of this latest film, here are five Vidya Balan starrers to see if you are new to Bollywood.
Description: Drama. The lifelong romance between Lalita (Vidya Balan) and Shekar (Saif Ali Khan) is upset by the arrival of Girish (Sanjay Dutt), several misunderstandings, and the uncovering of a hidden plan. Based on the 1914 Bengali novella Parineeta by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.
Why I Love This Film: The story told here is extremely engaging, taking many twists and turns before arriving at a satisfying conclusion. While Shekar is somewhat of a hot-head, Girish is almost the perfect man. Therein lies one of the challenges; however, there is more to this tale than just a love story. While this is Vidya Balan's debut role, she easily stands tall alongside her more seasoned colleagues.
"We tested her 60-65 times. After a few tests I saw her looking at the camera and abusing me. The fact that she was desperate to do the film... it showed in those 60-65 tests. But when she did not give a damn was the time when she performed. If you are desperate for something you won't get it," Chopra said. "Vidya became Vidya Balan when she stopped caring. I am happy that she sustained those 65 odd tests and did not give up and look where she is today," he said.
While the music is entertaining, the item number "Kaisi Paheli Zindagani" featuring Rekha is truly delightful.
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut; Won, Apsara Film & Television Producers Award for Best Female Debut; Won, IIFA Award for Star Debut of the Year-Female; Won, Screen Award for Best Female Debut; Won, Stardust Award for Female Superstar of Tomorrow; Zee Cine Award for Best Female Debut.
Description: Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) is an intelligent and witty 12-year-old boy with an extremely rare genetic disorder called progeria. He lives with his mother Vidya (Vidya Balan) who is a doctor. Amol Arte (Abhishek Bachchan) is a young, progressive and full-of-ideals politician who is out to prove to the world that "politics" is not a bad word. Auro is Amol's son; however, Vidya conceals this from him.
Why I Love This Film: This is a feel-good, tear-jerker film that reminds you what is most important in life. It is good to see the character of Vidya portrayed as a strong woman and loving parent who has managed to carve out a comfortable life for herself with her son and her mother. While there are some bad guys in this film, you find most of the characters are striving to do good and bring out the best in the world - and they succeed.
In a bollywoodhungama.com interview, Vidya Balan explained that though the title of the film was "Paa", it is also very much a mother-son film. She also explained that what makes this film work is the chemistry of its stars:
"It's very flattering to know that I shared very good chemistry with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. That was the thing I was a little concerned about because as a mother and a child, I had to be completely uninhibited. ...I didn't want any sort of awkwardness or anything because after all he's Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and, you know, to be playing his mother was a bit daunting. But the moment I saw him in makeup, that was taken care of. And then it was literally like a mother and son which is what, I think, people are connecting to. ... I have a lot of mothers telling me that Vidya's the kind of mother they aspire to be ... and that's a huge compliment, especially coming from a mother."
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Award for Best Actress; Won, Star Screen Award for Best Actress; Won, IIFA Award for Best Actress; Apsara Film & Television Producers Guild Award for Best Actress.
English Title: "Romantic", "Passion" or "Erotic"
Release Date: 29 January 2010
Director: Abhishek Chaubey
Description: Dark comedy thriller. Criminals Iftikhar aka "Khalujan" (Naseeruddin Shah) and Razzak Hussain aka "Babban" (Arshad Warsi) botch up a job and escape from their boss Mushtaq (Salman Shahid), who wants to bury them alive. They land up in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh to seek refuge in the house of Krishna Verma (Vidya Balan), the recent widow of the local gang-lord. Both men fall in love with Krishna and when they each begin to woo her they soon discover she has other plans.
Why I Love This Film: Krishna is somewhat of an enigma. She is strong-willed and able to leverage the romantic interests of her houseguests to do her bidding without either of them being aware that that is her plan. Even when they turn on her, she manages to achieve what she has set out to do. In the end, you have to marvel at her persistence and perspicuity of purpose.
According to a 2010 One India Entertainment interview with Vidya Balan, Krishna was a unique character because she was this "quintessential Indian woman" with a strong purpose and back story:
"She may be an unconventional character but what I liked about the character is the fact that she is very believable. The role has gray shades. She is neither positive nor negative. All that I can say is that Krishna is very human. She is not apologetic about her needs. If she is like a chameleon in front of Arshad, for whom, love is a way to get sex, with Naseer she enjoys the way he woos her in a classical way."
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress; Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Actress; Won, Screen Award for Best Actress; Won, Apsara Award for Best Actress; Won, Zee Cine Award for Best Actor-Female.
Description: Biographical drama. A chronicle of the meteoric rise and steep fall of an erstwhile screen sensation set against the colorful and entertaining backdrop of the fierce male-dominated South-Indian film industry of the 80s. Inspired by the life of South Indian actress Silk Smitha and other famous actresses.
Why I Love This Film: Silk is portrayed as driven and fully aware of her feminity, yet with a streak of innocence. She is boisterous, full-of-life and excited to pursue whatever the film industry has to offer. When she begins to feel her reign as the queen of hearts is being threatened, she steps forward and proves that still has what it takes.
In a glamsham.com interview, Vidya Balan said,
"I have never enjoyed being a woman more than in The Dirty Picture. It celebrates the woman like a rainbow in all her colours."
For this role, she gained 12 kilograms (26 pounds) to better reflect the look of South Indian stars of that period. But there was a lot of mental preparation required as well. In a 2011 Hindustan Times article Vidya Balan explained,
"It’s an extremely bold and brazen character. Silk is a girl who wants to make the most of every moment in her life and that was something I had to imbibe in me. So, there was no other kind of preparation, it was more of mental preparation. Reading the script and then discussing it with the writer and director, they would discuss about the attitude of the character, her child like behaviour and then she is considered a sex bomb, so mainly we discussed the part of how to maintain a balance. It was just mental preparation and nothing else ..."
The item numbers in this film are well worth the watch - particularly "Ooh-La-La" which takes Silk from item number actress to superstar in the length of a song.
Recognition: Won, National Film Award for Best Actress; Won, Filmfare Award for Best Actress; Won, Screen Awards for Best Actress; Won, BIG Star Entertainment Award for Most Entertaining Film Actor-Female; Won, National Media Network Film And TV Award Best Actress in Lead Role; Won, Zee Cine Awards for Best Actress and for Critics' Choice Best Actress; Won, Apsara Award for Best Actor-Female; Won, Stardust Awards for Best Drama Actress and Star of the Year-Female; Won, Asian Film Award for Best Actress; Won, IIFA Award for Best Actress; and many more.
Description: Mystery thriller. Kolkata is abuzz with the preparations for the annual Durga Puja festival, as six months pregnant Vidya Venkatesan Bagchi (Vidya Balan) steps off the airplane from London. Her first stop is the local police station to file a missing person report. A police officer, Satyoki "Rana" Sinha (Parambrata Chatterjee), offers to help. Everywhere Vidya turns, no one can remember Arnab. There is no trace of him at the guest house or his workplace. But Vidya will not give up her search. Despite the danger than follows in her footsteps, somewhere in Kolkata she will discover the truth.
Why I Love This Film: Watching a prenant Vidya Bagchi walk through the busy streets of Kolkata causes you to worry for her safety. However, she is focused and can't be stopped. She willingly puts her life on the line despite the many warnings she receives. At the same time, it is easy to fall in love with her because she brings joy and hope into the lives of those who befriend her.
In a 2012 interview on bollyspice.com, Vidya Balan explains that this is a story with many layers:
"...this is a story of Vidya Bagchi who is six months pregnant, whose husband goes missing in Kolkata. Since he has no one else, she comes down to look for him in this condition. She comes to Kolkatta, a city she does not know, people she does not know, a language she does not know and yet she braves it and comes here looking for him only to be told that they have not encountered anyone by the name of Bagchi. She knows that he does exist as she is carrying the biggest proof of his existence, his baby. So who is speaking the truth and who is lying and why? There is a Kahaani in a Kahaani in a Kahaani. There is a story in a story in a story with lots of twists and turns and that’s the mystery of Kahaani for you."
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Award for Best Actress; Zee Cine Award for Best Actress-Critic's Choice; Won, Colors Screen Award for Best Actor-Female; Won, Lions Gold Award for Favorite Actress-Critic's Choice; Won, Apsara Film & Television Producers Award for Best Actress.
Don't know which film to watch first? The following video playlist features the trailers for each of these five films.