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Vidya Balan says she has emerged stronger from body image battles

Vidya Balan

I had always heard of how down-to-earth Vidya Balan is. She looked a vision as she sat on the sofa, as she offers me coffee. Soon began our tete-a-tete, and a happy, positive Vidya spoke at length about her upcoming film Hamari Adhuri Kahani, constant body image battles and more. Read on…

You play a victim of domestic abuse in Hamari Adhuri Kahani. What challenges did you face while playing such a character?
To be very honest, for the very first time, this was one role that didn’t emotionally drain me and credit goes to my director Mohit Suri for that. He used to give me that time and space, after performing intense scenes, because he knew I needed it to come out of my character. I never had to ask him for the same because it was already being done. He isn’t the one who likes to discuss a scene in detail, that’s his style. He used to discuss scenes to reassure me and I knew that. Coming to the domestic abuse part, I don’t look it at that way. In the film, Rajkummar Rao (Vidya’s husband in the film) sees me as his property that can be used any way that he likes, so it’s more about that.

You have worked with Emraan Hashmi before in The Dirty Picture and Ghanchakkar, and now, Humari Adhuri Kahaani. How different was it this time around?
With Emraan, now that I have worked with him and know him, there are no walls between us. We are very transparent with each other and know how to work with one another which is why I told Mohit that he (Emraan) and I didn’t need to meet each other before hand to discuss scenes because we already knew how to go about it. In fact, I wanted to meet Rajkummar, as I hadn’t worked with him before. So with Emraan, there’s no awkwardness at all.

There’s a scene in the trailer where Rajkummar slaps you hard. Did he actually do that?
Yes, yes, he did. In fact, I myself told him to just go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? I would slap him back, that’s all (Laughs). And he used to keep calling me Vidya ma’am for the longest time. I told him to start calling me Vidya, which he has finally started doing!

Being comfortable in your skin, you’ve always been an inspiration. But, at times, your weight became a heated topic of discussion. Comment.
There was a time when I used to be on a liquid diet because I had heard that one can lose weight that way. I started puking and falling ill. My mother saw this and finally hammered some sense into me. People come up to me and talk to me about my weight. In fact, just today, someone at lunch told me “You are so thin. On-screen, you don’t look this thin.” I excused myself, came back to my room and had lunch. I don’t understand why someone has to tell you, “You look thin or fat.” When people tell me I’ve lost weight, I don’t take it as a compliment. Now, I don’t even respond to it. I think we have started really obsessing over the way we look. I’m not asking anyone to NOT exercise. You should stay fit.

Do you think actresses have to worry about their weight a lot more than actors do?
Oh very much so. When I was doing Kismat Konnection with Shahid (Kapoor), they asked me to lose weight so that I could match his appearance. The thing that struck me was, they never asked him to change his look, bulk up or something to match my look.

If you had hits like The Dirty Picture and Kahaani, you also had films like Bobby Jasoos and Ghanchakkar. How do you deal with failure?
I was devastated because I had seven successful films before that, including The Dirty Picture, there was No One Killed Jessica and others. I didn’t understand why this was happening because all my films were doing well, people were praising me and suddenly, it stopped. I pray a lot generally and that point I even stopped praying. But during that time, my family really helped me. Talking to my family helped me a great deal and my sister and brother-in-law were there for me as well.