Starting this new series where actors talk about the one role that impacted them the most with the game-changing actress Vidya Balan, talking about the role that changed her life
All of 44, Vidya Balan has seen her career go through more phases than most actors twice her age. She started in television before moving to Bengali cinema and finally making her Bollywood debut when she was 27, which many consider ‘late’ in the filmdom. Since then, she has given 100-crore hits, starred in critically-acclaimed films, and played solo lead in many movies as well.
But which was the role that turned it around for Vidya, in her own mind? Many would suggest her Hindi debut Parineeta or her acclaimed performance in Bhool Bhulaiyaa. But Vidya believes the role that changed her life – and the life of many actresses in Bollywood – was of Silk in the 2011 hit The Dirty Picture.
“I definitely think The Dirty Picture is a role that changed not just my life but the narrative of the Hindi film heroine,” says the actress. The film, inspired by the life of screen siren Silk Smitha, saw Vidya play a glamorous role for the first time as she took on a so-called bold subject with panache. While many doubted if a ‘serious’ actress like Vidya could play the effervescent Silk, Vidya herself was never worried. She recalls, “I knew I could play that part and I was completely convinced about the film.”
Directed by Milan Luthria, the film grossed over Rs 117 crore, becoming the first female-led Hindi film to enter the 100-crore club. And Vidya says that the success of the film paved the way for her and other actresses to be considered a viable proposition at the box office. “Its success changed something because suddenly the female actor began to be seen as a saleable proposition. Initially, it was me who was being seen like that but that started a sort of phase were slowly people began to invest more in the writing, making, and telling of female stories. It has changed the game,” says Vidya.
The Dirty Picture also starred Emraan Hashmi, Naseeruddin Shah, and Tushar Kapoor. The film won Vidya several awards, including the National Award for Best Actress. The actress went on to deliver another female-led hit the following year in Kahaani, paving the way for actresses like Kangana Ranaut and Alia Bhatt to follow suit in the years to come.