After enthralling audiences with Sherni and Shakuntala Devi last year, Vidya Balan has now returned with Jalsa. The intriguing drama also features Shefali Shah and has been directed by Tumhari Sulu director Suresh Triveni. Even though it’s 14 years since the Paa actor made her debut, she mentioned how with every film, she feels like she is delivering a baby and as the due date comes near, she wants to get done with it. “You are like ab bas hogaya (laughs). There is always excitement but you just want the film to be out soon,” Vidya shared in an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com.
The title of the film has sparked numerous debates, with people even calling it Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘house biopic’. Laughing at the reference, the actor wondered who they thought among her and Shefali qualified for the part. Jalsa as one would know is used as a term for a celebration or a bash. Given the film looks ‘serious’ we quizzed Vidya on the justification of the title.
“Firstly, I want to say that the word serious has a very boring connotation. Our film thus is anything but serious. It’s intense, gripping, engaging, and all of that. Jalsa is normally used as a term for the coming together of many people. It’s used as an irony of sorts in this film. The accident affects many people and not just the driver and the one who comes under the wheel,” she shared.
Many have even drawn parallels with Vidya Balan’s earlier film No One Killed Jessica. Astounded by the same, she said, “Not at all. Maybe because it has two women, or an investigation is going on. But they are both very different films. There is no comparison.”
Talking more about her character Maya in the film, the actor shared that ‘she is very difficult to read’. A successful journalist, Maya is a self-made woman who prides herself in bringing the truth to her audience. “She is thus considered a very dependable voice. However, her self-image is shattered after the accident. What’s interesting to me is that for all of us we feel we’ll react to a situation but unless we are in it we don’t really know. Maya thrusts the mike at everyone and now the lens has turned towards her. The quandary that she is in, was fascinating to explore.”
While her co-star Shefali Shah had to wait for long to get meaty roles, Vidya has been the hero of most of her films. On asked if having started off as a leading lady helps in the kind of roles that comes one’s way and she was quick to say, “Not at all. People are quite shameless and will come to you with everything. Sometimes I go, ‘bhaisaab but aap mere paas kyu aaye ho (Brother, why have you come to me)? Hero ka role de rahe ho (Will you give me the hero’s role)? They just have no qualms and want to take a chance. I am not saying that I will only play the most important role but I need something that I can dig my teeth into.”
The National Award-winning actor further said that she doesn’t consider waiting for good projects a struggle. Sharing that she feels fortunate having entered the industry when she was 26 years, an age when most female actors’ careers slowed down back in the day. “I came in with an author-backed role and that made all the difference. I feel fortunate to have gotten this kind of work. Of course, there is always trial and error, ups and downs but I am glad for every opportunity as it has taken me a step forward. Whether it worked or not I am proud of all the work that’s put out there. Also, with time the roles have only gotten better and more varied. When I started, people may have said she is the only one doing it. I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. But today, every female actor is playing these strong parts. Look at Shefali, she is probably the busiest actor after she crossed 40, and with the right kind of work on her plate,” shared Vidya.
With the kind of work that Vidya Balan has in her kitty, she can easily be termed as the flag-bearer of female-oriented films in contemporary times. So does that make her feel the pressure with most women in the business looking up to her? She says, “We are in our 40s, we don’t take pressure, we give it to others.” Calling herself grateful once again, the actor said, “Yes, there is a certain standard and people have expectations. But honestly, I don’t take any pressure and would continue to do exactly what I have always been doing.”
Also starring Rohini Hattangady, Iqbal Khan, Vidhatri Bandi, Srikant Mohan, Shafeen Patel and Surya Kasibhatla, Jalsa will stream on Amazon Prime Video.