On how she keeps herself authentic in the Bollywood fishbowl, Actress said that her family is always there for her and that acting is just her job, not her identity.
At the We The Women event in Jaipur, Vidya Balan opened up about her experiences in the film industry, including how she was pressured to fit into a certain box and the constant rumors about her being pregnant.
During a conversation with Barkha Dutt, the two discussed topics ranging from stereotypes and pay parity to the representation of women on screen and the way scripts are written for women. The two women spoke about all things Bollywood.
“When I entered the film industry, there was a lot of pressure to be a certain kind of Actress,” Vidya Balan said, highlighting the difference between how women and men are treated in the industry.
She also recalled an incident where a director asked her to lose weight for a role, despite struggling with hormonal issues that made weight loss difficult. In response, Vidya refused to lose weight and opted out of the film. “I’m opting out of the film. Because if you wanted a different body, you shouldn’t have come to me.”
Focusing on how women downplay their own success, Vidya explains how earlier she used to constantly adjust on sets. “If the other actor had to leave early, I would be okay with doing my close ups last, I would be okay with settling for the smaller room, or the van which was parked a little away from shoot.”
She further said how there was a continuous need of being liked and accepted. “I needed to please everyone, I needed to overcompensate because I’m successful.”
When asked about whether she was defensive about her success, Vidya responded saying, “The idea in the industry is you don’t want to threaten the men. You don’t want to threaten the status quo, because that’s what you grew up learning in any case.”
The ‘Tumhari Sulu’ film actor also shared how for the longest she’s struggled with having authority and exuding power even with her staff.
Vidya spoke about her role in The Dirty Picture which helped her embrace her body and to love herself. “Here, in the size I was, I was made to flaunt my curves and my love handles and everything brazenly,” she said. “Don’t let anyone diminish the way we look because we don’t fit into a certain mold. You are beautiful the way you are and there is only one of you. So you need to celebrate who you are. Because if we don’t, no one will.” She also calls her self love journey a work in process.
When asked about how she keeps herself authentic in the Bollywood fishbowl, Vidya said that her family is always there for her and that acting is just her job, not her identity. At home, “I am just Vidya not Vidya Balan. Irrespective of whatever happens with my movies or social media, my family sees me the same way.”
On social media trolling and all the advice she got on her body from the industry Vidya said, “The moment I stopped letting someone comment on my body I just felt so free. I just felt like what is stopping me from feeling like I’m the best version of myself?”
While the conversation revolved around the film industry, self love, success and power. The less talked issue about female centric films also took center stage at We The Women. A time when Bollywood films are not doing so well at the box office, the one to take the beating are the women-led films, according to the Shakuntla Devi actor.
“There’s a certain perception that there’s a bigger chance that the male lead films will work compared to the women-led films because that is still a new phenomenon. So maybe we (directors) don’t want to take a chance,” Vidya adds frustratingly.
Disagreeing to such a perception Ms. Balan said that more than ever, it’s been proved today that no matter who the hero of your film is, people are only coming in for content and entertainment.
Recalling another misogynistic comment during her film promotions Vidya said “People often ask me if he (Siddharth Roy Kapur) has a say in which films I choose” to which Vidya replied that, “I don’t have a say in what he’s choosing. He doesn’t have a say in what I’m choosing. It’s as simple as that.”
Vidya Balan also presented the Women of Impact award to Lieutenant Colonel Anila Khatri and Major Abhilasha Barak, recognizing their exceptional achievements in the army. The award was part of the H.E.R (Hope, Empower and Rise) awards, which celebrates and uplifts women who are making a positive impact.
The We The Women event 2023, which focused on Glamour, Gravitas, and Grassroots, brought together renowned personalities from various sectors for a day full of engaging and insightful conversations.