Vidya Balan – They didn’t like my face

My childhood was spent in Palakkad district of Kerala. Later we moved to Mumbai. I was very fond of watching films since childhood. During school days, I used to go out to see the film as soon as I got a chance. Shabana Azmi and Madhuri Dixit were my favorite actresses. Seeing them, when would I get a chance to show such an act. Our family was middle class. Mom and Dad knew that it would not be easy to make a place in the film world, but they never stopped me from dreaming. At the age of 16, I got a chance to work in a TV serial. The name of the serial was Hum Paanch. The serial was very much discussed. My dreams had wings. Now my destination was Bollywood. But my family had no connection with the film world, so I knew that I would have to face difficulties.

I started working in advertising while studying at Mumbai University. I participated in many workshops at Prithvi Theater. Performed many stage shows. I was looking for work in Bollywood, but this was not possible without my acquaintance. My struggle was on. Meanwhile, I also worked in many music videos. I was getting recognition through advertisements and stage shows and due to this I got offers from Malayalam film Chakram. I said ‘yes’ without thinking. This was my first film. I was very happy. The shooting of the film started. Meanwhile, I signed about 12 more Malayali films. It felt at that time that everything was about to change. Everything was going well when suddenly the producers of Chakram announced to close the film. I was speechless. What has happened? What will happen to my career? Did not get any response. As if it was closed, as if all the doors were closed to me.

With the closure of Chakram, I was also excluded from the remaining 12 Malayali films. Nobody was willing to work with me. I met many Malayali filmmaker-directors. But nobody gave me work. Some of me started feeling wretched. They felt that the cycle was closed because of me. Everyone started rejecting me. Someone said, your face is not worth the film, then someone said that you do not know how to dance. One director said, “You are fat, we cannot take you.” There was disappointment from all sides. Only parents were with me in this difficult period. Everybody was rejecting me, but they were sure that I am a good actress and will prove it one day.

During this time I turned to Tamil films, but to no great success. Failures such as were not ready to give up. Then I started focusing on my shortcomings. Especially to improve her look, she lost several kilos. Also took fitness training. I learned Bharatanatyam and Kathak dance. It was a difficult period. Meanwhile, I got a job in a Bengali drama Bhalo Theco. I was the lead heroine in it. My performance was well received in the Bhalo contracts. For this I got the title of Best Actress. Impressed by my performance, director Pradeep Sarkar offered me the film Parineeta. Prior to this, I had worked with Pradeep Sarkar in several advertising films. I call him Dada. Dada was sure that I would be able to play my role in Parineeta very well. But perhaps filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra had some doubts.

My test ran for about five months before the final entry in the film. I was doing a scene many times. Can’t understand what the director wanted? After repeated retakes, I started to think that maybe they don’t like my face. I was quite nervous. Meanwhile my cameraman explained- Vidya, you just pay attention to your character. Forget that your test period is going on. Then I realized that perhaps I am not able to focus on my acting because of fear of failure. Then I forgot everything and immersed myself completely in my role. It had been five months during this period. It was not yet decided whether I would get the job of lead actress in Parineeta. One day I went to see a concert. That day was a holiday from shooting. Meanwhile, Pradeep Da’s call came. He said that Mr. Chopra wants to talk to you. I thought, maybe I got fired from the film. I spoke to Chopra sir fearfully. He said- Vidya, you are the heroine of Parineeta. I have given this character to you with great confidence. Hopefully you will live up to this belief. This was my first Bollywood film. For this film I received the title of Best Actress. Parineeta changed my life. Now the producers-directors didn’t have trouble with my face. One by one I got offers for big films.

I acted in films like Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Ishqiya, Dirty Picture, No One Killed Jessica and I am glad that the audience liked my performance. A lot of awards were received. Today, looking back, I feel how important it is to believe in myself. Trusting yourself is the first step to success. If you have self-confidence, then the paths become automatic. Yes, in times when there is a tough time, the spirits get broken. Many times people start cursing luck in frustration, but I think that God helps you when you are determined and make constant efforts in the right direction. We should not be afraid of people’s taunts or criticism. People’s attitude towards you starts to change with success. After Parineeta, Paa and Lage Raho Munna Bhai, suddenly the attitude of people changed towards me. They started saying, we knew from the beginning that you are a good actress. I have seen people change over time. Therefore, I believe that we should wait for the right opportunity and the right time without losing patience.

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