After Parineeta Vidya looking for roles of substance...

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

imageMumbai, June 21 (IANS) Vidya Balan, the petite actress who has won accolades for her performance in the Saratchandra classic "Parineeta", says she is stunned by the success of the film.

She almost pinches herself, and then stops. "I really can't take credit for the impact of my performance in 'Parineeta'. If someone as awesome as Mr Amitabh Bachchan thinks I'm a face to watch, I feel I've gone way beyond everyone's expectations, including mine."

Vidya, Saratchandra's Lolita come to life in Pradeep Sarkar's film, is a Tamilian Iyer with roots in Kerala but has made Mumbai her mecca now.

"Dada (Pradeep Sarkar) was very sure he wanted only me for the role. His confidence really boosted mine. I had done 80-odd ads by the time I came to an acting career. He was sure no one else could play Lolita. The producer, Vinod Chopra, wanted a well-known actress. He rightly thought she'd add to the film's commercial value.

"I had to undergo several auditions before I was finalised. That did my ego a lot of good," laughs Vidya with a tinkle in her tone that reminds you of how close she was to the role of Lolilta.

"The whole ambience created in 'Parineeta' was such that I simply had to slip into the role without much effort. I'm often asked if my co-stars Sanjay Dutt and Saif Ali Khan intimidated me. Frankly, I was the pampered one on the sets. I was never made to feel like a newcomer."

Vidya has become almost like a resident heroine in Vinod Chopra Films. She's part of Chopra's sequel to "Munnabhai M.B.B.S." and also his next directorial venture "Yagna" with Amitabh Bachchan in the lead.

"Luckily for me, my next release will be 'Munnabhai versus The Mahatma' where I've a role completely antithetical to 'Parineeta'."

In the film Vidya plays a cool radio jockey. "And I dress up like any other metropolitan girl. Why can't girls in our films dress up in character? Most of the time they're shown wearing clothes that don't suit the character."

Not being a stranger to success, Vidya is very sure about her dos and don'ts. "If people have liked me in 'Parineeta' it's because I'm projected as typically Indian. I won't try to shrug off that image just to be like the other girls. I'm aware that I'm perceived as demure and dignified after 'Parineeta'. And that's an image I'm happy with."

Her experience in the ad world has served her purpose well.

"Yes I've done around 80 ads. Strangely, the ones where a scooter has figured have always been noticed. I wonder why! I was never afraid of over-exposure because I never planned a career in films. I did what came naturally to me.

"After college when I started getting offers to do ads I just did them because they seemed right. Now when I'm in films I'm doing what seems right at this stage of my life."

Vidya's elder sister and brother-in-law are also a part of the ad world. "Sometimes I feel I've two sets of parents. My sister and brother-in-law are more particular about how I go about my life than even my parents. It feels good to lead a sheltered life. Out here in showbiz everyone needs a support system."

Vidya's tryst with cinema seems to have started a bit later than normal. "But I'm not here to be a teenybopper heroine. I'm looking for roles of substance," says the multi-lingual heroine who can speak Malayalam ("I was offered a film in that language"), Tamil, Hindi and English.

"And after 'Parineeta' I can also speak Bengali quite well. I've spent so much time with Bengalis I feel I am one."

What does she feel about "Parineeta" being constantly compared with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Devdas"?

"That was bound to be. The same author... same ambience... a similar romantic theme... I loved Madhuri Dixit in 'Devdas'. I'm a huge fan of hers. If I can conduct my career with half her dignity and grace I'd have achieved more than what I had thought."