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`It's a dream come true'

RANA SIDDIQUI

Vidhu Vinod Chopra's sensitive portrayal of women made Vidya Balan sign `Eklavya,' which releases today.


Before shooting, I read books on Rajasthan. My role becomes important only when I get entangled in the family's web of controversies.



NO AIRS: Vidya Balan in Eklavya: The Royal Guard.

She stands unique among a clutch of actors in a hurry to answer each question with a fake accent, enough to put the interviewer off. She is in no hurry to parry uncomfortable questions. And she has no airs. All this and more made Vidhu Vinod Chopra sign her for his three big films, `Parineeta,' `Lage Raho Munna Bhai' and now `Eklavya: The Royal Guard.' (We have learnt that he is a very disciplined producer/director). Incidentally, with `Eklavya' Chopra makes a comeback as a director after six years.

Vidya says about the film, "There was no question of `choosing' this film. While signing `Parineeta' I went for a contract of three films with Vidhu, irrespective of the role. But, frankly I always wanted to be directed by him because I had seen `Parinda,' `1942 - A Love Story' and `Khamoshi - The Musical.' I was impressed with his kind of insightful filmmaking, and also because of his sensitive portrayal of women. So, there was a burning desire in me to work with him. And when Pradeep Sarkar (director of `Parineeta') told me Vidhu was the producer of this film, it felt like a dream come true."

She was not made to sign the contract "blindly," she emphasises. "Before narrating the script he gave me the choice to disagree too," says Vidya, a chuckle evident in her tone.

Pivotal, not lengthy

`Eklavya: The Royal Guard,' for which she had completed shooting even before `Lage Raho Munna Bhai,' is the story of a royal family in Devigarh Fort in Jaipur. Amitabh Bachchan plays the title role.

Saif Ali Khan, who plays prince Harshwardhan, and Jackie Shroff, who plays king Jyotiwardhan Rana, share screen space with him.

Vidya plays Rajeshwari alias Rajjo, daughter of a chauffeur, a close confidante of the queen Suhasini Devi played by Sharmila Tagore.

She strikes a rapport with the mentally challenged princess played by Raima Sen.

She is also the childhood love of the prince, Harshwardhan.

About the role, she says, "The focus is on me only when I am with the queen, the princess or shown harbouring secret love for the prince. That way, because of the social hierarchy in this film, unlike `familiarity' in `Parineeta,' there is a certain shyness in admitting love. Since I belong to a less privileged background in the film, I didn't have to behave in a `royal' manner. But while shooting in Rajasthan, I realised that whether royal or not, the State has a lot of social hierarchy.

"There is a certain code of conduct one has to follow. Before shooting, I read books on Malwas, Kathwards, etc. My role becomes important only when I get entangled in this family's web of controversies."

We just saw Vidya in Mani Ratnam's "Guru" being almost wasted as a specially-abled girl, playing Madhavan's wife. It portrays her in just two shots, why she marries Madhavan who plays a journalist and then shown dead!

The mention of the role pains her, yet she manages to hide it with great dignity. "It was a beautiful role and seemed quite lengthy when we shot. I especially went to multi-neurosis centres to play a disabled. I practised on a wheelchair. Believe me, it is such a humbling experience to meet them... My role was edited a lot. People complained that they couldn't find the `link' between my disability and death shown abruptly. But I think Mani Ji knows what was best for the film."

Vidya knows many languages apart from Hindi and English. Hailing from Palakkad, she is well versed in Bengali, Tamil, and Malayalam. "We speak a mix of Malyalam and Tamil at home, but I was in love with Hindi. My father subscribed to Navbharat Times. I would read it aloud every day without fail. I owe my good Hindi to this newspaper.

"I fell in love with Bengali when I saw Satyajit Ray's films during my schooldays. So, when I got the Lokpuruskar Award for my debut film in Bengali `Bhalo Theko,' I was on cloud nine though it wasn't a Ray film," shares Vidya.

She even signed a film by Rituparno Ghosh, which couldn't take off. "This year, hopefully it will," she says.

In fact the films she has signed are indeed interesting.


Top of the list is Shaji Karun's `Suryamukhi.' She plays the woman in legendary painter Raja Ravi Verma's life who is evident in all his portraits. "I wish it happens. I haven't heard from him for long time," she rues.

Similar is the fate with Deepa Mehta's `Stella.' "She contacted me for this role once and I haven't heard from her since then. I don't even know what the story is," she confesses. If she plays Ajay Devgan's wife in Raj Kumar Santoshi's `Halla Bol' which she says she signed because of the "strength of the role than the length", there is one `Chandramukhi' waiting to be shot. In this film she plays the title role of the dancer with a split personality.

"I learnt Bharatanatyam in my childhood while I learnt Kathak to play this role," she says. Reviving Ajanta Ellora's glory is the film `Beehad,' which she says is "a year away."

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