Let’s pick up the pieces from where we left – the time when Vidya Balan, who was getting noticed in Hum Paanch, had to give up acting in TV serials on her father’s insistence as he wanted her to complete her studies first. Though Vidya says that she felt bad telling the serial’s producer (Ekta Kapoor) about opting out of Hum Paanch, she, however, didn’t feel bad about giving up a TV serial as the medium was not exactly her cup of tea. For someone, who was not even getting a decent role in television serials, she was actually dreaming about making it big in films! Imagine!
Before we move on, here’s a picture gallery how she used to look during her Hum Paanch days:
An observer watching her at that point of time would marvel at her audacity. But nothing stopped the podgy Vidya from dreaming about becoming the lead heroine of a film, one day.
Vidya told me once in the course of an interview that if you want something real bad, the Universe conspires to make it a reality. How many times have we heard this gem of a philosophy from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist being quoted; the most recent being its translation in Shah Rukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om. But Vidya seemed to have lived it – she nurtured the dream — a dream so intense that she lived the dream day in and day out.
While studying in St Xavier’s College, she kept doing advertisements on the side. By the time, she appeared for her Masters (MA) in Sociology, she had already done close to 92 ad films. A few more and she could have made a century then! Now you know why Vidya Balan was absent from the film and television circuit for almost five years after her debut. There’s more… but before that here’s a well known ad that she shot during that period.
Then came the news, she was waiting for such a long time to hear. She finally got a film offer — her first break in cinema for a Malayalam film. It turned out to be the most difficult, and perhaps, the darkest days of her career. There was a time when some of the best names (from the Tamil and Malayalam cinema) said that Vidya was the worst find in Indian cinema, and would sink without the slightest trace. There were numerous occasions when she’d end up crying inconsolably and consider giving up her career. But something in her urged her to continue. The actress, gifted with the most expressive eyes in the film industry, stopped looking into the mirror. Today when she looks back, she shudders at the experience, saying that no newcomer should ever go through what she faced.
But if one industry closed its door to her, another welcomed her with open arms. We will go through that phase of hers, which will give you a peek into the reason behind Vidya’s love for anything Bengali.
Vidya Balan: Jinxed, ugly and cannot act
It was during the shooting of an ad film that Vidya was approached by a model coordinator, who informed her that the hero of a Malayalam film was looking for a newcomer who could pass off as a traditional Malayalee heroine. Mohanlal — one of the biggest south stars — chose her from one of the ads. Vidya jumped at the offer and though it to be her big break.
The movie started and Vidya suddenly ‘arrived’ in Malayalam cinema. The local Malayalam papers hailed her as the new find opposite Mohanlal. Suddenly everybody was talking about her. By the time the film went on the floor, reputed Malayalam producers started queuing up to sign her in their film. Six months into shooting the movie with Mohanlal, Vidya Balan was signed up and promised the the lead role in 16 more films by at least eight filmmakers. Buzz was that four more Tamil films were in the offing for her. Just when it seemed Vidya had reached her pot of gold, everything started going wrong, horribly wrong.
The Mohanlal saga
When Vidya Balan began shooting for Chakram, the director and the lead started having problems. There were a lot of speculations about problems between Mohanlal and Kamal, the director of the film, but most reports attributed it to unplanned finances. Mohanlal was told that the film’s financiers were all there, but in reality some of them had walked out owing to differences with the director. The actor confronted the director and threatened to walk out if the film’s finances were not in place. But when he realized that nothing was being done on that front, he made a decision that was unheard of in Malayalam cinema – Mohanlal walked out of the project.
It sent a shockwave among the Malayalam film fraternity because shelving a film was unheard of those days, especially a film starring Mohanlal, who’s a demi god in South. Since nobody wanted to blame the director for what happened, the highly superstitious filmmaker fraternity of Malayalam cinema found a perfect scapegoat in Vidya Balan and dubbed her as jinxed!
A series of articles appeared in the paper where numerous Malayalam producers stated that bad luck had befallen a Mohanlal film as the lady, who’s considered Lakshmi, brings with her the fortune of a film. Even though no one took her name directly, all fingers pointed in Vidya Balan’s direction as she was the heroine of the shelved film. And Mohanlal said nothing about the film, not even in support of the newcomer Vidya Balan, who faced the brunt of the film being shelved.
Years later, Vidya’s father would recount the horror in front of Vidya while talking to a television channel. Look at the sadness in Vidya’s eyes when her father was narrating how the Malayalam film industry had rejected her.
End of the Malayalam cinema road
The unusual silence of Mohanlal and coupled with the tag ‘jinxed’ brought Vidya Balan’s career in Malayalam cinema to a standstill. She was instantly replaced from all the other 12 films that she had signed. (As you heard in the video above) Every day, Vidya Balan and her family would wake up to find that a Malayalam film which had signed her as the lead heroine, went to another heroine. A desperate Vidya turned to Tamil Cinema to resurrect her career. But if Mohanlal kept quiet while she was getting a drubbing in Malayalam film industry, then K Balachander — one of the biggest names in Tamil cinema — was furious over the choice of the heroine for his film. He got her replaced for being a good-for-nothing-actor and not being good-looking enough for his film!
Look at who called Vidya Balan a bad actor! Balachander, a nine-time National award winner, a recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke award and the chairman of the National Film Awards. It was enough to bring any newbie’s dream to become an actor to a grinding halt. But Vidya didn’t give up.
Tamil films? Not happening too
Vidya Balan’s first Tamil film was N. Linguswamy’s Run, where they got her replaced by Meera Jasmine, after shooting the first schedule with her. She then signed up for another film, which was meant to be a romantic film, but to her horror turned out to be sex-com. She opted out of the film immediately because sex coms in Tamil are of a kind that embarrassed her. People who see Tamil cinema and have seen the sex coms, will know why Vidya opted out. Apparently she was never told that the film was a sex-comedy. Her third Tamil film was called Manasellam, where she again got replaced by Trisha Krishnan. A bilingual film Kalari Vikraman, for which she shot, failed to get a theatrical release and got shelved. She’ll probably looks back at the year 2003 as the darkest days of her career.
A broken Vidya returned from regional films to Mumbai and decided to give another shot in Bollywood. Though her dreams of becoming a film heroine still remained, she was broken from within: she started believing that she wasn’t beautiful enough.
Make no mistake, Bollywood was not going to be the end of her trials. In fact, they had just begun. Watch out for Vidya Balan’s round three of struggle, that is, the final post about Vidya Balan’s struggles tomorrow.
Before we go, here is an ad that she did after coming back to Mumbai. Happy watching… and waiting for part three of the post.
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Link for another post on Vidya Balan -> Click Here
Link for the first part of the series on Vidya Balan -> Click here
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