Risk-taker Vidya Balan boosts Bollywood's girl power

Fri Jun 14, 2013 1:50pm EDT
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By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI (Reuters) - It's a good time to be Vidya Balan. Indian cinema turned 100 this year and the versatile actress has emerged as the face of Bollywood, earning a spot in an elite nine-member Cannes festival jury headed by filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The 35-year-old actress has picked her way through a minefield of movie roles in recent years, zooming in on strong and diverse female leads that have straddled box-office success and critical acclaim.

Balan, who made her Bollywood debut in 2005, took unusual risks in a male-dominated industry to play an ambitious soft porn actress in "The Dirty Picture" (2011) and a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband in "Kahaani" (Story) last year.

Her next screen bet is "Ghanchakkar" (Crazy), a suspense comedy that opens in Indian cinemas on June 28. Balan stars as the loud-mouthed wife of a bank robber who loses his memory after a heist.

Balan spoke to Reuters about her new film, breaking stereotypes and playing women who embrace their sexuality:

Q: Tell us about your role as the housewife in "Ghanchakkar"?

A: I am hoping that she's not obnoxious but yes, she is loud. There are people who are loud and they are not even aware. This is her take on being modern. She thinks that I'm fashionable but she buys old magazines for half the price from the neighborhood shop. She's a middle-class housewife, cutting corners. She's the kind of person who goes to a mall, and says "this is too expensive, I'll get this stitched from my tailor." What I find interesting is that Raj (director Raj Kumar Gupta) finds humor in situations that are so mundane and every day. Thrillers are his genre but I knew he'd do humor well too. When he came to me with this, I always wanted to do comedy and this was a breath of fresh air.

Q: After "The Dirty Picture" and "Kahaani", are you now the go-to actress for women-centric roles?   Continued...

Jury Member actress Vidya Balan poses on the red carpet as she arrives for the screening of the film "Inside Llewyn Davis" in competition during the 66th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes May 19, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/FILE PHOTO