While being in India, I gained a huge sense of respect for Vidya. She is one of the few Indian actresses I’ve seen in a long time who truly is comfortable in who she is physically. Granted, she had to gain a lot of weight for her role in Dirty Picture, she still felt no pressure to look like a stick afterwards (the way Aishwariya did after, you know, a NATURAL process called giving birth which usually brings about some weight gain). Of course, she dropped that weight back to just her normal weight, and she still is as beautiful as ever. Let’s not forget that Bollywood is not devoid of the same skinny culture of Hollywood (ahem, the silly articles critisizing Kareena for being back to her normal size 6 rather than being her emaciated size 0).
Ms. Balan is a combination of beauty and actual acting talent, which was most highlighted in her film, Kahaani. While being in India, I had the chance to keep up with Bollywood quite religiously, and Kahaani has been one of the best films I have seen in a very long time. It was one of the few movies that really had such a strong female lead, and one that was devoid of the complementing “hero”. The way Kokata was displayed as a city and the sense of strength and determination that Vidya Balan’s character displayed was refreshing for a Bollywood film.
Femininity was celebrated in such an elegant way through not just Vidya’s character, but also the connection to the Durga Puja festival in Bengal (which I hope to see one day). There were moments where femininity was seen as something vulnerable, but it was later manipulated into strength. I do suggest that you learn a bit about these traditions before watching the movie. Not understanding the Bengal component of it just takes away from a huge part of what makes the movie so rich.
And then, there’s The Dirty Picture. The name itself makes many cringe for its raciness, and sadly, many just pass off Ms. Balan as a dancing “moti” (fat girl). The thing is, the truth about sexuality and the celebration of curves in the film was refreshing, and represented something different about the Indian woman’s body through the South Indian lens (with a North Indian interpretation, of course). The story is inspired by the real life, racy, rebellious South Indian actress Silk Smitha, a role that Ms. Balan carried well both through her body and expressions. Like Silk, Vidya is perfect for the role because no matter what people say about, both women get to where she wants. Of course, Silk’s story is not all glam, and there is some deep-rooted sadness in the film. Some claim it is very similar to that of Marilyn Monroe. And what is even more interesting is Vidya’s ability to actually portray the enjoyment of sex in the film. And yes, even though it is a huge part of her character, it is not forced or tacky as it has been many times in new Bollywood (i.e. overdone Mujras). It is raw, and it is real – real WOMAN that is.
Though, in terms of hero/heroine match up – I would love to see Ms. Balan paired up with Irfan Khan. Thoughts?
::sigh:: Vidya, you make me feel like a woman! Maybe it is that combination of Bengali and South Indian matriarchal goodness in her (generalization acknowledged – but a good one!). Maybe it is her exquisite taste in saris and her ability to do the entire “libas” (fashion) of saris justice! I really do not know, but keep it up 🙂 (okay, I am done now)