Full Biography of Actress Vidya Balan
Vidya Balan was born on January 1, 1978 in Ottapalam, a town in the Palakkad District of Kerala, to P. R. Balan, Vice President of ETC India, and Saraswathy Balan, a homemaker.
According to Balan, they speak "a mix of Tamil and Malayalam" at home, but she is also well versed in Hindi, Marathi, English and Bengali. Her sister, Priya Balan, and brother-in-law are both in advertising.
She did her schooling at Mumbai's St. Anthony Girls' High School, and later attended St. Xavier's College where she pursued a bachelor's degree in sociology. Following her graduation, she pursued a master's degree in sociology from the University of Mumbai. Balan wanted to pursue a career in film from a young age and describes actors Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil as her inspirations. Her parents were supportive of her decision to become an actor, but encouraged her too complete her education first. At the age of sixteen, Balan auditioned for and starred briefly in Ekta Kapoor's sitcom Hum Paanch, as Radhika, a bespectacled nerd. Following the success of the show, Balan refused Anurag Basu's offer to star as the lead of a television soap opera, as she wanted to make a career in film.
While pursuing her master degree, Balan auditioned for and won the lead role in the Malayalam film Chakram, opposite Mohanlal. However, due to production difficulties, the film was shelved. She was subsequently signed for the Tamil film, Run (2002), but after completing the first schedule, she was dropped and replaced by Meera Jasmine, for undisclosed reasons. She was also the first choice for the female lead in the film Manasellam (2003), but was replaced by Trisha Krishnan during production. Due to these reasons, film producers labelled her as a "jinx" and replaced her in all the twelve films that she had signed.
After failing to start a film career, Balan appeared in around sixty television commercials and agreed to act in music videos for Euphoria and Shubha Mudgal, a majority of which were directed by Pradeep Sarkar. However, in 2003, she was signed by Goutam Halder for her first starring role in the Bengali independent film Bhalo Theko, for which she won the Anandalok Puroshkar for Best Actress.
In 2005, Balan made her Hindi film debut with Pradeep Sarkar's musical drama Parineeta. Before being cast for the film, Balan had to undergo extensive auditions for a period of 6 months. The film, an adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's novel of the same name, narrated the love story of an idealist Lalita (Balan) and an egoist Shekhar (Saif Ali Khan), the son of a capitalist businessman. Upon release, her performance in the film was acclaimed by critics, with Derek Elley from Variety writing, " An acting revelation is Tamil newcomer Balan, whose devoted but dignified Lalita is the picture's heart and soul." She eventually won a Best Debut (Female) award and received a nomination for Best Actress at the Filmfare Awards ceremony.
The following year, Balan appeared opposite Sanjay Dutt in Rajkumar Hirani's musical comedy film Lage Raho Munna Bhai. She portrayed the role of Jhanvi, a radio-jockey and the love interest of the protagonist Munna Bhai. In order to prepare for her role, she met with a couple of radio jockeys and watched them at work. Once again her performance was well received by critics and the film became the second highest grossing film of the year with a net total of 118.57 crore (US$21.46 million).
In 2007, Balan featured in a supporting role in Mani Ratnam's semi-biographic drama Guru as a woman suffering from multiple sclerosis. The film, which starred Mithun Chakraborty, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and R. Madhavan in leading roles, performed well at the box office. However, film critics Khalid Mohamed and Raja Sen noted that "[Balan's] talent was wasted" in a "minuscule role". Her next release was Nikhil Advani's multi-starrer romance Salaam-e-Ishq: A Tribute To Love opposite John Abraham. The film, which narrated six individual love stories, saw Balan play the role of a television reporter, Tehzeeb Hussain, suffering from a memory loss condition. The film, which was a critical and commercial failure, however generated positive reviews for Balan with Sukanya Verma of Rediff.com writing, "Vidya's transformation from a self-assured working woman to a helpless, vulnerable person is superb." She subsequently featured in Vidhu Vinod Chopra's suspense thriller Eklavya: The Royal Guard alongside Amitabh Bachchan, Boman Irani, Sharmila Tagore, Saif Ali Khan and Sanjay Dutt. The film, which flopped commercially, met with positive critical reviews and was selected as India's official entry to the Oscars for the 80th Academy Awards.
Balan next appeared in a leading role in Sajid Khan's comedy Heyy Babyy as Isha Sahni, a deceived, single mother. The film which also featured Akshay Kumar, Ritesh Deshmukh and Fardeen Khan emerged as a box-office success with a worldwide gross of 83.68 crore (US$15.15 million),, but critics were negative about the film as well as Balan's performance. Critic Rajeev Masand mentioned her as the "sore thumb" of the film, while members of the media criticized her wardrobe and make-up. Her final film in 2007 was Priyadarshan's psychological thriller Bhool Bhulaiyaa alongside Shiney Ahuja, Akshay Kumar and Ameesha Patel. Her performance in the film as a woman suffering from dissociative identity disorder was praised with Taran Adarsh commenting, "Vidya is splendid, especially in the second hour". The film eventually earned 84 crore (US$15.2 million) worldwide and among several nominations, fetched Balan her second Filmfare nomination in the Best Actress category.
In 2008, she featured in a small role in Rajkumar Santoshi's male-dominated social film Halla Bol alongside Ajay Devgan and Pankaj Kapur. The film was a reference to "Jan Natya Manch", whose leader, the theater activist, Safdar Hashmi was killed by political rivals while performing a street play by the same name in 1989. Upon release, the film as well as her performance received a mixed response. Her next role was in Aziz Mirza's romantic comedy Kismat Konnection opposite Shahid Kapoor. Balan received mixed comments from critics for her performance of Priya, with critic Sonia Chopra writing, "Vidya gives [an] endearing performance, but is made to look downright drab. The haircut is unflattering, the make-up too plain, the clothes usually in off-white or brown. Plus the character is repetitive and reminds us of the one she played in Lage Raho Munnabhai." The film eventually underperformed at the box-office.
In 2009, Balan played the role of Vidya, a young independent gynecologist who is also a single-mother struggling with her 12-year-old son's progeria syndrome, in Paa. Amitabh Bachchan played the role of Auro, Balan's son while Abhishek Bachchan played the titular character. The film was received well by critics and so was Balan's performance. Sukanya Verma wrote, "Vidya Balan slips into the skin of a doting mom with such ease without the mollycoddling tone Bollywood's young mothers often resort to. Balan is poignant yet restrained and projects an impressive figure of grace and integrity, reminiscent of Dimple Kapadia in the 1980s."; Nikhat Kazmi from The Times of India noted, "Balan lends a rare dignity to the image of the Bollywood mom. With her quiet grace and controlled emotions, she is Mother Courage incarnate." Her portrayal ultimately won her a Filmfare Award for Best Actress and a Star Screen Award for Best Actress, among other awards. The film became a major turning point in her career and brought a new level of seriousness to her work.
Balan followed the success of Paa with Vishal Bhardwaj's drama Ishqiya, directed by debutante Abhishek Chaubey and co-starring Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi and Salman Shahid. Balan's role was that of Krishna Verma, a sexually manipulative abandoned wife. Her character was described as a femme fatale, and her performance was applauded by critics, with NDTV's Anupama Chopra writing, "Balan’s smoldering looks scorch the screen even as her eyes hint at tragedy. She proves that she is miles ahead of the cookie cutter Barbie dolls that clutter Bollywood and that sensuality has very little to do with showing skin." A review carried by The Telegraph mentioned, " Vidya makes Krishna such a fascinating character by never letting you know what’s going on in her head. She sucks one man’s thumb, she dresses the other man’s wound. She puts her head on one man’s shoulder, she draws the other man to her bed. In your bid to find out who she really wants, you will fall in love with Krishna." Her work in the film brought her several more awards the following year including a Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress and a second consecutive Star Screen Award for Best Actress.
Balan's first release of 2011 was Raj Kumar Gupta's semi-biographic thriller No One Killed Jessica alongside Rani Mukerji. The film, based on the Jessica Lal murder case saw Balan play the first real-life character of her career, that of Sabrina Lal, Jessica's reticent sister, in search for justice. While preparing for her role, Balan avoided meeting Lal on the insistent of Gupta. She said, "Sabrina is an icon today. He (Gupta) said that the Sabrina we see today is different from the Sabrina a decade ago, when she had just lost her sister. This story begins at the time when Jessica is murdered." No One Killed Jessica as well as Balan's work earned positive reviews, with Anupama Chopra commenting, "Unlike her glamorous, party-girl sister [Jessica], Sabrina is painfully plain and sober. Wearing drab clothes and spectacles, Vidya is a portrait of anguish and strength." The film had a worldwide gross of 49 crore (US$8.87 million) and was noted for being a commercial success, despite the absence of a male lead. Balan eventually earned another Filmfare nomination in the Best Actress category. In March 2011, a retrospective of Balan's films was held in Australia, for the film festival, Bollywood & Beyond.
December 2011 saw the release of Ekta Kapoor's The Dirty Picture, a biopic based on the life and death of the controversial Indian actress Silk Smitha. Balan was cast as Silk, who was—in Balan's words—"known for her brazenness and in-your-face sexuality." She described the role as the "boldest" she had ever played, one that "required a lot of mental preparation," and in order to look the part, she gained 12 kg. The film opened to major critical acclaim, and Balan received unanimous praise for her portrayal, which several reviewers regarded as her best performance to date. Khalid Mohamed observed, "She’s extraordinary: gutsy, consistently in character and unafraid of exposing her darker side. Here’s the kind of complex performance which you haven’t evidenced in years and years. This award-winning act bookended by her contrasting portrayal in No One Killed Jessica, reaffirms her as the finest artiste on the scene today." Her director Milan Luthria described her as the contemporary claimant of the "sex-symbol" title, and compared her "voluptuousness" to the likes of yesteryear actresses Sridevi and Vyjayanthimala. The film was eventually declared a blockbuster with a total gross of 117 crore (US$21.18 million), emerging as the biggest opening ever for a women-oriented film in the history of Indian Cinema. Balan won her first National Film Award for Best Actress, a second Filmfare Award for Best Actress and a third consecutive Screen Award for Best Actress that year along with several other awards in the same category for her performance in the film.
In March 2012, Balan featured as Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman in search of her missing husband in Sujoy Ghosh's Kahaani. The thriller, set in the city of Kolkata during the Durga Puja festivities earned Balan further accolades from film critics. Taran Adarsh mentioned, "Vidya, very nonchalantly, re-evaluates screen acting in Kahaani. She arrives with yet another enlivening, commanding character in this film and her portrayal of an expecting, frantic lady on a mission to trace her husband's inexplicable vanishing in an unfamiliar land is sure to win laurels by assessors and cinegoers uniformly. This is indeed Vidya's most eye-catching act. Her body language, her confidence, her vulnerability, her fury, her grief, all fall upon wonderfully." Rediff.com reviewed, "Vidya Balan has the gravitas to excel in a role that requires her to be sensible, adamant, sharp, vulnerable and pregnant. Like she's done with every subsequent release, Balan replaces the memory of her last performance (The Dirty Picture) with a sparkling new one. It's not a showy, act-out-loud delivery and that's what makes it so seamless." Kahaani emerged as a major commercial success both at the domestic and international box office, with a lifetime gross of 104 crore (US$18.82 million).
As of August 2012, Balan has been signed on for Raj Kumar Gupta's Ghanchakkar alongside Emraan Hashmi and Saket Chaudhary's Shaadi Ke Side Effects alongside Farhan Akhtar.