Bollywood actress Vidya Balan remembers the day she broke down and cried while filming her thriller Kahaani 2.
The scene? A young girl decides to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff right in front of her eyes.
At first, her director, Sujoy Ghosh, thought she was playing a prank and exaggerating her distress. But when she was uncontrollably sobbing, he realised that pointing out that they had a long scene ahead of them to film before sunset wasn’t the best way to calm her down.
“Something just washed over me. I was so overwhelmed … just the thought that a child would take such a drastic step or what state she had to be in to reach that point upset me. I don’t know how I got through that day ... Every film alters you in some way,” said Balan in an interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
Kahaani 2, out in the UAE on December 1, reunites Balan with Ghosh after their successful 2012 blockbuster Kahaani.
In their first collaboration, Balan played a pregnant lady in search of her missing husband who lands up in Kolkota; in the second instalment, she plays sari-clad Durga Rani Singh, a mother on the run, who’s accused of murdering and kidnapping of her own child.
“Maybe a year ago, I wasn’t OK to delve into the dark side. Now I am mentally prepared to do so. It’s such a compelling thriller … Immediately after Kahaani, it was too daunting to do Kahaani 2 because nothing measured up,” said Balan.
She was spot on.
Kahaani, which scooped all the major awards that year, redefined the landscape of Bollywood thrillers by its sheer brilliance and its nail-biting climax. And then Ghosh and Balan had a massive fallout.
Balan was in Dubai last week to promote the film.
However, they made up years later and their inside joke was that no story could ever match up to their 2012 blockbuster. But Ghosh persisted and convinced Balan to hear his story about Durga Rani Singh. Both agreed that this story could hold a candle to their earlier hit. The second instalment is not related to the original, but its essence — intrigue, deception and betrayal — has been retained.
“If you liked Kahaani, you will enjoy Kahaani 2 — twice over,” said Balan with a hearty laugh.
It’s an infectious cackle as she admits that the she had come up with that smart marketing glib just before her press junket to the UAE a week ago.
That’s the charm of this Indian National Award-winning star. She’s endearingly goofy and real. Perhaps that’s why she doesn’t mind revealing her rocky relationship with Ghosh.
“We bring out the best and the worst in each other … I don’t know whether to call him a friend … We fight so much and we have said [terrible] things to each other. We went absolutely silent for years. But we understand each other so well as an actor and director,” said Balan. She’s married to producer and former CEO of Disney India, Siddharth Roy Kapur, and he believes that she has always had a dichotomous relationship with Ghosh.
“You are as exasperated and as affectionate as you speak about him, he told me,” said Balan, adding that they both are more careful around each other after the split.
“He needed to mature and he has,” said Balan.
Her sentences are punctuated with innocent laughter. So does she have a dark side? Her public persona is impossibly sparkly.
“I think and process a lot. I need to do films to express that angst and confusion. I love decoding human behaviour and people are not always as simple as they seem. I am complicated and my close friends and family know that,” said Balan. While she channels the toxic whirring inside her head to interesting films and roles, Balan is happy that public figures in Bollywood are now opening up about mental health issues and eating disorders.
“I have been through that curve [she was criticised for her body weight and fashion choices in the past]. It’s high time that people stop making comments about others or their bodies. Stop being a bully. Who are you to comment? What about the size of your brain. Just because it’s not seen, that doesn’t mean it’s not up for judgement. Take a chill pill,” said Balan.
It was not a senseless rant, but a plea to stop body shaming. If you want to judge, then be a judge of all the good women-centric films that are being rolled out in Bollywood.
“It is nice to see women being portrayed as real human beings. We are not glorified or vilified either. We have our flaws, our limitations, dreams. We love passionately, hate and avenge or pursue our profession. It’s inspiring to see flawed heroines. It makes for such believable content.”
Her character, Durga Rani Singh, seems to tick those boxes.
The trailer, about a harried woman who seems to be a doting mother one moment and wanted for killing her child the next, leaves you suitably confused.
“It’s the first time in a movie promotion that I am confused about what to say. What am I allowed to say and if I say anything, will I say too much? Will I reveal the mystery? It’s not been easy,” said Balan. But what she can reveal is that she is a student of psychology in real life and she believes that people jump to their dark side for a reason. There’s always a back story, she believes.
“Maybe Durga Rani Singh is not what she seems. She looks unobtrusive, but is accused of murder and kidnapping … Most criminals don’t have the word criminal written all over their faces,” said Balan, pointing to Bob Biswas, the lethal contract killer — an insurance agent in the morning and a hired assassin at night — from Kahaani.
“You would never think he was capable of doing [the] things that he did. Even Durga Rani Singh is almost nondescript, so unassuming. She looks so disinterested and you don’t think she would have any inclination to hurt anyone. But the truth lies in the story of Kahaani 2.”
While the teasers didn’t give much away, Balan has been inundated with several conspiracy theories from her fans.
“Somebody even asked me if the child is a ghost or even exists. My answer: Wait till December 1 and get all your answers.”
Don’t miss it
Kahaani 2 releases in the UAE on December 1.
Check UAE cinema listings here.
THE YEAR SO FAR
“2016 has been my most productive year. Usually, I do one film, maximum. But this, I have already completed two films: Kahaani 2 and Begum Jaan. Soon, I also start working on my Malayalam film about Kamala Das. I have still not figured her out,” said Balan, when asked to look back on 2016.