Vidya Balan: Redefining the Role of Women in Indian Cinema

It was only recently that I was thinking of how Hindi cinema has a serious dearth of strong female actors. You’ve got your Katrina Kaif’s and your Anushka Sharma’s and your Sonam Kapoor’s, who in my opinion are nothing but pretty faces sitting on skinny bodies, perfect for designers to hang their latest creations on, but not “actresses”.

And then, I though of an actress, in the true sense of the word, who has radically changed Indian cinema in many ways by just her presence on screen and that is undoubtedly Vidya Balan. Balan made her acting debut in Hindi sitcom Hum Paanch, at the tender age of sixteen and then followed this up with appearances in music videos, finally making her cinematic debut in Bengali film Bhalo Theko in 2003. In 2005, Vidya Balan acted in Parineeta, her first Hindi Film for which she gathered a lot of praise. Parineeta was followed by the blockbuster Lage Raho Munnabhai in 2006. Post 2006, Balan’s career took a nose dive with films like Kismat Konnection and Heyy Babyy, which met with negative comments from film critics. Balan was also criticized for her weight gain and her poor choice of clothes.

Vidya Balan’s career took off in 2009 with films like Paa, Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, The Dirty Picture and Kahaani. In a predominantly male oriented film industry, where the male actor is the centre of most films, Balan has portrayed strong female characters, earning her the tag of the “female hero”. She has also been called one of the Khan’s of Bollywood, to which she replied saying, instead of calling me a Khan, why not ask the Khan’s to add Balan at the end of their names!

Vidya Balan has won numerous awards, including Filmfare Awards, IIFA Awards, Zee Cine Awards, and even the National Award for her performance in The Dirty Picture. She has also received a lot of praise for her performance from cinema veterans like yesteryears actress Dimple Kapadia, director Milan Luthria and journalists like Anupama Chopra and Nikhat Kazmi.

After being criticized for her weight and her bad choice of clothes, Balan revamped herself and now is elegantly seen in beautiful saris designed by her favourite fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee and has changed popular perceptions by making a curvy body sexy. Vidya Balan as an actress and a person is immensely comfortable with who she is and makes it a point to get under the skin of the characters she plays, which is something which shows on screen.