Vidya Balan says she still has a long way to go: ‘Hope the universe sends better stories my way’

The pandemic has led to fundamental changes in the entertainment business in India, making it a more competitive market and democratising the talent pool, according to actor Vidya Balan and Abunduntia Entertainment’s Vikram Malhotra. The actor and the producer have collaborated on three back-to-back successful films in Shakuntala Devi, Sherni and the recently released Jalsa, all streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Pandemic has changed things drastically for everyone around but one added bonus, says Balan, is that there are now multiple avenues to create and release content. “It’s a great time for audiences because there’s something for every taste. We are exposed to content from across the country and the world. People are watching films from different parts of India with subtitles. With competition, our content is only going to get better. It is a very competitive market already,” the actor told PTI in an interview.

Vikram Malhotra, whose company has projects such as Hush Hush, Ram Setu and Chorri 2 lined up for release, said the pandemic changed the global entertainment business irreversibly.

“I would like to believe the business in India has changed for a huge amount of incremental good. We’ve always had a strong exhibition business, the theatrical side of films, a large TV business and now we have a third screen to go to – streaming. I don’t think it is at the cost of anything but it is additive. The real ones to benefit are the consumers and audiences.

“There’s never been a better time to be a producer, writer, director, actor or to be a part of the media and the entertainment industry, especially films and series. The volume has gone up, there is democratisation of talent, opportunities have grown and international players have come in. So, there are only positives to take away,” he said.

Asked what led to their collaboration on three consecutive films, Vidya Balan said she only hopes the association with Vikram Malhotra continues. The actor has previously worked thrice with producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who launched her in Parineeta (2005), and went on to cast her in Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006) and Eklavya (2007).

“Each film has been so different from the other and that itself is proof of the fact that they are pushing the envelope in terms of the content they are creating and the stories they are telling.

“There’s also a certain amount of professionalism that I respect beyond this. They are fully committed from the get-go when it is just a one-line idea to getting the right people, the right atmosphere on the sets to right release,” she said.

Malhotra, who first worked with Balan on Kahaani, said the actor is not just a great artiste but also a great team player. The producer said she is also probably the only actor who has delivered three consecutive hits in three years.

Recalling their collaboration on Kahaani in 2012, Malhotra said they were discussing box office numbers and kept saying “touch wood”, an expression they now often use during their conversations to ward off bad luck.

“Kahaani shattered the myth that women-led films don’t do well and before that Vidya’s The Dirty Picture had already done that. It was the film that first shook the system and Kahaani opened the floodgates and we haven’t looked back since then,” Malhotra said.

According to the producer, the biopic on math genius Shakuntala Devi, Sherni, about a woman forest officer, and Jalsa, centering on an upright journalist caught in an ethical dilemma after she is involved in a hit-and-run case, have been commercial as well as creative successes.

Vidya Balan said it’s a better time to be a female actor than a male actor thanks to the roles that are coming her way.

“It’s an exciting time to be a female actor, especially me as an actor. It has been fulfilling to be working with different directors who explore a different facet of your personality through their characters so that you know yourself a little more with every film. I have said this before that it’s a better time to be a female actor than a male actor.” Asked whether it was her most creatively satisfying phase as an artiste, the National Award-winning actor said she still has a long way to go.

“I hope that it gets better. Whenever I say how can this get any better, the universe sends even better stories my way. I don’t know whether I would qualify it as my most creatively fulfilling phase but my career has been extremely fulfilling and I feel so grateful for that but I have still a long long way to go,” the actor said.

Jalsa, also starring Shefali Shah in a key role, is directed by Suresh Triveni.

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