Felt Really Ugly: Vidya Balan on Early Days of Her Acting Career

She made her acting debut in 1995 sitcom ‘Hum Paanch’.

Updated
Bollywood
3 min read
Actor Vidya Balan.
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From Ishqiya to Mission Mangal Vidya Balan has come a long way from her acting debut in 1995 sitcom Hum Paanch to becoming one of Bollywood’s top actors. But the road to success has been a rocky one for the Tumhari Sulu actor, who opened up to Pinkvilla about her initial days when she was struggling to get a foothold in the industry.

Didn’t Look at Myself in the Mirror for Six Months: Vidya

Vidya said that she spent much of her early years as an actor moving from one audition to the next. While she got a few verbal offers for roles, none of them stuck and she was eventually replaced. She recalls a particular instance, after she was ousted from a Tamil film, when her parents requested to meet the producer to find out what went wrong. What followed nearly led her to reconsider whether acting was the right career for her.

“My parents had come with me [to meet the producer] because they were so worried for me. I had really begun to fade. So my parents flew to Chennai with me. We went to the producer’s office and the producer showed us clips from the film and he said, ‘Just look at her. Does she look like a heroine? I was honestly not in favour of taking her at all; it was the director who insisted.’”
Vidya Balan, Actor

She added,

“I felt ugly. I felt like s**t. For months – which felt like six months – I don’t think I looked at myself in the mirror. There were many other instances that made me realise that I had to love and accept myself the way I am. That was one of those instances.”
Vidya Balan

Acknowledging the body shaming, fat shaming and unsavoury comments about her dressing sense that she was subjected to even after establishing herself as a successful actor, Vidya said that while they once bothered her, she is no longer fazed. “There were many other instances that made me realise that I had to love and accept myself the way I am. That was one of those instances,” she said.

Vidya on Facing the Casting Couch

Vidya also mentioned that while she struggled to get roles, casting couch ordeals were thankfully few. She recalled an incident with a producer where presence of mind saved her from being put in a compromising position.

“One day, I remember I was in Chennai and this director came to meet me. I said let’s sit in the coffee shop, but he said no, let’s go to your room. He kept insisting so I left the door open. He left within five minutes. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t make a move or anything. Today, while talking about this, after all these years, I think about this. That was the only instance [of facing the casting couch].”
Vidya Balan

Vidya was last seen in Mission Mangal, alongside an ensemble cast of Akshay Kumar, Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Kirti Kulhari and Nithya Menen. She has been signed on to play math whiz Shakuntala Devi in Math Genius and Indira Gandhi in Ritesh Batra’s upcoming web series based on journalist Sagarika Ghose's book Indira: India's Most Powerful Prime Minister.

(With inputs from Pinkvilla)

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