‘I have learnt to let go’

Tell us how Bobby Jassos fell into place.

Vidya Balan: Atul Kasbekar at Bling, who handles my work, said Dia (Mirza) and Sahil (Sangha) wanted to meet me with a film. I was wondering how I would turn them down because it is always difficult to do that with someone you are fond of. 

Dia and I are not exactly friends but there has always been a certain fondness. We worked together in Parineeta and Munnabhai and she is always at award functions. Invariably, whenever I go up to accept an award, she cheers for me. So I was wondering how I would say ‘no’ to her. All Atul had said was ‘It’s Bobby Jasoos and I was, like, maybe they wanted me to play the love interest.
So we fixed a meeting and Dia gave me this five-minute idea. She said Bobby was a woman from Mugalpura in Hyderabad. She wants to be the best jasoos in her mohalla even though she has no training. But she is a lot of fun because she has a certain innocence as she is learning along the way. She is not like your Sherlock Holmes… jo apne dimaag mein bhi sab sort out kar lete hain. The idea of a female detective was very novel.

I read the script and loved it. I think Sanyukta Chawla Sheikh is one of those new-age writers who is very exciting. She wrote a script that is not just a detective story but a story of a female detective. So it had that human element of aspirations, hope and this girl from a Muslim family from a modest background who was trying to do something unusual without any support. I also connected with her because I come from a non-film family and when I set out to do something in the film industry, well in this case, it’s her father who is against her being a jasoos, and in my case, it was my mother. Of course my mother didn’t say…

 …nikal ja ghar se?

(Laughs) Yeah! Nothing like that but she was worried and wondered how I would survive in the big bad world of films. So there was this certain connect with the character. What also endeared Bobby to me was the fact that she was not a shaatir jasoos. Even the poster shows a childlike enthusiasm in her.

The character’s innocence comes through in the trailer, when she applies for a job.

You’re right, and she goes there in the Kahaani avatar with a pregnant stomach. And she is hoping that she will get this detective job. She doesn’t, so she decides to go about it on her own. Like you said, there is innocence and simplicity to the character.

Was it an instant ‘yes’ for you, since you don’t say ‘yes’ to a project easily?
(Laughs) No, I took the script and asked to meet the writer and director. I wanted to know how they saw Bobby in their mind.

Was it also because after four intense roles in Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, Kahaani and The Dirty Picture, you wanted to do something lighter?
No, I think those were also regular. The beauty is that today, our stories are about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. In that sense, this film is no different from the films you have named. But, yes, it was lighter, it had more energy, more fun and I had done Ghanchakkar and Shaadi Ke Side Effects in between. So I wasn’t really looking to do something different in that sense because this came to me two years after Kahaani.

Your solo films have done better than those where you were cast opposite a male co-star.
That’s true. I think that’s because I have worked with fabulous teams and directors who trusted that I would be able to pull it off. I like the fact that this film breaks free of the mould of female-centric films. It has lightness of spirit and it’s entertaining. It’s a family entertainer. It’s not just detective films but also female-centric films… they usually have a certain serious or dramatic tone. This film is nothing like that. It’s easy viewing. It’s not frivolous but it’s a pleasurable watch. So, it’s not about wanting to be the hero although I don’t have a problem with being a hero! (Laughs)

What was your reaction when Ali (Fazal) was to be cast alongside you?
I had not seen any of Ali’s films but Samar was very convinced about him. And I never get into casting as long as a director believes in an actor and Samar shows me some of his tests. I watched his work and I thought he was fabulous. Ali and I became friends first and then I figured he was a very good actor. I felt I was working with college mates. There was no pressure, it was peaceful. There was an infectious energy on the sets. And I think credit for that goes to Dia and Sahil because everyone on the team felt valued. We completed the film in 50 days, which is not a joke, especially on an outdoor location with the songs and everything.

As a jasoos film, does your character mostly wear disguises or does she do some action too?
No, there is action too. It’s the first time I have done action and there is also a South action director! (Laughs)

Will we see you flying through the air?
You will see me in mid-air but I don’t know if you can call that hardcore action. In fact, I had never even seen an action film being done before. Except Ishqiya mein thoda bahut shooting wooting happened but this was like proper action, so it was interesting. I could call it a little bit of hardcore action, by my standards.

You’ve done films like Bobby Jasoos and Kahaani, which were riding on you, and a Shaadi Ke Side Effects, where you had support. How different is that?
 I do my best in every film but the involvement with films like this is far greater. Firstly, you’re shooting that much more and then you’re involved at every stage of pre-production and post-production. With this film, the look test took a lot of time, probably more than in other films. Besides, I might not have got an opportunity like this again. Also, when it’s a film where you are playing the centre protagonist, you need to know the centre protagonist and her world that much better. In another film, where you’re probably not the key, of course you still know the script well but you can take some things for granted.

I enjoy these intense processes, even post-completion of the shoot, where I am involved in the promotion and planning of the promotions. I have been promoting the film for three weeks already and there are another nine days to go but I am enjoying it thoroughly. Also, I enjoy meeting people and this is the only time I step out and meet people, whether the media or audiences. I thrive on that intensity.

You said you’re meeting a lot of people. What kind of reactions are you getting?
Touchwood, so far, all the responses have been very good. People seem to have liked the trailer a lot. I have never received such a good response to a film poster. Of course, it’s the disguises, and I understand why they are so excited, but it’s interesting. It’s very reassuring and very touching when people say something like, ‘Oh my God, a Vidya Balan film after so long!’ The only other time I had a similar experience was with Kahaani but in that film it was Sujoy and me running the show. Here, the entire team was in great spirits. When people ask me if I feel the pressure, I say, ‘No, because we are all carrying it together, I am not carrying it alone.’ on special arrangement with box office india

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