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She took people back to the black and white era with her role in the period film "Parineeta". Then came her fashion faux
pas and a dip in the career graph. But a careful and confident Vidya Balan is on the rise again in Bollywood.
Though at 33 she is just six years old in the Hindi movie industry, her oeuvre is so impressive that there was a Vidya Balan retrospective at the Indian film fest in two Australian cities.
From playing a foul mouthed, manipulative vengeful woman in "Ishqiya" to the mother of a progeria patient to a grieving sister in "No One Killed Jessica", Vidya has been proving her versatility with her nuanced handling of different characters.
Her much-talked-about forthcoming releases - director Milan Luthria's "The Dirty Picture", based on the life of Silk Smitha, south Indian cinema's sex symbol, and Sujoy Ghosh's thriller "Kahani" in which she plays a six-month pregnant woman - are expected to take her creativity to another level.
Applauding her work and choice of roles, director Sudhir Mishra said: "She is very brave and very gutsy. Hats off to Vidya. She will last longer. It will pay her off very well.
She will be remembered as another kind of actress and remembered more than a lot of people. She should continue doing this kind of roles. She should do what she can do well. She should retain that uniqueness."
Director Anurag Kashyap feels what Vidya is doing is pathbreaking. "I think she is showing the way for everyone else. Vidya's fan following has increased 50-fold after the kind of work she started doing. We need her," he added.
This Iyer girl from Palakkad in Kerala grew up in Mumbai. She did her graduation in sociology from St. Xavier's College.
After award-winning debut with the period drama "Parineeta" (2005), she charmed her fans in a modern avatar in "Lage Raho Munna Bhai". Her small but impressive role in "Guru" too earned her accolades.
But after a meteoric rise to fame, her career took a dip post "Salaam-e-Ishq: A Tribute To Love" and it seemed as if lady luck had deserted her completely. She was in the news for all the wrong reasons -- from her choice of roles to co-stars to her looks in movies like "Heyy Babyy" and "Kismet Konnection" -- she was criticised for everything.
But the rough patch ended and wagging tongues came to a halt when Vidya returned as Amitabh Bachchan's mother in critically acclaimed "Paa" (2009) after staying away for a year. Undoubtedly it was one of her best performances and Vidya walked away with the Filmfare Best Actress Award for portraying the dilemma of a woman living with her child's illness.
There are reports that Vidya may work with southern superstar Rajnikanth as well.
"She should start a legacy of such kind of acting. She is one of the top actresses in the industry because she does such kind of unique roles," said director Vikramaditya Motwane whose "Udaan" amassed trophies at every award function this year.
Not only that, Vidya's sartorial elegance has been at its peak ever since she appeared in "Paa". Be it flaunting ethnic saris by her favourite designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee or her plain Jane look at public events to promote "No One Killed Jessica", the talented actress floored everyone.
Mumbai-based designer Anand Bhushan, a regular face at Lakme Fashion Week, said: "Yes it's true that designer Sabyasachhi Mukherjee did an awesome job with her Indian image, giving her all sorts of dresses which not only reflected her Indian face but also made her look glamorous."
"But who says we only want to see Vidya Balan in Indian dresses. It's time to get some credible Western designer to celebrate her persona. Her dressing sense has always been a point of discussion for the media and film critics, especially whenever she is portrayed in Western wear."
She made a late entry in films, but it hasn't taken her long to carve a niche.