Vidya Balan gets the perfect score with Shakuntala Devi

Vidya Balan adds to her repertoire of meaningful roles with a biopic on mathematician Shakuntala Devi.
Vidya Balan gets the perfect score with Shakuntala Devi

She was last seen in the ensemble cast Mission Mangal. For her fans, who were left hungry for more, the recently released Shakuntala Devi on Amazon Prime is a treat.

Vidya Balan shines, and how. Acting in her second biopic—she had earlier played the sultry Silk Smitha in The Dirty Picture—Balan says it was challenging to play the role of mathematician and writer Shakuntala Devi.

And more still because the character ages from 25 to 60 on-screen. But perhaps the biggest challenge, Balan believes, was doing the Maths shows. "Shakuntala Devi was good with numbers. Though director Anu Menon had kept the script ready with all the answers, it was difficult for me to rattle off the numbers so easily and with such speed. At the same time, I had to make the scenes look full of fun," she says.

Known for her women-oriented roles, this was however the first time that Balan had a woman directing her. Praising the collaborative approach of the filmmaker and her ability to push actors to go beyond their comfort zones, the Padma Shri-awardee says, “It made the perspective more interesting because here was a woman telling a story of another woman. Besides, the film is actually Shakuntala Devi’s story told through her daughter Anupama’s eyes. Maybe a male director wouldn’t have been able to do justice to it.”

Talking of firsts, this was also the first time that her film released digitally. How different was that? “For me, usually Friday release is a lazy day. I have no rituals. I get up late as we are finally free that day after days of round-the-clock promotion. But this time, it was definitely different. For the first time, my film released at midnight. I couldn’t help but be super excited about this new platform.” The film has received much acclaim on social media.

To understand the person that Shakuntala Devi—christened the Human Computer—was, Balan met her immediate family members. "She was a woman who lived life on her terms.  I couldn’t have done what she did. She travelled the world and got a lot of love in return. It’s incredible. If I can live even 10 percent of her life, it would be great," she says wistfully. The National Award-winner is now looking forward to shooting for her next—Sherni—helmed by Amit Masurkar.

She plays a forest officer in the film. "I am hoping we’ll start shooting after monsoons. So far I have just done a print shoot and I have been going to Siddharth’s (husband Siddharth Roy Kapur, founder and MD of Roy Kapur Films) office to promote my film." Is she apprehensive about stepping out? "No. We have to take precautions; only if people are slack will it cause problems," she says.

After bagging six Filmfare awards, one would feel that there would be the added pressure to keep delivering award-winning performances, but Balan is far from perturbed. She believes that if a film is made well, it naturally raises the bar. "It opens up possibilities, while at the same time looks forward to more challenges to tell different kinds of stories. I think it’s a good thing," she says.

In a culture that is defined by the numbers game, this actor is not bothered whether her fee is the highest or where she is placed on the Bollywood report card. She says being positive is what matters.

"Remember, when you lose, you don’t fail, you learn something. I always believe that when one door closes another opens. I say thank you for everything even when the day is not good. I feel grateful for the life I have had. Someday we are happy but there are days when you don’t feel good. When we constantly count our blessings life gives us more reasons to be grateful for. That’s why I have so many doors opening in my life," she says. In the Indian film industry’s dog-eat-dog world, Balan’s positivity is a breath of fresh air.

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