When Satyajit Ray passed away in 1992, the world mourned one of the greatest Indian filmmakers, andalong-side, a 13-year-old girl found herself unable to get out of bed for the next two days. Having never met the man, the girl’s parents thought she had lost it, but such was her love for the legend and his work. It was his films that inspired her to become an actress, and even while her family thought she was living in a fantasy world, she knew where her passion lay. The young girl is today a National Award winning actor, who has claimed a place for herself starting off, with absolutely no connections in Bollywood.
As we entered the photo studio where Vidya Balan was being shot, RJ Jhanvi’s familiar voice from Lage Raho Munnabhai rang in my head, “Good morning, Mumbai!” Hidden behind all the cameras and the lights, there she was smiling and laughing. Sitting in a corner waiting, I was reminded of all her iconic roles, from Silk Smitha in Dirty Picture, to Begum Jaan; a pregnant wife on a quest for her husband in Kahaani to finally Lalita in Parineeta. I caught myself humming Piyu Bole, Piya Bole, a song I grew up listening to. Snap snap, click. Balan owned the camera, not even the slightest hesitance. Maybe, she really was born to be an actress.
Yet, it was only after her breakdown following Ray’s death that her parents started taking her passion for acting seriously. Until then, her father would always say, “We will cross the bridge when we come to it.” For Balan, her best support system has always been her family. Like most families, Balan’s also had their concerns about the film industry but they continued to support the passionate teenager in her endeavour. At 15, her mother and sister accompanied Balan to her first audition, and sat through 12 long hours. And not just one, her mother went along to all her auditions, when she was just starting out. “I remember my mother often asking me, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ We have had our differences, but my family continued supporting me through it all,” says the 38-year-old. After every rejection or a flop, her sister, Pr