You don’t need to roar to be a tigress: Vidya Balan


New Delhi: Vidya Balan says she would rather not be seen nor heard when she’s not doing a film, quite like Vidya Vincent, the upright forest officer she plays in Sherni who wants her work to speak for her.

The trailer of the upcoming film shows the character surrounded by a host of men trying to control how she should go about her work, something that Balan said has happened to her in real life as well.

“I can’t think of any single instance but all the time…. Men have been brought up with the belief that they must always be in charge whereas women have been taught to believe that we need to be protected so we are always a little guarded about stepping forward, using our voice, about standing up for ourselves and making decisions for ourselves, Balan told PTI in a Zoom interview from Mumbai.

In her 15-year career, Balan has played the lead in a range of stories, often starring in titular characters, right from her debut “Parineeta” to her latest “Sherni” where she plays a forest officer out to catch a man-eating tiger.

Balan said director Amit Masurkar, who is best known for his film “Newton” and had worked with her on several ad films, narrated the story of a woman forest officer navigating her marriage and her rather unusual job while trying to resolve the man-animal conflict and she was immediately hooked.

Vidya Vincent also faces a patriarchal society and a lackadaisical attitude within her department.

Balan said Masurkar’s brief for the character was: Vidya Vincent is someone who is “self-assured but withdrawn and quiet”.

“She’s a person of very few words, smiles rarely but she is a doer. She does what she believes in and she believes in doing it the right way. It’s like this saying that you don’t need to roar to be a tigress. So my character is a tigress but she does not roar,” the actor told PTI.

Is the character similar to the way she has led her career in Bollywood?

“I guess. I’m a very private person. I love what I do so when I’m promoting a film, I put myself out there, otherwise, I will rather be, you know, not seen, not heard. I would rather want my work to speak to you because I feel everybody is talking, but no one is listening,” Balan replied.

Her enviable filmography includes “Paa”, “Ishqiya”, “No One Killed Jessica”, “The Dirty Picture”, “Kahaani”, “Bobby Jasoos”, “Tumhari Sulu” and “Shakuntala Devi”.

There never was a career plan or strategy, Balan said.

“I have learned that planning is quite pointless most of the time. Look what has happened to all the plans that everyone in the world made, the pandemic destroyed all those plans.”

The actor said it has been about following her guts and the realisation early in her career that she did not want to do “things just for the sake of it because they were the right things to do, like working with big banners or doing films with big stars”.

It has been a fulfilling journey for the last decade or so with the actor saying she has got to do the work she really wanted to.

“I wanted to do films for the right reason and I think that changed the trajectory of my career. and I am so glad that happened. It is very fulfilling. There are roles that sometimes don’t work but there has not been a single film up until now that I regret,” Balan said.

She said she is someone who loves the collaborative process of working on a movie and always tries to give her all to the project she is working on.

“When you get into a film, you have certain expectations that the process will be seamless but there are so many variables in films.

“Sometimes it does not happen exactly the way you envision it. For example, the working equation is not that great in the team and when that happens with a director, it’s really tough, especially for me who likes to collaborate with the director. But I always try to give my best.”

“Sherni”, slated to release on Amazon Prime Video on June 18, is Balan’s second film to come out on the streamer after last year’s “Shakuntala Devi”, a biopic on Indian math genius.

Balan said she was attracted to the “unusual story” of Sherni and was quite taken in with the world that Masurkar had created.

“It’s a world I know nothing about. Besides going on jungle safaris and watching a little bit of Nat Geo and Animal Planet, I did not know much about the wild. This is about a forest officer who is posted in a jungle and who is out to find a tiger and then things happen. I thought that would be a great combination — unusual story, unusual director.”

The film also features Sharad Saxena, Mukul Chaddha, Vijay Raaz, Ila Arun, Brijendra Kala, and Neeraj Kabi in key roles.