When Vidya Balan spoke about sexual harassment while promoting Tumhari Sulu

'I always took it for granted that there are predators everywhere, not just in the film industry.'

 |  3-minute read |   03-11-2017
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It has been a while since Vidya Balan did a film in a humorous vein. After doing bloated dramas like Hamari Adhuri Kahani and Begum Jaan and playing intense characters like a child abuse survivor (Kahaani 2), it’s a refreshing, much welcome change to see Balan being jovial and talking mock sensuously in Tumhari Sulu. In the Suresh Triveni-directed comedy with a pinch of drama, Balan plays Sulu aka Sulochana, a homemaker who becomes a radio jockey. Only Sulu has been brought in to host a show wherein she has to talk in a husky, seductive voice to the male callers looking for some nocturnal attention.

“I feel housewives (in cinema) are always represented as individuals who are either pushing their children to fulfil their dreams or leading lonely lives or being bogged down by the drudgery of their existence or wanting to break free or do more with their lives,” said Balan while describing how Sulu is different from others. “Being a homemaker is not an existential crisis for her. She is an enthu cutlet. She listens to the radio, participates in a contest and wins. It gives her a sense of achievement.”

It was Balan’s brother-in-law Kedar Teny, a marketing professional, who introduced her to Triveni. Balan had to take his recommendation seriously for “my family has not ever suggested anyone to me”. Triveni’s pitch won over Balan instantly: “Imagine a housewife cleaning and packing her child off to school in the day and at night sitting in front of the mic saying "Hello". That sounded mad.”

It’s this happy-go-lucky, endearing persona of Sulu that drew Balan to ad filmmaker Triveni’s story and screenplay. “She happens to laugh at herself and others also,” says Balan, “and is constantly bantering with her husband. She doesn’t care what you think about her either. She is so comfortable in her skin.”

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Going by the trailer and the first song “Ban Ja Rani”, another aspect of the comedy is the marital romance. Manav Kaul, best-known for Kai Po Che, plays Sulu’s husband of 12 years. Balan is glad that the film touches upon the intimate aspects of the relationship. “Sex is an extremely uncomfortable truth,” said Balan, “Yes, there is a sense of granted-ness with a partner, the comfort level allows that. I have been married for five years I don’t mind saying that my drive hasn’t dried up.”

As part of the film’s promotions, Balan has spoken out against the sexual harassment allegations that have taken Hollywood by storm. Beginning with producer Harvey Weinstein, the list of accused has only expanded.

Asked if she had troubling encounters as an outsider trying to make a mark in Bollywood, Balan said, “I always took it for granted that there are predators everywhere, not just in the film industry. So I always erred on the side of caution. If I met someone who made me uncomfortable, I didn’t take it further with that person and let go of the opportunity.”

Balan credits her privileged family background for enabling her to make such decisions. Said Balan, “My survival didn’t depend on this. If I didn’t get a particular job, it didn’t bother me.” You can also attribute it to her no-nonsense attitude such as “walking away before someone says something uncomfortable. I always gave out this don’t-mess-with-me vibe. I am not available for any shit.”

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Also read: Why a Facebook list of alleged sexual predators in academia has spooked vocal Indian feminists

Writer

Suhani Singh Suhani Singh @suhani84

The writer is Senior Associate Editor, India Today.

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