Shed some light on your character in Ishqiya?
I play the role of a widow called Krishna. She may be an unconventional character but what I liked about the character is the fact that she is very believable. The role has gray shades. She is neither positive nor negative. All that I can say is that Krishna is very humane. She is not apologetic about her needs. If she is like a chameleon in front of Arshad, for whom, love is a way to get sex, with Naseer she enjoys the way he woos her in a classical way.
How would you describe your character?
As women, we play a lot of roles in life and are not the same everywhere, whereas, with due respect to men, I feel that a man showcases similar characteristics everywhere. A woman is Kaali, Durga, Ramba as well as Saraswati. None of us is a doodh ki dulhi (pure) and we react as per the requirement or the demand of the relationship. Sometimes we are manipulative, sometimes we are scheming but we are not necessarily bad.
What attracted you to the film?
I was thrilled- I was thought of for the role. I was kicked by the fact that director Abhishek Chaubey who has been an assistant to Vishal Bhardwaj didn’t want to go in for a conventional cast and had the confidence in the first place that I could pull off Krishna’s character who gets involved with both men who belong to different age groups at the same time.
How did you prepare for your part in Ishqiya?
I do preparations for every role of mine but for this part, I needed to do more preparations. I shot for Ishqiya even before Paa. I knew I could do a role like that of Krishna, as an actor. Abhishek gave me the brief that, as a typical North Indian woman, I should look voluptuous for my part and hence I didn’t make any attempt to reduce my weight though I had put on a lot of weight at that time. I could understand Abhishek’s vision as a director when I spent almost a month discussing not only the script with him every day but also talking about everything under the sun.
Did you go by any reference?
Krishna is the quintessential Indian woman. For an actor like me with a certain image, it was very nice to get a role like this which was new. I didn’t need to prepare in terms of reference for this part. I only needed to understand what Krishna would do in various situations and I did a character building exercise. The thing is mostly women roles in Bollywood are not etched out well in most of the films and they are made either the vamp or the ever suffering Bharatiya nari. Women are rarely portrayed as real characters. As an actor, it was for me an experiment and I could also discover a lot about myself as an actor. I feel much fulfilled now- the film is ready for release.
To what extent did you depend upon your director to give life to your part?
As an individual, I do have my own inputs for every character that I set out to perform, though I have always maintained that it is the vision of the director that counts ultimately. Vishal Bhardwaj has written the subject along with Abhishek Chaubey but Abhishek’s interpretation is quite different. The biggest challenge for me was to do every scene with conviction even when there was a difference of opinion. Despite the fact that he is not only the writer and producer of the film, Vishal did not interfere with Abhishek Chaubey as far as direction was concerned because he had complete confidence in him.
Did you hesitate to take up the role because you had to mouth a lot of swear words and also indulge in a smooching scene with Arshad Warsi?
I sign any film only after I read the complete script. If I had not been convinced, I would not have been able to play the role at all. Though as Krishna, I had to portray a woman who is aggressive as far as the way she speaks and her body language was concerned, as Vidya Balan I still would desist from mouthing gaalis. Kissing was integral to the script because the story goes ahead with that. Luckily in front of the camera, I could forget that I am Vidya Balan and make the transition to being the character that Krishna was.
Can you elucidate?
I was quite comfortable with the smooching scene because I knew Arshad well from the time we had acted in Lage Raho Munnabhai and he is a friend. It all depends upon with whom you are working. People like Vishal Bhardwaj have a certain amount of credibility. I have done the kissing scene with honesty and am not ashamed of it at all, though I should say that as Indians we are very private about our display of affection.
In what way are you different from Krishna?
I would rather use my merit to get my way than use my sexuality but Krishna does not think twice before unabashedly using her sexuality as a tool to get whatever she wants from men.
Did you work a lot on the costumes for your role?
After Parineeta it was for Ishqiya that I had quite a few trials for my costumes. I had to pick out of the one thousand and odd saris that Abhishek Chaubey had chosen for me from various places in U.P, because, as he put it succinctly, clothes also tell the story in Ishqiya.
Which, according to you, are your five best films?
I’d name Parineeta, Bhool Bhulaiya, Paa, Lage Raho Munnabhai and now Ishqiya as my five best films, not necessarily in that order as far as merit is concerned. At the same time, I would not hesitate to state that Ishqiya is the most exciting role of my career till date.