Luminaries of Hindi Cinema

Luminaries of Hindi Cinema

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vidya Balan – Meena Kumari re-incarnate?

Is she? However cliché it may sound, but this question has been doing rounds in my mind since long. Every time I watch Vidya Balan in a film, this question pops up. It first popped up after Parineeta, like a mandate and kind of obvious. Following the Hindi film industry norms, it is a ritual. And it resurfaced while watching ‘Kahaani’. I saw a glimpse of Meena Kumari in her smouldering eyes, seeking revenge as Vidya Bagchi. It reminded me of Chhoti Bahu berating her husband. Hair disheveled, eyes set on fire – I could see Meena Kumari in that whole scene. But, soon she was gone and there was Vidya Balan again. This happened in Parineeta too.

Vidya has an old world charm to her, not because she dresses in Indian style and has a very Indian look. So many others do. No, it’s not just that. But because, she is comfortable being her. Comfortable in that look. Might be. I don’t know. But there certainly is an easy, laidback appeal to her. She oozes those very vibes which I relate to the golden era. I can very well imagine her there. Though, then she would have an added dimension to her. That of reality cinema. And of confidence too. I am not saying that yesteryear actors lacked confidence. But most of the time, the characters did. To qualify as an ideal heroine our actresses had to be portrayed as the saccharine sweet-doormat-respecting outlandish values-ever suffering woman who always needed a man to return back to.

Meena Kumari was among the counted few who would be the sole hero in her films, driving the success through her screen presence. True, she is the foremost winner for the self-sacrificing Bhartiya naari who would let all and sundry trample over her. But then, in her defence, let me remind that those were the norms of the days. Still, she managed to carve a place for herself despite doing only a handful of films with the reigning triumvirate of the yesteryears. In other words, she was the only one who succeeded without a ‘big’ hero opposite her, carried films on her able shoulders and drove crowds to the theatres with her star power.

Vidya does something similar today. She didn’t need the ‘three-khans’ to reach where she is today. Instead, she took a step further and announced that the heroes could use ‘Balan’ after their names if they please. True, she started with a bang in Hindi films but few are aware that she had a trail of a failure behind her. After that bang came the low phase of her career where she was dissected and discussed, criticised and laughed upon – but for things as trivial as her dressing sense. For a film industry with a history spanning more than 75 years and countless legends, what matters today is the ‘look’ of an actor, that too, out of films! A Katrina Kaif demands more attention than a Vidya Balan. What a progress!

I digress. Vidya bounced back and this time she did films where she belonged to and which respected her as an actor. No more pretentions. She did what she is best at – acting. And, the world is at her feet. A diva is born.

And I continue with my musings...


  1. @Punya: Nice comparison. You didn't mention Vidya's performance in Dirty Picture but I am not sure what film of Meena Kumari to compare with! Pakeezah?

  2. Hi Sreenath! First of all, apologies for replying late.
    I didn't had any particular film in my mind to compare Vidya and Meena Kumari. I don't even want to compare them. Its just that seeing Vidya emote, I get a glimpse of Meenaji, every now and then and that is what amuses me. Atleast, there is an actor par excellence who can 'act' and can convince the audience that she is as much at ease being Silk as she is at being Lalita. And the fact that she could be a link to the old world charm of golden era, is a treat for cinema lovers like me.

    As for Pakeezah, I don't think there is any similarity between the two films. Infact, they are poles apart. Sahib Jaan was submissive towards her fate while Silk wrote her own fate. The only thing common is strong leads with magnanimous screen presence!