The idea of a "perfect woman" is passé and women are being portrayed simply as individuals in the world around us, says actor Vidya Balan. Her upcoming film "Jalsa" is another addition in the list of movies in which the 43-year-old actor has played flawed women, following "The Dirty Picture", "Ishqiya", and "Shakuntala Devi", among others. In "Jalsa", to be released on Prime Video on March 18, she plays Maya Menon, a TV journalist in constant pursuit of truth with shades of grey.
"Previously it was the perfect, ideal woman, today there is no ideal. Because we are being recognised as individuals in the world around us. Hence, there is that much more variety that you are getting to see in the representation of women onscreen.
"Today in films we are acknowledging the flaws, she is great the way she is. Because we have realised that the ordinary emerges from the extraordinary. We are telling ordinary women stories, which is what has happened," Balan told PTI in a telephonic interview.
According to the National Award winner, women must be seen as individuals who have dreams and desires, opposed to just someone's daughter, sister or mother.
"… Someone is finding their voice, their purpose or someone is struggling to make ends meet. But each of us has an identity beyond… We are releasing that we are individuals, we are not women as a category.
"We are not bhed, bakri (cattle). We are all humans. We are people. We are now exploring that. But that is because it is happening in the real world. Look at the professions we have entered," she added.
Citing the example of "Gangubai Kathiawadi", directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the actor said she is elated that the Alia Bhatt-starrer emerged victorious at the ticket window. The domestic box office collection of the period drama, which theatrically released on February 25, amassed Rs 102.68 cr on March 10 as per the makers.
"There are other filmmakers, writers and actors who have done this. And we are all now with every film moving a step forward. Look at what is happening with 'Gangubai Kathiawadi. How amazing it is that after two years when theatres opened it is a female-led film that has rocked the box office!" Balan added.
Describing "Jalsa", which reunites the actor with her "Tumhari Sulu" director Suresh Triveni, she said the film is one of many "intimate personal stories" that are increasingly finding space on streamers.
"They are intimate personal stories about ordinary people like you and me. It is not just larger-than-life heroes. It is you and me who is being represented on screen. You don't have to do anything heroic but in your day-to-day life, you can be a hero. We are having that realisation in life and therefore you are seeing that onscreen."
Billed as "a highly engaging and captivating tale of conflict", "Jalsa" follows the lives of a top-line journalist (Balan) and her cook, played by "Delhi Crime" star Shefali Shah. The movie is her third consecutive project to be released on Prime Video, following "Shakuntala Devi" and "Sherni", and the actor said she always felt "Jalsa" was meant for the over-the-top (OTT) platform.
"It is universal in storytelling. It reaches 240 countries at the same time. Also, today people are used to watching content in all languages, so language will not be a barrier. It is the best place to have released 'Jalsa'," she said.
"I am a greedy actor and I want more and more people to watch my work. The intention is my films should reach people all over the world," she added.
The actor, who has teamed up again with Triveni post the 2017 film "Tumhari Sulu", also thanked the director for offering her challenging roles. In the comedy-drama, Balan played an ambitious housewife who becomes a radio jockey for a late-night relationship advice show.
"Suresh brought me something completely different from what I did with him before. He pushed me out of my comfort zone in 'Tumhari Sulu' and he has done it again this time."
Manav Kaul, Rohini Hattangadi, Iqbal Khan, Vidhatri Bandi, Shrikant Mohan Yadav, Shafeen Patel, and Surya Kasibhatla round out the cast of "Jalsa".