Ever since she made her debut with Parineeta, Vidya Balan has worked with many a veteran filmmakers like Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Eklavya – The Royal Guard), Mani Ratnam (Guru), Priyadarshan (Bhool Bhulaiyaa), Raj Kumar Santoshi (Halla Bol) and Aziz Mirza (Kismat Konnection). Meanwhile, she has also worked with first time directors like Pradeep Sarkar (Parineeta) and Sajid Khan (Heyy Babyy) as well as one film old Raj Kumar Hirani (Lagey Raho Munnabhai) or Nikhil Advani (Salaam E Ishq).
This is why, when she interacted with someone like Balki (who only has a Cheeni Kum behind him), what sort of change in approach did she see in them?
“The best part about him is that he is just fantastic when it comes to multitasking”, Vidya begins talking about the filmmaker, “Even during the making of the film, he would be managing his ad agency meetings. While having lunch with us, he would be having round table conversations. Meanwhile, he would interact with all of us quite normally on the sets.”
She is also impressed with the fact that in spite of a hectic schedule, Balki kept himself abreast with all that was being churned out in Bollywood.
“He would always catch a Friday movie release without fail. That’s not all; he is someone who goes for all the concerts and plays. Can you believe that? He has time for everything and anything. He manages his time so well”, she gushes.
Time management is not the only factor that has impressed Vidya. She believes that Balki is also an ace when it comes to people management.
“Temperamentally he is just so cool”, she smiles, “He is just so easy to work with. I have seen him interacting with his assistants. His people management is fantastic because whether it is Mr. Amitabh Bachchan or any junior most crew member on the sets, he knows how to get that comfort feel rolling. He gives and gets respects all around.”
However, the story goes that to begin with Vidya wasn’t too sure about working with Balki.
“I have a personal anecdote to share”, she divulges, “My sister and brother-in-law, whom I hold in great regard, have worked with Balki for years on the ads that he has made. I used to interact with a lot of their mutual friends and they always used to speak about him. This set me wondering that what was so great about him.”
She got the answer when Cheeni Kum released and Balki’s cinematic sensibilities were on display for one and all.
“I loved the film and didn’t forget the kind of wonderful experience that Balki had created. Now when I have worked with him, I know what makes some of his qualities so distinct. Both Cheeni Kum and Paa have been based on subjects hitherto unexplored and all of that has been possible due to one single factor – sheer conviction. Once Balki is sure about the story he wants to tell, there is no looking back”, she comments.
It is this conviction factor that attracted Vidya towards Paa.
“I was having a constant pull and push internally before I decided to do Paa. However, Balki didn’t flinch even for a microsecond. This is what that set me on path to do Paa. I had certain doubts but they were quashed by this guy’s conviction. It is simply admirable and we all just followed the line”, she adds.
While Amitabh Bachchan, Tabu and Paresh Rawal were senior heavyweights in Cheeni Kum, same wasn’t the case in Paa which featured her along with Abhishek Bachchan.
“There is this mutual sense of respect that Balki encourages”, says Vidya, “Like, I really enjoyed the way he used to interact with Mr. Bachchan. Similarly with me and Abhishek, he had his own way of conveying a point. Of course all of us we used to make suggestions and he was open to them as well. He would never dismiss our suggestions.”
And how much did these suggestions actually get incorporated in the final filming?
“Hardly any”, Vidya comes up with a laugh here, “Invariably he would go with what he felt was right. He believed in the principal of listen to all and do what you feel strongest about. But yes, this entire exercise used to be quite helpful since I would ask him quite a few pertinent questions and I would always get the right answers.”
This is the reason why she was quite convinced when in the early days Balki explained to her the entire idea about the film, its background (Progeria) and how it was not meant to evoke sympathy or pity.
“I was wondering if Paa would turn out to be a serious film but Balki was quite clear that this was not going to be the case. He promised that it would be a heart warming film and that’s the way it has turned out to be. The entire disease thing is just the background of the film. The idea is to project the story with all the sensitivity but not make it a sympathetic affair”, she concludes.