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Ooh la la ‘n’loving it – Every heroine plays sexy in Hindi cinema today — if it is equated with being skimpily clad, being rebel teen or happy infidel, doing your standard issue jhatka-matkas or item number (not much difference there!). But doing an in-the-face act in a film that rides on the subject of a film actor’s sexuality — now that is really plucky. Vidya Balan deserves a place in the history of our cinema for making that audacious attempt.

If you haven’t heard of “The Dirty Picture” yet, you’re obviously living on some other planet. The Ekta Kapoor-produced Milan Luthria-directed film set for release on December 2 is scorching people’s minds with heavy-duty promos of heavy-duty bosom heaving and slithering with hero amidst oranges on hill slopes — reprising the gaudy 80s Hindi cinema. The film’s song “Ooh la la…tu hai meri fantasy” scoops out the spirit of the film in generous dollops. There’s been enough controversy kicked up about the film being based on iconic cabaret queen Silk Smitha’s life, about Vidya Balan never being able to match up to Smitha’s sensuality, about Smitha’s brother challenging the film in court etc etc. As is the case with any speculation, it’s only added to the publicity blitzkrieg.

Vidya knows she’s stepped out of her comfort zone; she herself says “I’ve unleashed myself,” with a bold and becoming pink-lipsticked grin. She was in Bangalore in association with Radio One to promote the film. Vidya’s been living her filmi look during the promos, underlining retro chic with wedge heels, huge plastic frame glasses, hoop earrings, pink floral print shirt dress, purple nail enamel et al.

“I don’t adhere to any image trap…I don’t want to be repeating a Vidya Balan,” emphasises Vidya, who, after her critically acclaimed 2005 Hindi debut “Parineeta” has actually managed not to fall into the un-rescuable typecasting well by doing films as diverse as “Lage Raho Munna Bhai”, “Heyy Baby”, “Paa”, “Ishqiya”, “No One Killed Jessica”. Vidya agrees: “I’ve had ample opportunities to play completely different characters on screen. That’s why I came into films. Directors too are investing full faith in me and many have been telling me I’m brave to do this role.”

Vidya is quick to stress that her role of Silk in “The Dirty Picture” is of a “dancing star in the 80s who wears her heart and sexuality on her sleeve. She is brazen about it and it is that attitude that has made her a star. This is not based on the life of Silk Smitha… but she is synonymous with dancing stars of that era.” But anyone who’s seen the promos can’t miss the umpteen references.

Vidya admits it’s her toughest role till date. “On the one hand she’s volatile and brazen, and on the other, she’s childlike; to translate that on screen was tough. My roles so far hadn’t given me an opportunity to explore that side of me.” She watched some films of the time, especially songs that had suggestive gestures and over-the-top movements. “Added to that we all have an imagination of them in their personal lives, and of course, there were inputs from the director,” she says of her preparation.

When she had switched from her sari-clad “Parineeta” image to a more hipper younger role in “Kismat Konnection”, critics went all out to pan her. “I completely understand them. My heart wasn’t in it; I had no conviction and it showed. But with my role in ‘The Dirty Picture’ people have been embracing me with open arms!” she says exhilarated. But there’s nothing voyeuristic about the film, insists Vidya, despite the titillating title of the flick. “It’s just that when you’re talking of a woman so unapologetic about her sexuality, it’s easy to label her dirty.”

To accentuate the “wholesome woman” she had to play on screen, Vidya was asked to put on weight, which she easily did. “I have a weakness for cream biscuits and I indulged in a lot of them. In the last 15 years I haven’t eaten the kind of desserts I did in the run up to this film!” she laughs heartily. Another weakness of hers is the sari, which she indulged in again for the film. “I love saris and it’s the sexiest garment that looks great on any body type. I celebrate my curves and the sari does complete justice to that. I always wear cottons or Kanjivarams, but for the film we went in for somejhataksaris,” she laughs.

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