By FATIMA PATEL
Tumhari Sulu is probably one of Vidya Balan’s most anticipated films after her last outing ‘Begum Jaan’.
In the film Vidya plays a happy-go-lucky suburban Mumbai housewife called Sulochana (fondly known as Sulu) She lives with her husband, Ashok, a sales manager in a traditional company that sells uniforms, and their 11-year-old son, Pranav. Sulu keeps herself entertained through the day, which includes listening to her favourite radio station and taking part in every possible contest. Sulu breezes through life with a fun and candid never-say-never attitude. On a day like any other, Sulu ends up winning a pressure cooker through a radio contest that she has taken part in. Little does she know that her trip to the radio station is about to change her life. In an unexpected turn of events, she lands a job of an RJ (radio jockey). She is no ordinary RJ for she is made to anchor a night show, which involves chatting with peculiars, strangers and lonely souls. A husband in constant battle at a mid-level job, a precocious child who is up to something alarmingly strange in school, and a woman who unpredictably stumbles into the world of radio. Seasoned with music, humour and quirk, Tumhari Sulu witnesses the everyday grit of a housewife, a marriage put to test and a world that struggles to see the beauty of a so-called ‘simple, ordinary life’. Sounds entertaining right, well our interview with the Dirt Picture star, was nothing short of fun and entertaining.
Here are our candid moments with the award-winning actress – Vidya Balan!
Tumhari Sulu – It’s another powerful woman centric role once again. The concept of a woman bound by traditional norms trying something new promises to be exciting. How did the role come about?
Honestly, when Suresh Triveni, the writer director, narrated the idea to me I said wow, that sounds like fun, a homemaker turned a late-night radio talk. So, I asked him to develop it. He brought it back to me and when he narrated it to me, it was one of the best narrations I have had in my career. He brought alive every character and I could just see the film literally play out in front of my eyes. I felt like this is going to be fun and that’s why I did it. I think I was ready for some fun, after all the serious stuff I have been doing (laughter). And it’s so close to who I am in real, because you know I smile a lot and I laugh a lot, so this is giving me the opportunity to do that. So that’s how the film came about.
Speaking of fun, you also got an opportunity to perform to the classic Sridevi song ‘Hawa Hawai’
What was it like moving to the hit number?
Thankfully, I am not doing a Sridevi in the song, because that is unmatchable. I couldn’t have done that. But I am just dancing to the song and having fun. It’s a lovely song and Mr India is one of my favouritist films and Sridevi in that film is like an encyclopaedia on acting. There is nothing she can’t do. So, it’s a song that I’ve loved from the first time I’ve heard it. It’s a song that I have danced to so often at parties and things like that, so I am glad I got an opportunity to pay her a little tribute in this film.
The last time you played an RJ was in Munnabhai considering you’ve played an RJ before, for the role of Sulu you went to extra lengths and did a voice modulation course to fit the character. Can you tell us more about your preparation for the role and why this RJ is different?
No, there was no voice modulation course. What we actually did was Suresh the Director sat with me and he said he wants my voice for it, but the slight tone had to be central throughout. Because if you hear the late-night radio jocks in India there is a certain sensuality to their voices and it’s like their whispering in your ears and that being the inspiration we decided that, that’s how she will speak on the radio. But there was no course or anything of the sort. But I worked with my co-actor Vijay Maurya on the diction to make it more local. Because we wanted the language to be very casual, very colloquial and that’s what we’ve tried to achieve through those sessions that I did with Vijay Maurya.
Your look in the film is traditional yet trendy. In the past you’ve been criticised for how your characters look in your films. Do you ever have a say in how your character will look in a film?
Oh yes, absolutely because I work in collaboration with the Director, the cinematographer, the costume designer, the make-up artist and my hairstylist to create a look. So, at the stage when I was criticised heavily, I didn’t know I had a say in costumes not to put the blame on anyone else, but at that time I didn’t take an interest in my costume. But for the past nine years or so I have been doing the kind of films that I want to be doing, where there is scope for you to, add that little bit and to flesh out the character through the costumes also. On this I worked with Rick Roy on the costumes, of course he is extremely creative. I have my inputs, but finally it’s he who is creating the costumes and I think he has done a very good job at it. We needed saris that are reflective of her personality. The colours the prints are all joyous looking.
Neha Dupia is working with you for the first time and is in complete awe of you. How does that make you feel?
I wonder if I have bribed them (laughter). Neha and I got along very well, very easily, because both of us are ‘gundies’. We got along very easily. She is wonderful. It was great working with her, it didn’t feel like work really. She is very very kind to have said all those wonderful things about me.
In the film you play the role of an RJ who addresses queries from lonely listeners during the night. What’s been the most memorable comment or moment you have had with a fan?
Yes, I have people reach out to me in various ways. There was this boy who was waiting outside my van for five days, when I was shooting for a certain film and when I heard that there was someone waiting for me, so I called him into my caravan and I said: “what’s up what are you doing waiting for five days.” He said: “I just wanted to tell you that you changed my life” I asked how is that and he said: “I watched Kahani and when I saw that man kick you in your stomach and there was a shot of you looking up at him and a tear drop falling out, there was a certain resolve in your eyes. I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I watched the film back to back thrice in a day and then I went and told my father I am gay.” And I said oh my God. I would have never thought that a scene like that would have such an impact on someone. I think I was humbled by what I heard. When people tell you things like that you’re just wondering what you did to…I feel I am so blessed in such a privileged position to be able touch people’s lives like that.
Finally, what do you think audiences will take back from your Sulu?
I think they will leave the theatre with a smile on their faces. I feel they have a lot of reason to smile through the film.
The film is directed by Suresh Triveni, produced by Ellipsis Entertainment and will be releasing worldwide on 17 November.