Vidya’s Daring U-Curve

Suma Nagaraj

Vidya Balan burst onto the scene as a breath of fresh air with her very Indian look in Parineeta, reminiscent of the quiet dignity of Meena Kumari and the playful innocence of Jaya 'Guddi' Bachchan. Her understated portrayal of a middle class girl weathering personal storms and heartbreaks brought back something that was missing in Bollywood for a long time - grace. It's common knowledge that heroines in mainstream Bollywood either need familial backing/clout or a sugar daddy to be cast as the leading lady, or be ready to pull a bare-and-dare act in their debut. But Parineeta was a dream debut for her in every sense of the word.

From thereon, however, it's been a mixed bag - some terrible choices that she must have signed in haste opposite leading men who either looked like cherubs or gummy bears. Her style/fashion sense has been heavily panned, too, both onscreen and off screen. Leaving behind the nightmares of romancing Shahid Kapur and starring in movies whose names were fatally attracted to semi-vowels, she bounced back with an award-winning role in Paa and even brought full-sleeved blouses back to fashion.

After those disastrous couple of years where she was everything from frump to blimp, she's made some smart choices in experimenting with her looks within the boundaries she's set for herself, with some help from designer friend Sabyasachi - the bespectacled Plain Jane in No One Killed Jessica, the come-hither coquette in Ishqiya, and now, if rumours are to be believed, sporting 'petticoats' and 'tank tops' in Dirty Picture, based on yesteryear vamp Silk Smitha. Is her career graph doing a 180-degree turn? Bollywood demands that its starlets prove their mettle by wearing revealing clothes first before they're allowed to play roles that actually demand that they be clothed.

With Vidya, this is either a well-calculated risk or a supremely stupid step. Seeing that she's carved a niche for herself both in the looks and acting department, will this change do wonders to her career? Or will it take her back to square one?

What do you think? Should Vidya continue to play strong-willed Indian women or should she give in to the demands of the industry and play the skin show card?