By Rawdah Uddin

She is one of the few female Bollywood stars who are able to carry a film on their own, but Vidya Balan admits she was unsure how long her acting career would last having made her debut at 26 – an age when she says “actors were packing their bags, getting married and settling down”.

Balan says: “I am 40 today and it’s been 14 years and the going is good. It is because of the self-belief.”

By her own admission, female actors in the Indian film industry have a ‘short shelf-life’. But, with Balan, she has never been one to be just content with playing the love-interest of the male protaganist on screen and has managed to push the female narrative out of the shadows and into the spotlight by starring in hard-hitting, female-oriented films such as Ishqyia, No One Killed Jessica, Kahaani and Tumhari Sulu.

Vidya Balan has given hits such as Tumhari Sulu

Balan, who made her debut in 2005 with Parineeta, says: “My career will last until I am alive. There will be roles for me at every point of time as long as I want it to happen. I have always been the most important person in my life, so I was okay playing hero on-screen.”

Looking back at her time in acting, Balan says she never set out to be a path-breaker for female actors, she only had the desire to play good roles.

Vidya Balan made her debut in Parineeta alongside Saif Ali Khan

“It was the hunger that nothing can stop me, (certainly) not the fact that people call me unconventional. I don’t want my so-called unconventionality to stand in the way or that I don’t have a typical body of a heroine. I don’t want my entering the industry at the age of 26 to stand in the way of me having a long career. It is all about what you put out in the universe.”

Balan also notes how the typical notion of a hero has changed over the years due to the influence of social media. She says: “Social media has made us realise that each one of us can be a hero, each voice matters.”

She adds, a hero no longer needs to be the perfect being ‘with a heart of gold’, rather “he/she can be a flawed person who is overcoming his/her own limitations”.

The actor is soon to be starring in the upcoming movie Mission Mangal, a sci-fi drama about Indian scientists who contributed to the Mars orbiter mission, this marks India’s first interplanetary expedition. It is scheduled to release on Independence Day which commemorates India’s independence from the United Kingdom.