Romance has perhaps been the most dominant genre in the history of Indian cinema, with timeless love stories entertaining audiences across different decades.
But in recent years, aside from the odd romantic comedy, the genre has been dying out in favour of other subjects including masala entertainers. This week’s big Bollywood release Humari Adhuri Kahani, which stars Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi, is hoping to bring romance back to the big screen.
The mature love story has been written by legendary filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and revolves around a married woman whose world is rocked when she falls in love with another man.
Eastern Eye caught up with lead star Vidya to talk about the movie, love stories, girl power in Indian cinema, future plans and more.
Are you becoming pickier or have you consciously decided to slow down?
(Smiles) Neither, actually. I am as picky as I was before, but it’s just a function of me being not in the public eye. I’m not on social media and I don’t make too many appearances at events, so you know my absence looks even longer (than it perhaps is). So (my last film) Bobby Jasoos was released last July, and I’ve had about 11 months before Humari Adhuri Kahani hits cinemas. I think the situation just gets amplified because I’ve not been seen anywhere else in between.
I think it’s because we miss you…
(Laughs) That is so sweet, Asjad, thank you. I had to take a break also for a few months because I was ill. So I had to opt out of one film and then I only ended up doing Humari Adhuri Kahani.
What did you like about this film?
The fact that it has been written by Mahesh Bhatt and was being directed by Mohit Suri. Also, I had not done a love story since Parineeta. It is the story of a middle-class working woman who has very traditional roots. She is a wife and mother and has been brought up to believe that she is her husband’s property, that marriage is a final destination for her. It is the truth about most women or for every second woman in the country. I thought that it was not personally identifiable, but just very identifiable, if you know what I mean. And so when such a woman finds love, what happens?
Humari Adhuri Kahani is said to be based on the story of Mahesh Bhatt’s parents. How close to real life is it?
I don’t think it is solely based on Bhatt saab’s parents’ lives. It’s actually inspired by incidents from their lives and from the lives of people close to him. I think he has always gone with personal experiences and memories. That is why his films have been all the more interesting, because they are personal, but I wouldn’t know exactly what he has taken [from their lives] and haven’t asked him directly.
But having said that, I was under pressure because I was finally getting to do a Mahesh Bhatt film. I wanted to work with him as a director, but I didn’t get the opportunity because he stopped directing before I entered films. But at least I was getting to work on a movie that was written by him. Then when I got to know about the personal angle, I think there was a little added pressure. I was a little bit nervous on this one.
You are known to do more experimental genres, so what was it like to do a more traditional one like romance?
You know, it is a traditional genre and I love romance, I adore love stories. This is a mature love story. We have not had a mature love story since maybe Aandhi or Yash Chopraji’s film Silsila. Those are the last films that I can think of. So I found this to be interesting because like I said, I had not done a love story since Parineeta, and then there are no mature love stories any more. The last intense love story was Aashiqui 2, but that was with younger characters. I am glad that at this age and stage in my life, I’ve got a love story I could do. Because I couldn’t have done an Aashiqui 2.
It is strange that Bollywood has been built on romance, but isn’t really doing love stories any more?
You know, that’s true – at the max we get romantic comedies, which is so sad.
What was working with Emraan Hashmi again like?
Oh, it was wonderful. It is a very easy equation working with him and it only got better. This time there was so much intensity in the scenes, that to diffuse that, we ended up talking a lot of rubbish and gibberish sometimes in between takes. That helped us dilute the tension. But it was really wonderful working with him again. As it was working with the rest of the team and Mohit Suri.
Is it fair to say this is a very emotional film?
Absolutely. It’s extremely emotional. I think everyone likes a good love story. Everyone likes to be moved. I think this film will do that.
Do you have a favourite scene in the film?
I actually have two favourite moments in the movie. One is with Rajkumar Rao, who plays my husband, in which I tell him that I am in love with Emraan’s character. That scene is like a big break-up. There are tears, there are accusations, there is anger, there is violence and so much is going on. It’s very, very true to life.
Then there is a scene with Emraan where I actually accept the fact that I am falling in love with him. He acknowledges he is falling in love with me too, and I don’t know how to react because I’m torn between my marriage and that fact.
The music has received a great response. Do you have a favourite track in the movie?
Yes, the title track Humari Adhuri Kahani. I think it’s a beautiful song. Anyone who has ever experienced love in their life is going to love the song.
You are one of the women who bought girl power into Bollywood. You must be very pleased that so many other leading ladies are now getting powerful roles?
I am thrilled. Absolutely. I think we women are doing better films than the heroes are. Look at the variety of films, from Mary Kom and Mardaani to Tanu Weds Manu, Piku, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, NH10, Margarita With A Straw to Humari Adhuri Kahani. My God, it’s amazing. It is just girl power all the way.
You must be happy that you have been a trailblazer for this trend?
It is very humbling when somebody says that. I say thank you, because even if I have had a 0.0001 per cent contribution to this, that makes me extremely happy. But the fact is all around us women are driving change with their lifestyles and by leading independent lives the way they want to and they are inspiring stories.
There is also a lot of unity between the leading ladies – everyone is just complimenting each other’s work?
(Laughs) Yes, that is true and now they [media] are going to have to write about the time of cat fights being over. Everyone loves each other.
Do you have a strong desire to play a role you haven’t done yet?
There are so many – whatever is the population of the world, there are as many stories to tell. So I think I have a long way to go before I can feel even halfway happy about having even done a wide variety. Yes, I have done a number of roles, but there are a lot more to do. But having said that, if I had to think of a role I would like to play, I would like to do a Hrishikesh Mukherjee kind of comedy. Then maybe I would also like to play Indira Gandhi, but I don’t see that happening.
Why should we all go and watch Humari Adhuri Kahani?
I was drawn to the story when I read it. I think all of us have felt drawn to it. The reactions to the trailer are pretty much the same, with everyone saying it tugs at your heartstrings and you feel like watching the trailer again and again. So I think people will be drawn to watch the film because it is a love story, and everyone is a sucker for love.
Can you see yourself directing or producing a film – you have a great cinematic sense?
Thank you, but I think that is limited to me being the actor. I don’t think I have the ability to direct, the discipline to write or the desire to produce. (Laughs) I think I am just a little self-consumed and I like to be the centre of attention on a film set. I can’t lavish that on anyone else.
Finally, would you like to give us a message for your fans?
Hello everyone, I hope you are all well. Please watch Humari Adhuri Kahani. I think each one of us has an incomplete or an unfinished story in our lives and it will make you cry, but it will also make you smile. So watch it, enjoy it and lots of love to every one of you. God bless.
Humari Adhuri Kahani is in cinemas now.