A conversation with Indian actor Vidya Malavade who rose to fame with Shahrukh Khan starrer film Chak De India. Vidya has recently worked in popular web-series like Mismatched, Flesh and Bamini and Boys.
Here’s an excerpt from a conversation with her:
You have recently worked in a lot of web series. Was this transition from Bollywood to OTT planned or it happened gradually?
It wasn’t planned. Nobody knew a few years ago that web-series would take over and there would be so incredible content come to you at your house on your TV.
I am not a big planner anyway. I plan smaller things. But in the bigger picture, I let life happen.
I have done about six web-shows until now and all of them have done quite well and I am happy about it.
As an actor, what difference do you see in OTT and films in terms of your process and audience response?
As an actor, there’s no difference really. But most of the times, on a movie set, we have a little time to do retakes. But for a web-series, it feels like everybody is working really fast because there are so many episodes to be shot in a little time, so everybody’s is kinda running out of time all the time.
But otherwise, as an actor, my process remains the same because it’s a character, whether I am playing in a film or a web-show.
In your recent web-series Bamini and Boys, you play a sexy diva. It’s very different from what you have done before. So, what made you sign this project?
That’s exactly why I wanted to do it because everybody has always seen me in very serious roles and this is when I just decided, ‘Come on, let’s just have some fun.’ And I actually really had a lot of fun because as you said, Bamini is glamourous, diva-ish and sexy. She is a bit of a child woman. I have never played a character who is so animated. So, it was a lot of fun for me to do that. That was one of the reasons I decided to do this.
Also, I generally really like to watch sitcoms. It is one of my favourite genres. And I am very happy with the response we are getting on our show. It’s been at No. 1 on Disney Plus Hotstar since two weeks because it released exactly two weeks ago. So, I guess people are liking it. People are appreciating not just the way I look in it but also the way we have all performed. And it’s very light-hearted. Right now, the situation around is so heavy and depressing, so this is just a little light-hearted, fun thing to watch. It’s a little mindless as well but I am happy to do this.
How was your experience shooting Bamini and Boys? Did you have fun on sets?
Of course. The boys are great. They are such good actors. If you are working with such great talent, then you yourself have to lift up your game a little bit. And it sort of encourages and makes everybody come together to do better work.
It was great working with them and the entire crew. It was a small unit of some 50-60 people and we were shooting in a two-storey bungalow. It was very nice but hectic at the same time. There were days when I was changing 8-10 outfits one after the other. So, it was really crazy.
Your previous web-series ‘Mismatched’ that came out on Netflix last year was a huge hit. What was your experience working with Prajakta Koli who is a big YouTuber and much younger in age?
Praju is really sweet. I am not a big YouTube person. So, I had no idea who Prajakta was and what kind of stuff she did. So, when I went on set, I realised Oh my god! There’s whole other world. People are YouTube stars.
The girl is talented. She is so amazing. She has been doing this (Mostly Sane YouTube Channel) for, I think, the last 6 years and the number of people that love her, it’s so heartwarming to see that. And the kind of content that she makes really clicks with the audience of the country. It was great working with her and the entire cast and crew.
I think, it’s really nice to work with these younger actors sometimes because they are so prepared with everything. They have gone to their acting schools, they have worked on their characters and they come on set fully prepared with their lines and what they want to do with their character.
I remember when I reached the sets of Bamini and Boys, the boys were not able to get over me. They were like, ‘Oh my God! You have been our long time crush. You are the Chak De Girl. It’s one of our favourite films and we can’t believe we are shooting with you.’
So, there’s this whole Chak De Girl thing that happened on sets of Mismatched and Bamini and Boys. They are so impressed by the film and my character.
For people to remember the film and my character after 10-12 years, it is quite admirable. I feel really blessed.
You are recognized as Chak De Girl even after so many years. How has been your journey and what changed after Chak De for you?
I am the same person. But with time, I have become a little more aware.
Talking about the journey as an actor, I signed a few films right after Chak De. But the market crashed and either the films crashed or they didn’t start or got stalled. There was a lul for a while. But I am also a yoga teacher and that kept me going. My Instagram is full of that, if you know.
But the great times started about 3-4 years ago when the web world opened up. And not just stars, but really good actors started getting their dues. They started getting really good work. So, I am just glad that I am one of them who got to play such diverse characters in the last 2-3 years.
And you’ll see around in every web series, you’ll find somebody or the other who is so outstanding would have never got their dues in the movies. And not just actors, the web-world has opened a plethora of opportunities for technicians as well.
Any reunion plans for the Chak De Girls?
I have no idea. But I think, this is something you need to ask the Yash Raj Films. Maybe, they can do this!
But once in a while, we have our reunion anyways. Quite a few girls are away in their hometowns or have moved away or whatever. But the ones who are in Mumbai, and sometimes those who come down from Delhi, we catch up. We met before the first lockdown at my house. It was 7-8 of us. It was really cool. They had come for lunch and they stayed till late at night. It was very nice. It feels like you start off where you left the last time. So that feeling is very nice.
Once the lockdown is lifted, what’s the one thing you would want to do first?
As soon as the lockdown is lifted, we are going to start shooting again because we have 8 days of work left on Bamini and Boys. So, we need to finish with that ASAP and deliver that.
And then, I have to start another project that I am prepping for right now. It’s going to be one of the most complex characters that I have ever played. So, that’s the immediate plan. June is going to be full of shooting, I hope.
Apart from that, I really want to travel and go to the US because I haven’t seen my family in two years. I would want to go and see my sisters, their children and my mother. So, that’s the one thing I want to do.
The next project of yours will be a film or web-series?
It is a web-series with one of the most amazing directors. I remember I had written a message to him after I had seen one of his films and said that even if I get to play a tree in your film, I would do it because he is such a wonderful director. And I feel like it is a dream come true.
Which character of yours do you like the most- Zeenat Karim or Bamini?
(Laughs) You know thet both came out of me, so I like both of them. I can’t really decide but I do like Zeenat a lot because she is goofy.
Bamini also I like very much because she is really like out there. She is struggling with her professional and personal life but still, she is out there.
So, between Zeenat and Bamini, I don’t want to choose. But if I have to, I might just say 51% of Zeenat and 49% of Bamini. I love them both. But I like how clumsy and innocent Zeenat is.
You do keep up your Instagram game all the time, just like Bamini.
Yes, I guess. I don’t know if there wasn’t Instagram, then somebody would have thought of casting me as Bamini . I don’t know because everything I have always played is so subdued, proper, traditional and serious, more than anything.
So, this idea of me playing Bamini might have come from Instagram. I have no idea.
What was the difference between shooting Flesh and Bamini and Boys?
Flesh was an extremely dark series. What my character was going through and the entire storyline was very guttural and visceral. For me as an actor, I can’t stay in that space for a very long time because then I’ll just go mental. So it’s very important for me to come back to being Vidya after the pack-up. And I can do it. But when I am on set and just before the shot, is when I get into the character.
Just because it was so intense, I rememeber I have cried, it used to make my blood boil and it used to make me feel depressed and sad.
But on the other side, my director and the other team were mad people. There was also a lot of madness going on. So, it was fun also. Once all te crying was done, they;d be cracking jokes.
As opposed to that, doing Bamini and Boys was completely different. It was a lot of fun. Also, as it was shot very quickely, we were in this mad rush all the time. Eveything was falling apart on the set. There were a lot of problems and we were continuosly finding solutions or improvising.
Since it is 10-12 minutes of episodes, sometimes we used to finish it in one take.
On the other hand, playing Zeenat was a breeze. I had the best time.