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'Vidya had become a nightmare'

Milan Luthria, director of The Dirty Picture, talks about sending his leading actors rolling down a hill with oranges, and why he had been dodging Vidya Balan's calls

Why did you cast Vidya in The Dirty Picture? This bold role is completely against her image. Even Ekta was zapped when I told her that I wanted Vidya for this role. Nobody else could do what I had in mind. She is a South Indian and has the classic Indian voluptuousness which you don't see anymore.


Director Milan Luthria (right) directing actors Vidya Balan and Naseeruddin
Shah on the sets of The Dirty Picture

Did you have to tweak any bold outfits or change intimate scenes?
When she first read the script, she was not happy. She is a little conservative so it was tough for her. But then she realised that there was no point being stressed. She had to decide whether to do it or not. There were times when I went up to her and said, 'Look, this neckline is too low/the skirt is too short,' but she said, 'No, that's the character.' She was very clear about the difference between who she is in person and the character she is playing.

After late actress' Silk Smitha's brother went to court, The Dirty Picture producers Balaji have clarified that this film about an ambitious starlet is not a formal biopic but draws inspiration from the strugglers in the '80s. What is your stand today?
We studied a lot of women of from that era. As an assistant director to Mahesh Bhatt, I had worked with Silk Smitha and Disco Shanti. So, these were the two names that I remembered. Then there was Nylon Nalini and Polyester Padmini. Internationally also, there have been very sexy and beautiful women with magnetic personalities who had a meteoric rise but difficult relationships. Marilyn Monroe drove the world mad but she had bad relationships, got into controversies, was lonely, had an unpredictable temper, and met a tragic end. We found that there is a pattern. The same was true of Silk Smitha and the other women we studied. It is not one person's story.

Why is Vidya's character called Silk in the film?
It evokes a whiff of the era. Nobody is called Polyester today. The characters were called by these names then because they had sensual connotations.

Will you show Silk Smitha's brother the film?
The matter is now subjudice and our lawyers are going to appear in court in Hyderabad.

How deeply did Vidya research her role?
Vidya had become a torturous nightmare for us at that time. She kept calling me to find out more about the period and the script. There was a time when I would hide from her. I don't encourage my actors to discuss the script too much. I doubt I will across a beautiful person like her again.

You made Naseeruddin Shah play a lech, and got him to dance!
Naseersaab's precondition was that I should let him play a lech. He has relished every moment of it. But making him dance to 'Ooh la la' was very difficult. Naseersaab was very clear that he would not come on the sets without adequate rehearsals. He rehearsed for two-and-a-half months. Eventually when he came on the sets, it still took him time to get rid of his hesitation.

Everybody else was terrified of his temper because he lost it a couple of times. But then he was okay. The most difficult sequence? Naseersaab and Vidya rolling downhill, with oranges around them. It would hurt them! I don't know how the actors from the '60s and '70s did it.

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