Last month Vidya Balan was in Karachi for the the release of the Urdu translation of the classic book Mo's Star by Mehnaaz Rahmatullah . "This was part of the Reaching The Stars campaign. All the proceeds went for children's education. And that's something I really believe in," says Vidya
"The people in Karachi were very warm and welcoming. I read out the book in Urdu . Before leaving for Pakistan, I sat on the script with Gulzar's saab's associate Salif Arif for a couple of days. The people and the press in Karachi had blessedly good things to say about me. With Urdu one can easily go wrong in the pronunciation."
She was in Karachi from Feb 14-17. "I could only visit Karachi. To go to other parts of Pakistan one needs a separate visa. And seeing the volatile situation it was best to stay restricted in Karachi. Best to be safe…
Vidya had gone with just a friend. "But the director of Il Postino, Michael Radford was there in Karachi. He had directed the English audio version of the book with Joseph Finnes voice. The meeting with Michael Radford was amazing. We came from different spaces. There was such a give-and-take of ideas."
For the book - release Vidya wore white salwar-kameez. "Since the book is about a penguin I wore white cotton."
Vidya was fascinated by the local cuisine. "Unfortunately I'm a vegetarian. So I had a tough time except on the last day when the writer's brother-in-law fed me an absolutely delightful vegetarian lunch. But there were lovely vegeterian restaurants including one run by Sonia Jehan's mother."
The book will also be released in India in Hindi later.
Isn't this an unusual way for a young woman to spend Valentine's Day? "One doesn't really believe in all this. But if I've to spend my day showering love on those who matter then I'd rather do it with children."
How did Vidya get selected to release a book? "They were looking for an Asian woman with a reformist image and a traditional personality. I guess I fitted the bill."
Laughing off the misgiving that she's getting typecast as a serious 'classical' actress suited for literary period dramas Vidya says.
"So far it's only been Parineeta. Rumours of Dada (Pardeep Sarkar ) starting another literary classic Devi Chaudhurani were totally unfounded. I'll be be going back in time for Sudhir Mishra's Bahut Nikle Mere Armaan and Rituparno Ghosh's Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. Then that's it. I play modern contemporary roles in Nikhil Advani's Salaam-e-Ishq and Raju Hirani's Munnabhai 2."
She stops to think, "Actually I'm quite happy being known as a classical actress. I'd be quite uncomfortable if I was known as a hottie or a pinup girl."
In Karachi Vidya gifted herself the most perfect love story. "It was inspiring to see this Australian woman married to an Australian for thirty years. She converted to Islam twenty-two years ago and was on a constant spiritual quest. One day she saw a man in a vision. Then saw the same face on television and found out it was one of famous Qawwalli singing Sabri brothers.
She began searching for him. When she finally found out his whereabouts he had passed away just a few weeks earlier. She came to Pakistan and came and met the others in the Sabri family. Today she's happily married to the second Sabri brother for the past eight years. Isn't that an amazing love story?
To give up everything for a person whom you can't even converse with….If I ever found a love like that I'd throw caution to the winds and sing Aaj phir jeene ke tamanna hai. I'd give up everything and become a slave to love."