Indian movie star Vidya Balan has launched the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, and Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan will attend the event in May.
28 Mar 2014 - 3:49 PM  UPDATED 3 Apr 2014 - 4:38 PM

Indian films today explore every kind of story, says actor Vidya Balan, who plays the title role in a movie about a free-spirited detective, Bobby Jasoos.

It's India's first female detective film - a big milestone in a country where television screens used to go black when a kissing scene began.

"It's now that the time is right for all kinds of films in India," Balan says.

"Every possible genre is being explored, every type of story is being told."

Balan is in Australia launching the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, which is the country's largest event of its kind.

She says her Bobby Jasoos character is no Sherlock Holmes-style detective.

Bobby Jasoos is a street-smart woman who has gone against the expectation that she should be married with children.

"She is a 30-year-old woman who is still very much a girl in spirit," Balan says.

"She has defied conventional norms to live her dream of being a detective."

Balan married film producer and Disney India managing director Siddharth Roy Kapur in December 2012. Now she's taking a few months' break to travel, read and reflect on what she has achieved.

She says it's unfortunate that taking a break has prompted questions about whether she is pregnant. (For the record, she's not.)

"It's appalling that someone can ask me whether I'm pregnant because it's no one else's business but mine and my husband's," she says.

During her press conference Balan was quizzed on how marriage has changed her approach to her career.

"You would never ask a male actor how marriage has changed him," Balan says.

"I am the same person with the same amount of passion and commitment towards my work."

Balan says marriage has injected a new lightness into her life.

"My mum told me very recently, she said, `You were born a woman but I think marriage has made you a girl.'

"I think probably marriage has done that to me, I just feel like I am having more fun in life."

At college, Balan loved watching television shows such as Friends, Ally McBeal and Beverly Hills 90210.

Festival director Mitu Bhowmick Lange says filmmakers began moving beyond traditional Indian films in the mid-1990s, when cable television arrived in India and multiplex cinemas opened.

According to Lange, a new wave of Indian directors are making edgier films, challenging the caste system, government corruption and sexism.

Indian movie star Amitabh Bachchan will be in Australia for the festival opening on May 1.

The 71-year-old actor has more than eight million followers on Twitter.

"If he says something everyone listens - that's the kind of pull he has on the nation," Lange says.

"To me ... he is more powerful than any head of state."

* The Indian Film Festival runs from May 1 to 11.


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