Rohit wrote on 11 Aug 2008
Vidya was born in the Tamil-speaking Balan family on January 1, 1978 in Palghat, Kerala, India. Her family consists of her dad, P.R. Balan, who is the Vice-President of ETC Channel; mom - a home-maker, and an elder sister, Priya, who is married to Kedar. She also has an aunt by the name of Raji Raju. The Balan family re-located to live at Road No. 11, near Ambedkar Garden, Chembur, Bombay, when Vidya was very young. She studied in St. Anthony's Convent School, and thereafter in St. Xavier's College from where she obtained a degree in Sociology. She then went on to obtain a Masters degree in Sociology from Bombay University. She also studied and performed in Prithvi Theaters' workshops. Due to tradition of most Tamil-Iyer families, Vidya and her Priya learned Carnatic dance form during their early childhood days, but Vidya opted out as the dance classes took place early on Sunday mornings and as she is not an early riser.
Her first break came with a Malyalam movie 'Chakram' opposite Mohanlal, however,the project was shelved, and she had to wait until 1998 to debut in a Surf Excel commercial. She then went on to appear in several commercials directed by Pradeep Sarkar. She also appeared in three music videos for Pankaj Udhas, Euphoria, and Shubha Mudgal in supporting roles. She then also appeared in two TV serials Ekta Kapoor's 'Hum Paanch', and Ashok Pandit's 'Hanste Khelte'. During 2003 she was signed-up to play a role in a Bengali movie 'Bhaalo Theko' opposite Joy Sengupta. This project was completed during the year 2006, and was a considerable hit. Then during 2006 Vidya was approached by Vidhu Vinod Chopra during a pop-concert in Mumbai to play a lead role in 'Parineeta'. She then had to undergo 17 make-up shoots and 40 screen tests before being chosen for this role. Balan made her Hindi film debut in the critically acclaimed Parineeta. Though the film didn't do well, her performance was acclaimed by critics. In 2006, she appeared opposite Sanjay Dutt in the blockbuster film Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Once again her performance was well received by critics and the film went on to become the second highest grossing film of that year. Mani Ratnam's critically acclaimed Guru was Balan's first release in 2007, in which she played a woman with a physical disability. The film did very well at the box office and her role was appreciated. Her next two releases, Salaam-e-Ishq: A Tribute To Love (2007) and Eklavya: The Royal Guard (2007) failed to do well but the latter was selected as India's official entries to the Oscars for the 80th Academy Awards. Balan's last two releases of the year, Heyy Babyy (2007) and Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007) have fared very well at the box office. In 2008, her release Halla Bol, proved out to be a Box-Office Dud. Kismet Konnection with Shahid Kapoor got mixed response from the box-office.
Apart from acting, Vidya occupies herself for supporting education for young Indians by promoting children's books; is associated with Americans for Aids Research; with Hale House - that provides support and housing for children born with HIV and drug abuse; as well as hosting forums and attending events for Harvard Aids Institute.