Vidya Balan (pronounced [ʋɪd̪jaː baːlən]; born 1 January 1979) is an Indian actress. Known for pioneering a change in the concept of a Hindi film heroine with her portrayals of strong-willed women, she is the recipient of several awards, including a National Film Award, six Filmfare Awards, and six Screen Awards. She was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2014.
Vidya aspired to a career in film from a young age and had her first acting role in the 1995 sitcom Hum Paanch. She pursued a master's degree in sociology from the University of Mumbai and simultaneously made several unsuccessful attempts to start a career in film. She subsequently featured in television commercials and music videos. In 2003 she made her feature film debut as the protagonist of the independent Bengali drama Bhalo Theko. In 2005 Vidya garnered praise for her first Hindi film, the drama Parineeta, and followed it with a leading role in the top-grossing comedy film Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006).
This breakthrough was followed by roles in the romantic comedies Heyy Babyy (2007) and Kismat Konnection (2008) which had negative reviews. Vidya went on to establish herself as a leading actress of Hindi cinema by playing five consecutive roles to wide critical acclaim in the 2009 drama Paa, the 2010 black comedy Ishqiya, the 2011 semi-biographical thriller No One Killed Jessica, the 2011 biopic The Dirty Picture, and the 2012 thriller Kahaani. She followed this with a series of films that performed poorly at the box office, although her performance in Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh (2016) was praised. This changed in 2017 when she starred as a radio jockey in the successful comedy-drama Tumhari Sulu.
In addition to acting in films, Vidya promotes humanitarian causes and supports the empowerment of women. She initially drew criticism for her fluctuating weight and "questionable" dress sense, but was later credited in the media for "not morphing herself to fit into any conventional slot". She became a member of the Indian Central Board of Film Certification in 2017. Vidya is married to the film producer Siddharth Roy Kapur.