After her success in Paa, and never one to turn down a challenging role, Vidya Balan has confirmed that she has signed up to play Sabrina Lal, Jessica’s sister, in the movie No One Killed Jessica. “Yes, I am playing Sabrina Lal in Rajkumar Gupta’s film,” she said, “The minute I heard the role, I wanted to do it. It’s my first biographical role and a big challenge. I’ll be meeting Sabrina shortly.”
The murder of Jessica Lal in 1999 struck right at the heart of India, stirring deep emotions as it exposed the nepotism, inequality and corruption at the heart of Indian society. In fictional form, it features prominently in Vikas Slumdog Millionaire Swarap’s excellent book Six Suspects. Jessica was a hard-working woman of thirty-four. A part-time model, she was working as a celebrity barmaid at a private socialite party at the Tamarind Court restaurant on April 29th, 1999, when she was shot dead at point blank range for refusing to serve a drink to a drunk Manu Sharma, the son of Congress politician Venod Sharma. After a process that lasted seven years, Manu was – to everyone’s incredulity – found innocent. Uproar ensued as the people recognised this as a step too far in the establishment’s protection of its own interests. Unusually, the prosecution appealed and after it became clear that key witnesses had been bribed and evidence destroyed, Sharma was eventually found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Vidya is meanwhile looking forward to the release of Ishqiya with Naseruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi, in which she plays an earthy village woman in a role completely different from Paa. “I play a village belle,” she explains, “Yet I’m fully aware of my sexual charms and within the four walls of the bedroom, I’m unapologetic about using my guile and charm.’’