Vidya Balan has earned many adjectives in her career but the actor says she does not want anything to define her.
The actor, who made her film debut at the age of 26, says she kept hearing that female stars had a short shelf life, a discussion that has, thankfully, become redundant with time.
"Change was underway and I became the face of that change because I was at the right moment at the right place... The age of 26 is normally the age when actors were packing their bags, getting married and settling down. When I entered I was like, 'Will my career be for few years?' And people would tell me that the career span of an actress is very short. I was like, I want to act all my life.
"I am 40 today and it's been 14 years and the going is good. It is because of the self belief. My career will last until I am alive. There will be roles for me at every point of time as long as I want it to happen. I have always been the most important person in my life so I was okay playing hero on-screen," Vidya said in a group interview.
The actor, who has pushed the female narrative forward with hits such as "Parineeta", "Paa", "Ishqiya", "No One Killed Jessica", "Kahaani" and "Tumhari Sulu", among many others, says looking back, she can never pinpoint the moment of change in her career other than the desire to do good roles.
"It was the hunger that nothing can stop me, (certainly) not the fact that people call me unconventional. I don't want my so-called unconventionality to stand in the way or that I don't have a typical body of a heroine. I don't want my entering the industry at the age of 26 to stand in the way of me having a long career. It is all about what you put out in the universe," she says.
Vidya says the notion of how a typical hero or heroine should behave has changed a lot in the recent years thanks to social media.
"There were few women who recognised their strength and power before but now they are more educated, going out and living life on their terms, overcoming obstacles, and achieving success. So there are are more stories to tell.
"He (hero) doesn't have to have ten limbs, he doesn't have to woo the heroine and bash ten people up and have a heart a gold. He can be a flawed person who is overcoming his own limitations to lead the life he wants to, to win the love he want to and to send spacecraft or satellite to the Mars. Social media has made us realise that each one of us can be a hero, each voice matters."
Vidya next stars in "Mission Mangal", alongside an ensemble cast of Akshay Kumar, Taapsee Pannu, Nithya Menen, Kirti Kulhari, Sharman Joshi, and Sonakshi Sinha.
The film is scheduled to be released on Independence Day.