Vidya Balan is a Tamilian from Kerala. She is from the Iyer community. She comes from a middleclass family from Palghat, on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. She did her schooling from St Antony's School and later on joined St Xavier's College from where she graduated in sociology.
When she was doing her MA from Mumbai University, she was offered a role in a Malayalam film titled Chakram with Mohanlal, one of Vidya’s favorite actors. However, the project was shelved mid-way and Vidya had to wait for few more years to make her movie debut.
She made her debut as a model in a Surf Excel advertisement in 1998. She has acted in scores of ad films, most of which were directed by Pradeep Sarkar.A couple of months later, she featured in three music videos (again directed by Sarkar) for ‘Euphoria’, Shubha Mudgal and Pankaj Udhas. She started work as an actress in the Malayalam movie Chakram, paired against Mohanlal, however the film was abandoned mid-way through production.
After making her debut in television advertising as a model for a Surf Excel advertisement in 1998, she proceeded to do over 25 TV ads, (mostly directed by Pradeep Sarkar), followed with a variety of acting stints in music videos (Euphoria, Shubha Mudgal and Pankaj Udhas), Hindi TV soap operas (Hanste Khelte and Hum Paanch) and a Bengali movie, Bhaalo Theko, for which she won the Best Actress Anand Lok Puraskar award in Kolkata.