Mumbai: A debut with a Bengali film left such a deep impression on her mind that Tamil actress Vidya Balan went on to act in three Hindi films having a strong Bengal connection, made Kolkata her second home and even vowed to marry a Bengali.
But the reason for her bonhomie with the `City of Joy` remains a mystery that the Kerala-born actress has failed to unravel.
"I don`t know. I have stopped trying to understand that. I have just accepted that there is a relation. My mom keeps on saying that there might be a relation from past life because I do not know anyone with so much of love for Bengal.
Even the man in my life will have to deal with another love affair and that is Kolkata," Vidya told PTI.
Anything from Bengal - be it the films, food, language, culture, fashion and songs - the 33-year-old Bollywood actress has lapped it all up.
"I even know some Bengali songs and rhymes. I keep on learning," she said, adding that her unflinching love for Kolkata is so deep and self-evident that people often mistake her to being a Bengali.
It was a decade ago when Vidya, who made her acting debut with Goutam Halder`s Bengali film `Bhalo Theko` in 2003, first visited Kolkata to shoot for an ad film.
"The first time I came to Kolkata and I felt like I knew it. That was where it all began. I felt a sense of familiarity. I could instantly connect with the warmth and sentimentality that Bengalis have," said Vidya, last seen in `No One Killed Jessica`.
Since then she has always found some excuse to visit Kolkata.
Later on, the Kerala-born actress, known for her ethnic Indian looks and love for saris, proudly announced to the local media that the city is her second home and that she wants a Bengali man for a life partner. Her body of work also reflects her unbridled love for
Bengal. Before her acting career kicked off, Vidya featured as a Bengali girl in the Euphoria video `Kabhi aana tu meri gully`. Three of her Hindi films - `Parineeta`, `Bhool Bhulaiya` and the upcoming `Kahani` - have a strong connection with the state.
In the Pradeep Sarkar directed `Parineeta` (2005), her first Hindi film, Vidya played the coy Bengali belle Lolita and won the Filmfare Best Female Debut Award.
Akshay Kumar-starrer 2007 film `Bhool Bhulaiya` had her play a character possessed by a Bengali dancer Manjulika as a result of her suffering from multiple personality disorder.
Sujoy Ghosh`s next, `Kahaani`, in which Vidya plays a pregnant woman who is on the look-out for her missing husband, is a thriller set in Kolkata.
"I think my work is a reflection and an extension of who I am. So knowingly or unknowingly, I tend to veer towards such roles where women are strong and timeless. I attract that and I get attracted to that. It is a two-way thing," Vidya confided.
Describing Bengalis as emotional and sensitive people, Vidya, who is also a muse for Bengali designer Sabyasachi, said that they do a beautiful job in expressing emotions.
"The way a Bengali director shoots women is different from the way anyone else could ever shoot a woman. So I am very happy working with them," said Vidya, whose films have given her an image of the quintessential woman next door whom an intelligent man would love to take to his mother.
But why has she avoided signing a second Bengali film after her debut?
"I have been in talks with director Rituparno Ghosh for a long time. The condition is that I will dub myself," she said.