Gauri Shinde may be making her debut as a feature film director with English Vinglish, but the pretty young thing is no newbie behind the camera. She's directed enough ad films to be as comfortable with the medium as many of the greats.
"This was definitely my first feature film and yes, I was quite excited considering how different the process might be, but I've done similar things before and so I was quite confident," opens the charming, young director.
English Vinglish has received rave reviews at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and critics have referred to Sridevi as the Meryl Streep of Bollywood. "I am not surprised at that comparison, she is India's Meryl Streep, but yes, I was overwhelmed with the response we got. It's all been very positive, especially for a debutant director like me and so we're now hoping India loves the movie as much as Toronto did," Gauri enthuses.
Rather curious to know more about the film, we get down to business. How did the film come to be? "The film was written and based on the life of my mother. My mother was caught in a similar situation, she was often the butt of all jokes because she couldn't speak English and she finally learnt to do so — this film is dedicated to her in so many ways," Gauri shares.
And how did Sridevi come into the picture? "It was sheer luck. I hadn't imagined casting anyone when I wrote the film. It was just in my mind. I bumped into Sridevi and somehow managed to tell her about the film and she loved it. We never knew she'd make a comeback, we never knew she would choose our film — but now looking back, it all seems like the best coincidences ever!" Gauri enthuses.
We quickly switch over to the Marathi connection and Gauri explains, "I wanted my characters to be rooted and so we decided that the family will be Marathi. That's why we shot for a lot of the film in Pune. Though, I must say that there's nothing far too overtly Marathi about the film, something that helped us when we decided to dub the movie into Tamil and Telugu."
What about the comparisons to Mind Your Language and Mitr — My Friend, we ask? "I've heard about the comparisons and I can assure you, they're really different films. Also, as someone who has worked in the ad world, why would I choose to do something so similar — I am completely aware of how smart audiences can be."
Moving on, we switch to Priya Anand, the Tamil and Telugu actor who also makes her debut in the movie. "I cast Priya for that role because I needed someone who didn't have to fake an American accent and Priya was brought up in the USA, so she didn't have to pretend. Of course, I've cast her as someone who's not too comfortable with her native languages and that's a little unfair as Priya is in her second skin when it comes to being Indian," Gauri explains.
English Vinglish is slated to release on October 5 and audiences in South India can also expect a huge surprise in the form of actor Ajith, who makes a cameo replacing Amitabh Bachchan in the Hindi version.
With hardly any time left, we squeeze in two more questions — whose idea was the first censor certificate-themed promo? "R Balki's of course!" pat comes the reply and finally — are there more projects we can look forward to from Gauri? "Nothing right now, but after this experience, I am more than open to new and interesting projects," concludes the enthusiastic director.