Friday, 21 October 2011

Munich to Mumbai

Munich star to romance Sridevi

French actor Mehdi Nebbou, who played Hassan Salameh in Spielberg’s Munich, cast opposite the actress in English Vinglish.

Circa 1978, Sridevi made her Hindi debut opposite Amol Palekar in Solva Sawan. In 2011, Sri, as she gears up for her second innings in Bollywood, is ready to face French heartthrob Mehdi Nebbou in Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish. And to communicate with her co-star, who played Ali Hassan Salameh, the terrorist mastermind of the Munich Olympics’ attack in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Munich, the actress is currently struggling with her French on the sets of the film in New York.

Considered one of the most exciting European actors, Nebbou shot to fame with Spielberg’s film in 2006. This was followed by a pivotal role in Ridley Scott’s Body Of Lies where Mehdi played the main villain to Leonardo DiCaprio.

While director Gauri Shinde was very sure that she wanted Nebbou to play the special friend and confidante to Sridevi’s character in English Vinglish, Sri, apparently, had never heard of the actor till she met him in New York. Till then, he was just ‘the actor who plays the special friend’. Getting over the initial awkwardness, Sridevi and Nebbou hit it off from the very first shot, revealed sources.

Producer R Balki, who has just returned from New York feels, “Sridevi is one of the rare divas. She gets along with any actor on screen. Look at her range of co-stars - Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Amitabh Bachchan, Jeetendra, Rishi Kapoor...”

Nebbou is Sridevi’s first non-Indian co-star. “My wife Gauri and I were very sure we wanted Mehdi Nebbou. He was physically and emotionally correct for the part. And we were right. He is perfect for the role. My wife and I are truly blessed to have actors like Amitji(Amitabh Bachchan), Sridevi and Mehdi in our film,” adds Balki.

Getting Nebbou to sign on for the film was not that tough for Balki, who is in negotiations with Meryl Streep for an autumnal love story with Amitabh Bachchan.

Apparently, Nebbou’s character speaks only in French in the film, a language Sridevi’s character cannot understand or speak. “That’s the beauty of the script. The film is about linguistic seclusion and the characters speak different languages.

However, the spoken language is the least important component in the narrative. In fact, very few words gets spoken in the film. That is why we’ve found it relatively easy to shoot English Vinglish in three languages - Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.”

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