Monday, 16 January 2012
Ladies Of The Lens
Text by Rukhmini Punoose, Malvika Sah and Photographs by Ritam Banerjee
One bagged the National Award for her very first film. The other managed one of the biggest coups in Bollywood by casting Sridevi and Amitabh Bachchan together after almost two decades in her first bravura project. Together, they represent the growing breed of strong-headed women directors who are here to tell their tales, on their own terms. Avantika Hari Agarwal and Gauri Shinde talk to Verve about expectations, experiences and the heady magic of being able to spin a story....
She giggles her way into the otherwise dull apartment-converted-into-an-office in the Mumbai suburbs. Contrary to all expectations, Gauri Shinde, known so far as R Balki’s better half, breaks more than just the silence in the room. A hardcore ad filmmaker she has successfully crossed the barrier and moved to the other end of the rainbow, to debut as a filmmaker in one of the most awaited films of the year – English Vinglish. That the film marks the comeback of ‘Hawa Hawai’ Sridevi, a cameo by Amitabh Bachchan and is being produced by Balki himself, take the expectations a notch higher.
But she strikes a pretty calm picture, despite all the hype and hullabaloo. “As far as people know about it and are expecting something it’s great,” she laughs. And then goes back to her Zen state to call it pure karma, “when you start dreaming and asking for it, things just fall into place,” she says philosophically.
As happened in her case, even though she hadn’t thought of casting Sridevi while writing the film, a casual meeting with the iconic actress changed all of that. A script narration session made both the women realise how perfectly they both fitted in each other’s scheme of things. There has been no looking back since. “It just happened and I didn’t have to think twice about the decision and am now a fan of hers through this film.” Understandable, since Gauri hardly saw any Hindi movies till Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge happened to Bollywood. Until then she worshipped Woody Allen, wholly and solely.
“I am a very impatient writer, so I don’t know how I wrote this film. I took time off and went to New York to write it. A friend and I brainstormed for weeks and fleshed out the synopsis,” she candidly admits. The film is a humorous take on the significance of knowing the English language in India and acknowledges that it takes inspiration from funny incidents during her mother’s visit to the US. “In India three things are very important – money, fame and English. You may have the money and fame but if you don’t know the English language you are not considered sophisticated, and we all have someone in the family who is like that,” she reflects.
The film has been a nostalgic journey for her as well. Born and brought up in Pune, she shot in her neighbour’s house where she grew up. Apart from that, New York is also an important part of her film and life. Almost like an artistic muse, she finds the vibrant city one of her most favourite and inspiring places in the world since her Film Academy days. Though she wouldn’t swear by her academics, wryly agreeing, that while on the sets she is completely guided by her instincts. “I have a bad memory and can’t quote stuff to look smart.” she quips.
For someone as strong-headed as her, the need to appease others seems trivial. No surprise, she doesn’t like anyone meddling with her work, even though that someone maybe the Bollywood heavyweight R Balki, also her better half. Married for almost five years, they met during her advertising days and he is now the producer of the film. “I won’t deny that I have an advantage. While lounging in the living room, I can take inputs. But as far as working together goes, we both are very strong-headed about our ideas and creative processes. We don’t necessary believe in the same things,” she states in a-matter-of-fact way.
She is also aware of the daunting flipsides. “I am expecting people to say that perhaps Balki has directed and done everything in this film. This happens when someone in one family has achieved a lot, the person after him has to suffer the bias. It does leave a bitter taste after all the hard work that I have put in, but as long as the movie is liked and Sridevi is appreciated, I am happy,” she chuckles.
Published: Volume 20, Issue 1, January, 2012