As this is a Sridevi fan blog, the entire feature is not here. Just the Sri related excerpts:
She doesn't mind being called as India's Woody Allen, though she prefers to be called as Gauri Shinde. Her debut venture English Vinglish marked the successful comeback of Sridevi after a 15-year hiatus. Gauri Shinde is not only a successful ad-filmmaker, but also a wonderful companion for husband, director R Balki, and a rather good homemaker. She shocked everyone by casting Sridevi, a mother of two, and extracting her career's finest performance from her, silencing all those who thought women were best left with the household chores...
Sridevi, one of India's finest actors, had decided never to return to movies. Were you confident she'd green light the film instantly? Did you write the role keeping her in mind?
Gauri Shinde: Nope! I just had Shashi (Sridevi's character in the film) in mind because that way, I could sketch the character the way I wanted to. Neither Sri, nor I had a clue about us working together because she was off films for years. I hadn't even seen her in real life ever before offering the film to her. When I wnet over to narrate the script, I was unsure of the whole thing because I didn't know how she looked. I was excited on my way to meet her, but had no clue she would agree. It was like a blind date. After we met, everything fell into place.
Come on, stop being diplomatic. What if Sridevi didn't come on board?
I'm not being diplomatic. Its like asking me, "What if you didn't marry Balki?" (Laughs loudly) That's a bizarre question! How can you think in 'ifs'? I actually couldn't visualise anyone else justifying the character except her. Her looks, body language, simplicity and even age worked to the film's advantage. She has two kids who are as old as Shashi's. When I met her, I could see Shashi Godbole in her. She was my heroine. It's rather impossible to think, if Sridevi didn't accept my film, who else could have done it.
It was difficult for people to relate with Sridevi playing a Maharashtrian housewife because her Tamil accent was hard to ignore. You could have kept the character Tamil. That would have added authenticity to the character.
Maybe you are right, but I didn't think it was a problem. I didn't make changes after Sridevi came on board because it wasn't about a hardcore Marathi setting. She just happens to be a person who doesn't know English and the kind of stigma she faces because of that. There were hardly Marathi lines of dialogue used in the film. I didn't want to alienate others because the theme of the film is very universal. I was careful to not make it look unnatural by making Sridevi speak in Marathi.
Was Sridevi difficult to convince to play a Maharashtrian housewife?
No. She is intelligent enough to judge what is good for her. I'm not boasting but the script comes first for me. I wanted an actress who could do justice to the role, and it could be anyone. I wasn't even looking at the commercial aspects of the film. But after the narration she, uttered, "I want to do it. Chalo karte hain (Let's do it)." (Laughs)
Balki and Boney Kapoor are supposedly good friends. Did that help you to get Sridevi on board?
They became good friends during the making of English Vinglish; they knew each other earlier, but their association didn't help me get Sridevi on board. I hadn't even written the script keeping her in mind. Balki and Boneyji met a couple of tiems earlier. In the passing, Balki mentioned to him that I was making my first film and would like to see Sridevi. But what helped is she has seen Balki's previous films and that lent certain credibility. Maybe she thought that I come from the same school of thought.
Sridevi's elder daughter Jhanvi has already been offered to walk the ramp. Do you feel she has the makings of a fine actress?
I don't look at Jhanvi that way. For me, Sridevi is the artist I worked with and Jhanvi and Khushi are her kids. They are lovely reflections of their mother. I'm not the right person to think about their professional choices. It's for their parents and them to decide.
If Jhanvi decides to take up acting would you launch her as a heroine?
This hasn't even crossed my mind.
Since English Vinglish has become a success, do you plant to make a sequel?
Hahahaha A sequel to English Vinglish? I haven't thought about it, not even in my dreams! And what would I show in the sequel? Shashi runs away with Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou)? Mine isn't exactly a Star Wars movie which can be turned into a franchise! These plain guesses of the people. maybe they expect me to make part two because they have loved the film so much. But seriously, I have no such plans right now.
Feature by Hiten J. Trivedi
Stardust, Jan 2013
More in Stardust Jan 2013 issue. Pls buy!