Cinema

Our own ‘angrezi’ film

New phase: Sridevi in a still from 'English Vinglish'.  

“I was not born saying ‘cinema cinema’.” Gauri Shinde is not your regular debutante churning out yarns to get media attention before the release of her first film. Known as the advertising professional who gave us that heart-warming advertisement where a kid helps her mother in cooking by making a pair of tongs out of a wire, Gauri is making a foray into feature films as the director of “English Vinglish”. Produced by her husband R. Balki, the film marks the return of Sridevi to the turnstiles as a middleclass mother grappling with English in New York. “I don’t have any intellectual statements to make. I feel the work should speak for itself. Subconsciously I am trying to address the insecurities of people, especially women. For Indian women, life revolves around other people. Very rarely do they get to address their concerns. The film says how a little change can add so much to your confidence.” The change comes through the language. “Money, fame and English have become crucial ingredients of our society. You are rated on these lines. If a person doesn’t know English or doesn’t know the right pronunciation we make fun of him and make him feel like a small person. It is okay not to know Hindi or your mother tongue. I feel it can’t be the yardstick to judge somebody.”

The film is not just about a woman’s struggle to learn English, Gauri emphasises. “It would have become too simplistic and straight. One can communicate without having the language barrier. Sometimes we get along even better without the language. It is about getting through. It is about how language becomes inconsequential. How you feel when you overcome something you see as an obstacle….”

The germ of the story came from home. Gauri’s entrepreneur mother also grappled with the language and turned up trumps. She points out that the film deals with stereotypes that we associate with housewives. “The moment you see somebody in a sari, you make an image of a conservative lady in your mind. The progress is in your mind. My protagonist is absolutely broadminded and progressive.”

Unlike filmmaking, advertising is more defined and more professional. Agrees Gauri, “It is a great training ground for filmmaking. Earlier, advertising was very English, rarefied. These days advertisements speak to us like our films do. It has come to a human level. So you see more migrations. The ad professionals have realised that they have to think for real people. I am a great believer of realism in a cinematic way. The advertisement training has helped me to see the charms of brevity. Like in a dinner table discussion casual comments could have a deeper impact. I am not trying to say too much for too long. People don’t have patience.” Subtleties, she adds, are nothing new to Hindi cinema. “We have not given the audience a chance. In the ’60s and ’70s, the cinema was far more progressive. It is in the ’80s we hit a strange cinematic patch.”

All said and done, her greatest achievement is convincing Sridevi, a star of the ’80s, to make a comeback. “I didn’t know she is returning to acting. I had no face in my mind while writing the story. I was like main dekhti hoon baad main.” Recalling how she came into the picture, Gauri says two years back in a casual meeting, Balki shared the one-line idea with Boney Kapoor when Sri was also around, and they evinced interest. “She has tremendous respect for the craft. I don’t really like her Himmatwala phase but in films like Sadma she left me speechless. When she performed, every day there was a new discovery for me. In the last 15 years the film industry has completely changed, and I was a newcomer but she was eager to make it happen. She admitted that it is the first fully written script that she has read. She is truly an actress of great talent.”

Sabyaschi Mukherjee has designed the saris for Sridevi and Gauri was in Delhi to use his show at Indian Couture Week as a platform to promote the film. “The saris are very true to the character. People won’t ask kaun se designer ne kiya!”

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 1:33:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/our-own-angrezi-film/article3811673.ece

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