After delivering films like Cheeni Kum (2007) and Paa (2009), Balki has turned producer for his wife Gauri Shinde’s directorial debut English Vinglish. The duo has managed a casting coup of sorts, having roped in French heartthrob Mehdi Nebbou alongside Sridevi, who returns to the big screen after a 14-year hiatus.
Apart from essaying the part of Hassan Salameh in Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005), Nebbou has also played a pivotal role in Benjamin Heisenberg’s Schläfer aka Sleeper (2008).
Though the producer refused to reveal much about the international artiste’s role, a source from the film unit says, “Nebbou’s character might speak French only. There is very little dialogue in the film. Since both actors know little of each other, their curiosity led to a real friendship that translates well onscreen.”
While Sridevi has worked with most of the top stars of her time, it was Gauri’s decision to get Nebbou to play the role of her special friend and confidante.
Talking about the film, which has been shot in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, Balki adds, “Not knowing English in our country is a big deal. Three things differentiate people here — fame, money and the knowledge of English.”
Sridevi, who last acted in Judaai (1997), plays the role of a small town middle-class woman, who doesn’t speak English. “The film deals with her insecurities and how she shows the world that speaking the language isn’t a big deal,” says Balki.
The film’s last schedule was completed earlier this month. And for now, Shinde is hoping to release it in theatres this May.
Balki adds, “Sridevi is one of the most sensitive actors we have. Despite not facing the camera for 14 years, she was natural right from the beginning.” So did his films inspire his wife to make turn her film directorial debut? “She doesn’t think too highly of me. She is too individualistic and clear in her head to be inspired by me,” he says in jest.