Director R Balki, who is producing his wife Gauri Shinde’s directorial debut, English Vinglish, has taken on an interesting role on the sets of the film. “I just serve her coffee and tea,” he says, jokingly, before adding, “And I get free publicity.”
The light-hearted comedy, which will mark actor Sridevi’s comeback to the big screen after 14 long years, is R Balki’s first co-production. “She always wanted to do a feature film, but was waiting for the right project. After reading the script, I liked it a lot. I knew I had to produce it. I wish I had directed it.”
The just-released promo of the movie features a confused-looking Sridevi trying to read the English writing off a Censor Board film certificate. Since the Board has most often been in the news for controversies, its random inclusion in the trailer, for a change, has been received well. “The concept (of using the Censor Board certificate in a storyline) has also never been used before, so I thought it would be a refreshing and novel way to promote the film,” says Balki.
When asked if he visited the film sets regularly to watch Gauri at work, he says, “She has directed many ad films and has done a superb job with English Vinglish. I visited the sets a few times, but I hardly needed to do anything. But yes, I couldn’t be more proud.”
Gauri will soon join the short list of female directors in Bollywood. Do female directors make a particular kind of cinema? “It’s not like women can’t make masala films, and men can’t direct sensitive movies. It doesn’t matter whether the person leading a project is a man or a woman. The depiction of a subject depends on what the vision of that man or woman is.” How can you do this?
Ad-film director R Balki’s recent TV commercial for Havells fans marked veteran actor Rajesh Khanna’s comeback of sorts roughly a month ago. Within days of it going on air, it became a hot topic of discussion and was even criticised widely. But Balki is glad.
“I’m happy that the ad has ignited more discussion than most news stories do. A lot of people loved it, while many didn’t and said, ‘How can you do this?’ Mr Khanna himself had the biggest laugh. An ad needs to evoke reactions and get noticed. It doesn't need to be sweet, nice and forgettable.”