After a 14 year hiatus, the legendary Sridevi returns to the big screen in Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish. Produced by R. Balki (also Gauri’s husband), English Vinglish is a heart warming story of an Indian housewife (Sridevi) who enrolls in an English class to learn the language to please her husband and family.

The film has been garnering rave reviews across the globe for its story line and performances. At the recent Toronto International Film Festival, the movie received a standing ovation. The movie stars Sridevi, Adil Hussain and Mehdi Nebbou. Amitabh Bachchan also makes a cameo appearance.

The movie was shot mostly in Pune, India and New York City. Neelu Sodhi, an Indian-American actress born in Pune and raised in and around New York, plays the pivotal role of Sridevi’s niece in the movie.

The beautiful actress is no newcomer to the stage. As a model, she has been featured in 25 commercials for such brands as Lancôme, Amazon Kindle, Budweiser, AT&T, Foot Locker, Citibank and many others. As an actor, Neelu has worked in a number of independent films and has also filmed a music video with Lady Gaga.

Here, Neelu shares her experiences working (and dancing) with Sridevi and English Vinglish. English Vinglish opens worldwide October 5th, 2012.

You used to work in finance. Tell us how you got started with acting. I’ve always had a love for acting ever since I could remember. As a child, I used to write in my diary that I wanted to be an actress when I grew up and to make that come alive is an amazing feeling. Though I did study finance and went into the corporate field, I always knew I would step away one day and pursue my passion. I’m very happy that I made the jump! Since I’m from Pune and live in New York, I feel that I can relate to both Bollywood and Hollywood cinema. My goal is just to work hard, stay focused and let the cards play out!

How did you get chosen for this role? The hunt for the right person took place in many cities in India such as Mumbai and Chennai. I was called in to audition for the role and, I’m very happy that out of all the people that tried out for this, I was the one that they selected.

You play Sridevi’s niece? What was it like working with her on her comeback vehicle? It was an amazing experience working with such a legendary actress. Nerve-wracking initially, but she was very sweet and made me feel very comfortable on set! There were many funny things that happened on set that made us just laugh and it helped to break the ice! As an actor, she goes above and beyond what is part of the script and she really indulges in the character so that many interesting elements come out during a scene. It’s really a learning experience to watch such a talented actress right in front of your eyes prepare for the film and dedicate so much of herself to each scene.

What was it like working with the director? Gauri is a marvelous director with an extraordinary vision. On set she was focused, hard working, organized and let us actors improvise when we wanted to. She let the scene continue to make sure she got out the purity in each actor. Though this is her first feature film, her husband, R. Balki, has made Paa and Chenni Kum, so you can see some of his influences in the film as well.

What’s it like to work in Bollywood film as opposed to a western film? Working in the Bollywood film industry is such a different experience compared to other movie sets. I find the industry fascinating because the energy is on another level with the music, dance, people, colorful outfits and set design. It’s very exciting!

What were your favorite moments and scariest moments working on this film? Well, the scariest would have to be when I initially had to dance with Sri Devi! She is not only an admired actress, but such a well-trained dancer.  I was definitely a bit nervous! It ended up being a lot of fun though! So I would say that was my scariest moment that turned into one of the exciting parts of filming!

Where do you hope this project will go? I think that the film is going to be a hit! How could it not since it’s such a heartwarming, touching story that everyone can relate to no matter if they are young or old, man or woman. The message is very powerful, and yet there is this element of comedy as well. I really feel the film will be a huge success!

What are your future plans, projects after this? Besides English Vinglish, I just recently finished shooting an independent movie in New York, which currently is in post production…more details to follow. I’m currently in Mumbai for the premiere, but live in New York, so let’s see which city my next role takes me to!


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