The director of Dear Zindagi on feeling the pressure, her lead pair’s chemistry and being overwhelmed by Shah Rukh Khan
Is it true that you didn’t want to make a second film after English Vinglish released?
A lot of pressure was put on me after the film became a hit. People thought I could be a fluke. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a filmmaker for life. Filming is a laborious process, it takes so much out of you. So unless you have something that you’re dying to tell the world there is no need to add to the burden.
How did you react when it finally sunk in that you managed a casting coup with Shah Rukh Khan & Alia Bhatt?
It sunk in so much later! I’m always a little late with my feelings and look at things in retrospect. I remember Karan Johar and I had gone to Shah Rukh’s house for coffee. We had told Alia to be on standby and be around Bandra. Shah Rukh was very excited about Alia being cast. It was great, we just had lots of coffee and chatted for really long. That was the first time I had seen the two of them together. I was watching the chemistry they share and I thought to myself, “Oh my God, this is the pair.”
Did you find your language of direction different with each of them?
Before I had shot with Shah Rukh, I had already shot quite a bit with Alia so I was already very comfortable with her. The thing about me and Alia is that I can just look at her and she gets it! We’re quite similar in our instincts in that sense. When I say ‘Oh remember that stupid thing!’ she just knows what I mean. With Shah Rukh, I didn’t have to say much because he just got the script and showed a pitch that worked out so beautifully for the character.
Do you fall in love with your actors?
Yeah! So far I have and I hope it’s not misinterpreted. Actually I don’t care if it is! It’s really important for me to like the people that I am working with. If I don’t like something about a person’s personality or habits, it is going to come in the way of that relationship or performance. When you watch Shah Rukh and Alia together, you realise you are falling in love!
Alia admitted that she would get overawed by having to do a scene opposite Shah Rukh Khan. How did you break her out of that and, more importantly, refrain from succumbing to it yourself?
The first day of Shah Rukh on set was overwhelming for everyone. My Assistant Directors also wanted to look good and I was like, “Focus on the work!” We were shooting on the beach, it was a great setting and I remember he arrived on set in the most heroic style on an ATB with Alia in the backseat. For a few minutes it did feel surreal but I had to snap out and make Alia as well look at him for his character. It didn’t help that he looked so hot!
To watch Gauri Shinde’s interview with FC, click here