“English Vinglish” & Bollywood DreamsBy Lavina Melwani • Oct 6th, 2012 • Category: Cinema
Neelu Sodhi’s Bollywood Dreams in ‘English Vinglish’
While ‘English Vinglish’ is about a big starry comeback – that of the wonderful superstar Sridevi, it’s also about new beginnings – that of Gauri Shinde’s directorial debut. And there’s yet another story in there of particular interest to New Yorkers – that of the debut of local model-actress Neelu Sodhi in a big Bollywood film, playing the niece of Sridevi.
Neelu Sodhi has gone from a career in finance to modeling and commercials to the big desi dream – Bollywood. Indeed, such is the power of Bollywood in Indian lives that you never know when it’s going to enter your life and give it a 360 degree turn.
Take the case of Neelu Sodhi, living a totally New York life. Born in Pune, and raised between India and Connecticut, Bollywood would probably have been just within the pages of a movie magazine or a video rental. After all, Neelu in true Indian-American tradition was into education and hard work. She received a degree in Economics and International Studies from the University of Connecticut. She got the job parents want their kids to get – in the financial sphere with Trust Company of the West (TCW) within the Leverage Finance Group.
Bollywood Infiltrates Life
Yet acting was a childhood passion that she just couldn’t give up. She went on to train at the Lee Strasberg Institute, New York Film Academy and coached under Wynn Handman. In the meantime she acted in several commercials, appeared in a Lady Gaga music video and worked in independent films including ‘NY Samsara’ which will be seen this year in Paris.
And now suddenly life’s taken that unexpected twist – Bollywood has discovered Neelu and suddenly life is all about star power, red carpets and endless possibilities. The aspiring model and actress has a role in Sridevi’s comeback film ‘English Vinglish’ and suddenly a lot of doors have opened for her. Read on for a heart-warming Cinderella story. Yes, Bollywood dreams do come true…
8 Questions for Neelu Sodhi
1. Acting with Sridevi and traveling to Toronto International Film Festival – and now to Mumbai. This must have been a dream come true for you. Tell us about it.
It absolutely is a dream come true! 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 Poona & but live in New York currently I feel that I can relate to both Bollywood and Hollywood cinema and my goal is just to work hard, stay focused and let the cards play out!
2. How was it working with Sridevi? Share an anecdote from the movie.
I play Sridevi’s niece in the film who gets married and is the reason why she comes to New York. It was an amazing experience working with such a legendary actress to say the least! I was a bit shy initially but she was very sweet and made me feel very comfortable!
There were many funny things that happened on set that made us just laugh and it helped to break the ice! For example we shot all the wedding scenes outdoors and it was absolutely freezing during the filming process. Being in thin Indian outfits didn’t provide much warmth as you can imagine so we all had hand warmers tucked in wherever we could just to stay warm!
We all got a chance to see Sridevi’s great sense of humor in between scenes and how she didn’t let the weather affect her. Her expressions, body language and every little movement adds so much to every scene and she is just a natural in front of the camera. Sridevi is a wonderful person to work with and I truly feel I’ve learned so much from her and this whole experience of filming ‘English Vinglish’.
3. What was the best part of being at TIFF?
I’ve never attended TIFF before so it was exciting to just be around so much energy due to the festival. Meeting other creative people and sharing stories through such an exciting platform was certainly memorable. Of course I loved reuniting with the director Gauri Shinde as well as the other cast members. It was great seeing all of them and catching up after so long as everyone lives in different parts of the world!
4. Do you go often to Mumbai or is this a rare trip for you?
I make regular trips to Mumbai and know this city very well and do have family here as well.
5. Any plans for a Bollywood career? Do you see yourself in item numbers and the 5 changes per song scenarios?
I love Indian Cinema so am certainly open to exploring more opportunities in this space. Its enchanting & you become captivated by the music, dance, outfits, set designs etc! Some of my favorite movies are ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ and ’3 Idiots’, and most recently ‘Barfi’.
As far item numbers go, all I can say is I do love to dance! At the same time I would love to focus more on strong character roles that are pivotal to the plot and serious topics that affect humanity.
6. Who would be the actors and directors you dream of working with?
There are so many talented actors in the Indian Cinema but I do admire Aamir Khan’s work and would love to work with him as well as Farhan Akhtar. They have such a strong screen presence and are brilliant actors.
Regarding directors, I like Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, and Deepa Mehta to name a few and would love to work with them.
7. Tell us about the other things you’ve been up to in NYC – commercials, films, etc.
I’ve recently shot for an in-house Lancome ad , an AT&T ad as well has two jewelry commercials which should be airing soon. I also did a women’s rights advocacy video created in response to the attacks on women’s health and reproductive rights called “This is my Body” , directed by Jason Stefaniak, which recently aired on MSNBC.
8. This is a life very different from your early work life in a corporation. Are you glad you took this different road and why?
I am happy I left the corporate world behind to try my luck in this field. I feel that if you really would like to do something you should give it a shot as you never know what will come out of it. I’ve learned so much about myself during this transition and I’ve had some great experiences.
This journey has been eye opening and thrilling so all I can say is just take risks in life as the road will be filled with many highs and lows but that is certainly the best part as you learn so much!