Gauri Shinde holds a Masters Degree in English Literature from Pune University and a Masters Degree in Mass Communication from Symbiosis Institute. Both educational centers are located in Pune, the seventh largest metropolis in India and the cultural capital of Maharashtra, India's second largest state after Mumbai. Gauri's interest in filmmaking began almost immediately after completing her formal education in the academic world.
After graduation, Gauri went to Mumbai where she worked for several of India's prestigious advertising agencies. During a sabbatical in New York City, she acquired a diploma in filmmaking from New York Film Academy. On her return to India Gauri directed more than one hundred commercials for well known brands, as well as documentaries on Kashmir, the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, and Leh, the former capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh.
Moving into film, Shinde's first short Oh Man! (2001), which centers on a loving, passionate, soulful, large-hearted, dedicated fellow who happens to have bunked moral science classes in school, was invited to screen at the Berlin International Film Festival. Her second short film Y Not? (2004) addresses the negative bias that many people in India hold regarding the birth of girls. It was invited to the Stuttgart Film Festival, the River To River Florence Film Festival, and the Femme Fatale Women's Film Festival, among others.
Gauri made her debut as a full-fledged film writer-director with the highly acclaimed production English Vinglish (2012). The heartwarming comedy-drama centers on a devoted Indian wife and mother, Shashi Godbole, whose family teases her about not speaking English well and who takes it upon herself to master the language when she must travel to the U.S to help her niece prepare for her upcoming wedding. While the film is breezy and charming, its central theme of 'miscommunication' speaks volumes about the delicate balance that exists in India between tradition and modernity. The message of overcoming a linguistic barrier has proved to be inspiring for independent minded Indian girls who identify with the film's determined housewife.
In July 2012, English Vinglish was selected by the prestigious 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and slotted for a World Premiere at the coveted Galas section of the festival. The comeback, after a 15-year absence from the screen, of legendary Indian actress Sridevi in the central role made English Vinglish a highly anticipated film at the festival and all shows at TIFF were sold out during advance booking. The World Premiere took place at the Roy Thomson Auditorium on 14 September and at the end of the screening, the full-house audience gave the film a 10-minute standing ovation.
"English Vinglish is inspired by my mom," says Shinde. "Like most people in India, she too struggled with the language. It's the insensitivity women experience and the insecurity they feel that made me do this film." Like the films made by Gauri's husband, R. Balki, a renown Indian filmmaker in his own right who is known for portraying women as strong characters in his films, Gauri has done so too. "I am a woman, and I will show all my women as strong characters," she says.
For her film English Vinglish that digs deep into the issue of language with candor and humor Gauri Shinde has been chosen by TheWIFTS Foundation to receive the 2012 Diversity Award.