English Vinglish Movie Review

Sweet. Simple. Good.

After a hiatus of more than two months, I am back to doing what I love, writing reviews. I must express my gratitude to the many fans who wrote those hundreds of mails that flooded my inbox, asking me to return. My heart melted when I saw the photograph of the beautiful girl who expressed her love for my writing in a letter written with blood. She had scanned and mailed the letter to me (we don’t give our postal address remember!). I realized the great injustice being meted out to my fans and I assure them that I shall not be absent in the future.

Right, now that I can put a tick against a long standing item in my To Do List that reads ‘attempt to write fantasy’, I can now begin with the review of the latest movie I watched. More on my absence from this forum shall be elaborated in the Dessert Note.

English Vinglish marks the comeback after a gap of 15 years for Sridevi, one of the rare Bollywood actresses that score close to one in ratio of good looks to acting prowess (with both individually also being high!). It also marks the debut of director Gauri Shinde, better half of the producer, Balki. A point worth mentioning because the look-feel of the film and even the music to an extent bears some resemblance to Balki’s previous films (Cheeni Kum, Paa).

English Vinglish tells the story of homemaker Shashi (Sridevi, interesting that the lead female character has such an unconventional name), her struggles with the Queen’s language, the humiliation she faces in everyday life because of the not being able to speak or understand it and in typical Bollywood style how she overcomes her ‘weakness’ and regains her ‘self-respect’.

The movie begins with a series of interesting scenes where Shashi’s family (husband, daughter) deride her, and as is the case with several homemakers across the country, take her completely for granted. The husband (Adil Hussain) loves her but is insensitive towards her, treating her with complete disdain. The scene where she is running behind him as he talks on the phone and then directs her to bring a bottle of water sums up her situation poignantly. (Most of the girls I know would throw the bottle on their husbands head if he was to behave like that, but that is another story!). Shashi’s daughter is the nastiest of the lot, getting embarrassed by her mother at PTA meetings or with her talking to other parents. This daughter basically deserves two tight slaps but Shashi bears it all without complaining.

It is through these early scenes that Sridevi manages to connect with the audience brilliantly, endearing to them with her silence. She is suffering, yes, but not in the manner bahus on the idiot box do (do not judge me, if you live with your parents you are bound to watch some TV during dinner!). There is certain amount of dignity in her suffering, she does not wail, she does not blame; she knows exactly what is missing in her life and what needs to change. The script writer and director (both Gauri Shinde) deserve full credit for this.

Shashi gets to venture in the unknown when a marriage in the family takes her to New York. Out of her comfort zone but still insulted for her lack of angrezi, she enrolls for an English speaking class without telling anyone about it. From now on, the story is even more familiar and you know it will end up in a dramatic speech in English from her, and it does. But thankfully, and we have the screenplay writer (again Gauri Shinde!) to thank for that, how the familiar story unfolds has enough grip on it for you to cling on and enjoy the ride. Even the Zabaan Sambhalke or as the Barfi! bashers would like to hear, Mind Your Language, inspired English speaking class has decent characters to keep you smiling. The music, by-the-soon-becoming-my-favourite-after-SEL, Amit Trivedi, blends brilliantly with the movie. I actually took the effort of searching for the music review on MusicAloud to figure out who the amazing female voice belongs to (Shilpa Rao, it turns out).

But these are the supporting cast in a movie that belongs to Sridevi. At 49, in an author backed role she makes a stunning and memorable comeback (It kind of reminded me of the Sr. Bachan comeback with Mohabbatein). Sridevi is flawless throughout, making the audience connect with only her out of all the characters and even manages to nail the climax perfectly despite the predictable senti-sugary monologue. I always thought of her as better than Madhuri Dixit, she kind of proves me right again (am hereby officially prey to all Mrs. Nene lovers).

To be honest, ever since I had heard about this movie, I could not identify with the idea of the English language causing such humiliation in life. Especially because it is so prevalent these days that it is safe to assume everyone knows the language. In the first hour into the movie, I kept wondering if the issue was being blown out of proportion but the hallmark of good story telling is that it makes you appreciate it despite your pre conceived notions, and English Vinglish manages to do that and more.

Rating: 3/5. Go for this one, it is a sweet nice movie. Though expect dollops of senti-ness with it.

Dessert Note (DN, as desserts are served after main course, a dessert note is served after the main article):
As promised, the reason behind my absence from this portal. As is with most problems, money is the root cause here too. I demanded to be paid more for writing reviews, at which the French bearded, currently Eindhoven resident, man behind MusicAloud, gave me the same expression that producers would have given Om Puri when he would have said he wanted to become a hero. Thus, I went on strike, to return only and only because of those many hundred fan mails. There, fantasy writing attempted, twice in a day, not bad!