Movie Review: English Vinglish

Gauri Shinde has come up with a gem in her directorial debut. The story is very modern, yet archaic; sober, yet hard-hitting. And adding punch with lots of pizzaz to the entire duration of the film is Sridevi. She has come back with the proverbial BANG! Probably, this has to be one of the best knock-out return of an actress who once ruled the roost.

Sedate, peaceful, purposeful yet not losing her mind, Sridevi tackles a subject, so close to home, with a rare maturity that only motherhood can bring. Vidya Balan has fierce competition now. Another ‘hero’ is on the horizon. And Sridevi is a serious contender with this performance of hers for the Best Actress Award. Kahaani mein twist!

A round of applause to these two women, Gauri Shinde and Sridevi, for English Vinglish that is sure to have the audience coming in for a second helping.

This movie is a lesson for married couples, children, families and even friends. Shinde has layered a love story so beautiful with a neat, tragic twist to a romance. The characters are cautiously crafted and delicately displayed; each one playing his or her part and moving to the sidelines, allowing the next to take centrestage. Such method in direction is seen after a long time on screen.

There are scenes which will remain with you long after you have left the theatre: The scene where Sridevi is sitting besides Amitabh Bachchan on her way to America. Brilliant. The scene where her husband always keeps saying she was born to make laddoos and the apparent hurt on her face. The scenes where her daughter never misses an opportunity to poke fun at her. The scene at a coffee shop, her first outing alone in the US. The scenes between the Frenchman and Sridevi when in US. It is scenes like these that make Englivish Vinglish such a treat.

Not to forget the final scene where Sridevi delivers her knockout punch, speaking in halting English, matching the character she plays to a ‘nicety’, that will move you to tears. The speech is a small lesson in how a family should behave. And this scene could have very well been ‘over-the-top’ and preachy. But with her grasp of, Shashi, the housewife she portrays, Sridevi keeps the histrionics out of her space. She just stands tall nervously and floors you with her simplicity.

Shashi is this housewife who is always made fun of by her rude daughter every time she attempts to speak in English. Her husband, too, joins in, albeit innocently. But unfortunately, Shashi is hurting from the inside with the insensitivity of her husband and daughter. Her not being able to speak or understand English is a major source of embarrassment for her daughter.

Then comes a call from her sister who is living in the US. She needs Shashi’s help as her daughter is getting married. Shashi is forced to go ahead alone before her family can join her closer towards the wedding date.

Once there, Shashi is helped by her niece played by Priya Anand, who supports her aunt’s desire to learn English. The bond these two share comes out very strongly.

Gauri maps the script with a clever screenplay. The build-up to Shashi’s going to the US and her desire to learn English is not forceful as the title would demand. Instead, it is a subtle move. And although, it would have been easy, guessing the next scene considering the title, Gauri keeps you guessing. And that, for a first-time, director is a huge plus.

I can go on and on about the script, screenplay, Gauri and Sridevi. But the support cast need mention, too. They chip in with brilliant support for Shashi. There’s Priya Anand who makes her Bollywood debut. She is first rate, standing tall with Sridevi in every frame. There is also Adil Hussain who plays her husband. But the man who matches Sridevi’s intensity is Mehdi Nebbou who plays the Frenchman smitten by Shashi. He romances her with his eyes.

Go watch it. It’s a lesson worth its weight in gold.

Rating: 4 / 5

Martin D’Souza

This first appeared on on October  05, 2012

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