Movie : English Vinglish
Director : Gauri Shinde
Cast : Sridevi, Mehdi Nebbou, Priya Anand, Adil Hussain
One can’t think of any role in Hindi films off late that is so identifiable for several (too many, unfortunately) women.
How hard is it to find, especially in our country, a woman who is constantly ignoring herself for the family (this writer by no means wants to advocate this as a virtue), only to be ridiculed by them over something as flimsy as not knowing English.
The busy husband’s indifference and the children’s deteriorating respect are not intentional – but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles for most Indian housewives. Their own low self-esteem keeps the vicious circle intact.
Such is the case of Maharashtrian housewife Shashi (Sridevi; to die for) whose kids snigger over her mispronunciation of words like jazz. Her older one – an almost-adolescent – is naturally the crueller one. This is also a superb film outlining the rigors of parenting, as often the curt words of her children leave a tear or two in Shashi’s eyes.
Then there is the husband whose idea of complimenting her is saying, “My wife was meant to make laddoos.” She sells laddoos you see, and seems to be doing quite well, saving what she earns in a neat box.
Imagine how thrilling it must be then for this woman to suddenly find herself in America, and enrolled in an English-speaking class. A class where she is referred to as an ‘entrepreneur’, a word she struggles to pronounce.
Life turns around in more ways than one, as she also has a certain Frenchman turning moony-eyed over her.
The film was rich with possibilities over how the story would end. Sadly, the finale is a predictable one – one would even call it a cop-out. But the fun of the film is the ride, not the destination.
Debut director Gauri Shinde gently ushers us into Shashi’s life, till it is turned around. At every moment of the film, the audience is on Shashi’s team and cheering her on. When she’s facing an existential crisis of sorts, you yearn to comfort her and hope she finds herself.
When she’s making new friends (the m�lange of ethnicities is reminiscent of the classic English serial Mind Your Language), we want to egg her on. This connect is the result of the masterful characterisation and a flawless rendering by Sridevi.
The actress is back after 15 years, and how! Sridevi enacts Shashi with all the intelligence, nuances, and attention the character required. Whether it is reacting to yet another stinging remark by the family, finding happiness among new friends, or her confusion at being told she’s beautiful – Sridevi kills it.
She owns the role entirely!
Adil Hussain (Agent Vinod, Ishqiya, Gangor) as her husband is very good and one hopes to see more of this actor. Mehdi Nebbou is remarkable as Shashi’s classmate, and, with his charm, proves to be the perfect antithesis to the neglectful husband.
The music (Amit Trivedi, lyrics by Swanand Kirkire) adds to the joyous atmosphere of the film. Beautiful cinematography (Laxman Utekar) and dexterous editing (Hemanti Sarkar) elevate the film further.
Where the film fails intermittently is in making Shashi not react at all in the face of some glorious temptation. Even if she is too conservative to give love another shot, it is an inhuman depiction to not even allow her a blush or two in the face of generous compliments.
Watch the film for sure. But don’t be disappointed by the ‘we-don’t-want-to-ruffle-any-feathers’ ending.
And then, you can watch it again for Sridevi!