English Vinglish – Movie Review
Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on October 7, 2012 | No Comments
PRODUCER – Sunil Lulla, R. Balki, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, R. K. Damani
DIRECTOR – Gauri Shinde
WRITER – Gauri Shinde
CAST – Sridevi, Mehdi Nebbou, Priya Anand, Adil Hussain,
MUSIC – Amit Trivedi
A glorious diva known for her exquisite beauty, magnetic presence and celebrated histrionics turns into a shy, unassuming and traditional house-wife in English Vinglish. Sridevi, the consummate dreamgirl of the 80’s displayed a striking honesty as a simple, middle-aged woman in the trailers of her latest film ‘English Vinglish’. But have she and debutante director Gauri Shinde managed to pull the rug from under our feet?
The film opens with the daily routine of Shashi (Sridevi). It is morning and in quick cuts we see her waking, tying her hair, making herself coffee and just as she settles down to enjoy it her mother-in-law wakes up and she leaves her coffee aside to prepare tea for her. She has just settled down again when her husband Satish (Adil Hussain) calls out for tea. She turns to the camera (we seeing her for the first time) with an inaudible sigh, puts her coffee down and gets up to make tea for him. In our first introduction to her we see at once the resilience of the woman inside her and the duty-bound house-wife who is the centrepiece of this family, like so many around us.
Shashi seems like she is comfortable and secure in her situation but soon enough we know that there is something incomplete. Shashi cannot speak English and hence is an embarrassment for her teenage daughter. As a housewife who has a little business of preparing laddoos which she calls her hobby, she isn’t smart enough for her husband to take her seriously. Soon, they land an invitation to visit her sister in the US and Shashi happens to travel alone. Her shy demeanour, little exposure to the outside world and lack of English-speaking skills turns into a trauma in this foreign world and Shashi decides to take up English classes to be able to regain her confidence and assert her importance to those important to her and more importantly to herself.
Bit by bit, Gauri Shinde takes us on a warm journey of this middle-aged, middle-class woman trying to find her feet. The plot she weaves isn’t intricate, it is simplistic even, but she delves into details with a joy and patience fast becoming rare in our story-telling. Shashi’s attempts at learning English are kept at a background and the real theme of the film, her attempt to regain her own sense of self are fore-grounded with vignettes of her interactions with the world, her classmates and her sister’s family. Her relationship with Laurent, (Mehdi Nebbou), a French chef and one of her classmates, besotted with her is presented with a touch of gentleness and subtlety beautifully juxtaposing the attractions of the ‘outside’ and the journey ‘inside’. She is helped by Amit Trivedi’s unconventional music, foot-tapping, not memorable but sufficing to keep the telling upbeat.
Within a narrative that trades feel-good for a deeper exploration and at times calls for a surer, more experienced hand at story-telling, one aspect shines out and that is Sridevi. She owns Shashi with her entire demeanour and invests incredible layers to the character by her sheer artistry. She is matched perfectly well by Adil Hussain – inspired casting, Mehdi Nebbou and Priya Anand as her sympathetic niece and we slowly begin to forget that she is a super-star.
English Vinglish abounds in heart-warming moments and has a strong feel-good aura around it. It is charming and also heart-wrenching as we recognise the characters onscreen as being one of us. We know a Shashi, a Satish and their daughter very well. At times it hurts because the portrayal of reality is such, almost like a mirror to us. But most of the time it is refreshingly honest and pleasant, making us root for Shashi all through and in the finale making us stand and applaud. Just that we don’t know if it is the character or the actor we are really applauding.