A matchless cook, a caring mother, a perfect homemaker and an expert in making laddoos, Shashi Godbole’s character in ‘English Vinglish’ is so beautifully crafted that it looks very close to reality. Tired of becoming a butt of jokes at social gatherings, Shashi aka Sridevi decides to take up a crash course in English speaking. We know so many people who stick out like a sore thumb as they can’t speak proper English and Shashi brings to you their side of story.
Sridevi is the hero of the film, the loving mother, yearning wife, earnest student. Without being too preachy, or overdramatised, the narrative is perfectly balanced. As writer and director Gauri Shinde’s first film, English Vinglish is remarkable, feel critics.
“One needs to applaud the endeavor because films like Paan Singh Tomar, Kahaani, Vicky Donor, GOW 1 and 2, Barfi!, also last week’s OMG – Oh My God! and now English Vinglish, hi-concept films all, take the unconventional route, yet enlighten and entertain, both. Sure, masala movies are great fun, but a film like English Vinglish breaks the monotony, shatters the unwritten rules of the game and scores brownie points. Cinema is rapidly changing and one can connect with viewers across the globe even without making the usual mainstream Hindi movie. English Vinglish proves it!” writes Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama.
Written and directed by ad filmmaker Gauri Shinde, ‘English Vinglish’ is an emotional film and a perfect family entertainer. The film has the same flavour of ‘Cheeni Kum’ and ‘Paa’, as they were directed by Shinde’s husband R Balki. He is the co-producer of the film. Sridevi, who has done lively roles like ‘Mr India’, ‘Chandni’ and ‘Chaalbaaz’ in past, it’s great to see her in a mature role.
The film’s opening shot shows Sridevi tying her hair in a knot, her dainty ankles touching the floor, a slender back peering out of her sari as she wakes up to her duties as a houewife. As opposed to actors who ‘come back’ more often than a Ram Gopal Varma film, English Vinglish is truly a comeback for Sridevi. Her last film – way back in 1997 (unless you count a delayed film that released in 2004) – was Judaai, where the actress nailed the role of a middle-class housewife who sells her husband to a richer woman in echange for a luxurious life. In these 15 years, film technique, concepts and audience tastes have undergone quite a change, and watching Sridevi slip in effortlessly in a film very different from her earlier filmography is interesting to watch. The housewife Sridevi plays in English Vinglish is a far cry from the one she played in Judaai – Shashi is soft-spoken and lovable, resolute and kind, and a lot less intimidating.
Her only drawback, if you want to call it that, is that she’s not well-versed with the English language. A lovely scene in the film has Shashi meeting the principal of the school her daughter studies in. Shashi, a tad embarrassed, confesses to the principal who starts talking to her in English rightaway that her knowledge of the language is weak. The red-faced principal in turn apologizes for his inability to speak Hindi well, both characters relieved at finding a middle ground to communicate. The daughter, though, isn’t very pleased. We’ve all been there – not always willing to flaunt our parents, worried that they may not seem as ‘cool’ as we want them to be.
Shinde brings many such real moments alive on screen, like Shashi’s stumbling efforts while she travels alone to New York to attend her niece’s wedding. Once there, she enrolls herself in a course that would help her learn English in four weeks, so she doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb at the wedding. The interactions between the students, including a Pakistani cab driver, a Mexican nanny, a French chef, etc, are heartwarming and funny. Shashi finds a friend in the chef, who is smitten by her and helps her regain self-confidence. Neither speak each other’s language – their inept English is the only communicating mode. And it’s sufficient.
At 135 minutes, English Vinglish is an absolute delight. No scene’s out of place, no character unnecessary and no dialogue forced. The script, penned by Shinde, is razor sharp and she brings little nuances to her characters that help create an environment you can relate to. Laxman Utekar’s cinematography aids his director’s vision. The best thing about English Vinglish is that it speaks a universal language – you can set the film anywhere, change the characters’ nationalities and shoot in a foreign language – yet the story would work. That quality, and the fact that it is seeped in culture, makes English Vinglish the rare crossover film from Bollywood.