Movie English Vinglish: Super Sridevi Comeback In An Emotional Classic!

Rightfully called the first female superstar of Indian Cinema, Sridevi had decided to make a comeback to Bollywood or Hindi cinema after 14 years. Ad filmmaker and debutante Bollywood director Gauri Shinde took painstaking efforts in crafting a super movie to make the comeback most memorable.  And, truly it was most memorable in the form of a perfect family entertainer and an emotional classic titled English Vinglish that released all over on October 5, 2012. The movie attained the status of a superhit thanks not only to a tremendous heartwarming performance by Sridevi, but also due to the virtue of it being a subtly and delightfully crafted celluloid creation. The standing ovation after its premier in Toronto Film Festival and the widespread critical acclaim it got within India just supports why English Vinglish should indeed be called a classic.

The movie has two very realistic themes that still run through the Indian society. First, a housewife or more ‘respectfully’ a homemaker is always taken for granted and her work or talent is never acknowledged. She keeps on doing her domestic duties which, of course, does not pay her monetarily and to earn a few bucks to really contribute to the family she also takes on additional jobs, thanklessly though. Second, people not able to speak English properly are always looked down upon in India creating in its wake the superiority complex of the ‘knowing’ and the inferiority complex of the ‘unknowing’. The almost communal divide between the ‘convent’ educated and ‘language’ educated thrived in the past and still has not been eradicated from the society.

Sridevi  plays or rather lives the role of the hardworking homemaker who earns a few bucks too by making and selling laddoos or sweet balls. And of course, she does not know how to speak good English. Her husband refuses to give her respect even for her earnings and only while eating and relishing the food thinks it fit to appreciate her as a good cook. ‘She is born to make laddoos’ is the only kind of praise her smart English knowing husband is capable of endowing.  She is ridiculed all the time even by her teenage English knowing daughter who loathes her mother’s presence in her convent school or in midst of her friends. Sridevi, the Maharashtrian housewife in a Pune family, lives on with the taunts and shows her pain in brilliantly realistic and yet subtle expressions. Maybe a determination keeps growing inside her.

The turnaround comes when Sridevi’s elder sister settled in New York City invites them for her daughter’s wedding. It was decided that Sridevi would leave at least four weeks in advance to help her sister prepare and the family would join later. After the fears and tribulations that a typical Indian housewife undergoes while forced to travel alone Sridevi finally arrives in NYC. Mostly lonely at daytime in her sister’s house she accidentally comes across a Conversational English speaking course that promises to make one expert in English in just four weeks. Sridevi manages her time and chances to successfully join the course. The exquisitely and yet realistically shot classroom proceedings and her diehard efforts to learn English constitute the most endearing highlight of English Vinglish. The American tutor and the students comprising of Mexican, French, Pakistani, Indian, African and Chinese nationalities look the perfect picks for the roles.

Few scenes of Sridevi just remain etched in mind. Like her scene with the Father of her daughter’s convent school, her telephone talks to the English speaking course administrator, her adventure in a NYC cafe, most of her classroom scenes, scenes with the French student and her English speech in the climax scene. Director Gauri Shinde’s eye for small details is most noteworthy and refreshing. The movie is compulsive viewing without a jerk and it is almost flawless. One might only think that Sridevi’s on-flight scene with co-passenger Amitabh Bachchan could have been a little more enlivening and better crafted. All other performances mostly by newcomers are also commendable. The outdoors of NYC are very well captured and the overall photography and takings have been immaculate and suited to the plot.

English Vinglish is undoubtedly one the most remarkable Bollywood movies of 2012. The movie is also replete with the happy-feel-good factor that distinguished another recent movie called Ferrari Ki Sawaari (Riding the Ferrari). Though much belated, I hope to write about that happy film soon. 


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