Under the able direction of first-timer Gauri Shinde, who also comes across as a straight forward and no-attitude person, Sridevi’s acting abilities radiates even more brightly.
By Meena Yeggina
Movie Review: English Vinglish;
Cast: Sridevi, Priya Anand, Mehdi Nebbou, Adil Hussain, Sujata Kumar, Cory Hibbs;
Direction: Gauri Shinde;
Music: Amit Trivedi
A splendid comeback for Sridevi! Unlike other co-stars who chose either glamorous (Madhuri, Karishma), or dark (Manisha Koirala, Juhi Chawla) roles, Sridevi chose to relaunch herself with an unassuming, sweet, non-english speaking yet intelligent and selfsufficient home maker. Under the able direction of first-timer Gauri Shinde, who also comes across as a straight forward and no-attitude person, Sridevi’s acting abilities radiates even more brightly. It’s common knowledge that Sridevi is a natural actress. Her glamour sometimes outshined her acting abilities in films such as Himatwala and others such but in Sadma she easily stood her might with Kamal Hasan, even outshining him sometimes.
Almost anyone can identify with this movie and not just a non-english speaking home maker. Very delicately, and more difficult, humorously, Shinde brings forth a strong message: language, education, geography or religion need not be a measuring tool for intelligence.
My husband often makes fun of me and my non-science based education. I have done masters in Journalism not in engineering. It’s not serious criticism but yet it hurts. The message is clear: Science based person is smarte than Arts based person.
I haven’t seen a movie so intelligently and so originally weaved. Shinde’s message is not that knowing English will liberate you. In fact it’s just the opposite. The knowledge of English need not be a measuring rod for intelligence. It’s only in India that English is given such high visibility and respect. Many countries just ignore it. Like recently I went to Germany and if you speak English there they will just ignore you. Knowing a language is simply superb. But looking down upon your own language only happens in India and among Indians. This is not just English Vs Hindi but also Hindi Vs regional languages. Hindi-speaking people almost always look down upon other languages in India.
Many a times this message comesacross in Sridevi’s innocent questions. At one point she asks her teasing husband, (Adil Hussain) “Why, serious topics can be discussed only in English?”
At another instance, director very craftily brings in the word judgemental. Sridevi asks her neice after watching a movie, “Does judgemental mean a mental judge? For which the neice explains that a judgemental person is one that comes to conclusion without proper evidence.
English Vinglish is a movie about a 30 plus homemaker who is from a Hindi medium school/college. Her husband and kids are always affectionately making fum of her English and hardly ever take her seriously. Her daughter is also ashamed of her, trying to avoid her visits to school and prefers her dad. Her son is her only solace, who is still young to be “judgemental,” and is still giving her a lot of respect and attention.
She gets a chance to visit the land of dreams, USA, to attend her niece’s wedding. She travels alone to the country and a couple of rude experiences in the US makes her determined to learn the language. She enrols herself in an English speaking crash course where she meets several other people like her. This group might look stereotypical but in reality any English-learning course in the US looks like it only because they are all there to learn the language. Shinde’s selection of these actors is splendid. They all acted as if they are born for these roles. I especially loved the Pakistani and ofcourse the handsome French dish, Mehdi Nebou. My 15-yearold daughter hated the fact that Sridevi wouldn’t fall into his arms immediately. A small fault that I found is the rudeness Sridevi comes across from a coffee shop waitress. I doubt if in reality anyone could be that rude to a client when it is so obvious that the client cannot speak English. But maybe New York is different.
None of the scenes are “inspired’ or are copied. The final speech Sridevi gives is extremely endearing: simple yet very intelligent. A speech to die for if you listen carefully. Again, not preachy at all. Sridevi is extremely expressive and her eyes speak volumes. Excellent music. An original narration with sensitive, funny, non-preachy and extremely entertaining theme and without any belly buttons, item numbers and flying cars and bodies. And an added bonus: My daughter after the end of the movie hugged me with tears in her eyes, “I am sorry I am so mean to you sometimes, amma, I will never make fun of you, or be mean to you, ever, I promise.” I know the declaration is temporary and hastily promised but hey what more do you want from a film?