English Vinglish. It has to be the simplest yet the most beautiful film made this year. I had watched it in the theaters twice but I recently also bought the DVD. Watching it alone without any human presence interfering with my attention made me enjoy it even more. I guess that’s probably because you’re not really worried about time and space at home. You can simply slump in your couch, hang your legs in the air and watch a film. Only suspense and horror films should be watched in a theater.
Anyway, what I love about English Vinglish is that it’s completely unpretentious. It doesn’t try to emotionally manipulate you or try to deliver any strong moral message. It’s a slice of life film where the protagonist could might as well be either you or me. How many times have we come across a relative who really struggles with english and yearns to speak it well? Probably many times. It’s unfortunate that an alien language has become such a major yardstick to judge someone’s personality in our nation now. After all, English is but a foreign language just like Chinese or French or Italian, albeit spoken and accepted more widely. Shashi is a middle class Maharashtrian house wife who, despite being the best mother and the best wife one could hope for, still endures a lot of disrespect (dished out to her by her own family members) due to her lack of english speaking skills. She is also an entrepreneur as she is equivalent to a laddoo manufacturing plant (delicious ones at that) but she is not respected for that endeavor either. Fed up and infuriated by their behavior, she sets out to learn english and prove them wrong.
The film itself is like a breath of fresh air that leaves you with a huge smile on your face. Nobody’s a villain here. The husband is not evil, he is simply someone who has fallen prey to the same superficial culture. He doesn’t respect his wife and consequently nor does the daughter. They both do love her, but they don’t value her. She eventually does earn that respect and it’s a heartwarming moment. Shashi is a character one roots for. She may not be heroic but she’s a hero nonetheless. It is the small things that eventually matter, after all.
Sridevi has always been a favorite. Chaalbaaz, Mr. India, Sadma and Lamhe are amazing films. She, along with Madhuri Dixit, are the only two female superstars that India has ever seen. She still commands attention. She completely embodied Shashi. Not once did the shadow of the superstar she had once been cross her eyes. She made Shashi’s turmoil and eventual happiness both equally identifiable. When I watched it in the theater, people clapped when her name came on the screen in the beginning. I must add here that 2012 has been the year of the ladies. Vidya Balan, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor (although ‘Heroine’ was a pile of unadulterated horseshit) and Sridevi. All the men can go take a hike now.
Everyone else in the cast was equally good. Special mention to Mehdi Nebbou, oof! what a cutie! Uske saath mera dil bhi toot gaya 😦 His relationship with Shashi, pure friendship yet bordering on something more, was poignant. Special mention to Priya Anand, the actress who played Radha. Her character was Shashi’s true friend, the one who supported her throughout her road to self-fulfillment.
Out of the songs, Navrai Majhi is my favorite and always makes me happy. Cinematography is so beautiful that I wanted to board the next plane to US and stay their forever. The cameo by Amitabh was totally FTW! It was a little OTT but heck, who cares. The man was kickass and I loved every bit of it (Band karo yeh gober!!)
I think everyone should watch this film, if you have no reason to watch it, just watch it to feel good about yourself. You are the way you are. Love yourself and everything about yourself. Or just watch it for Sridevi *shrugs* Gauri Shinde is a winner all the way. She’s a very sensitive person and it shows. May you direct many more films!
P.S – Sridevi’s voice is still a bit jarring though. Add to that all the surgeries she’s underwent. Why do people do this to themselves? :scratches head: