Movie Review: ENGLISH VINGLISH by FENIL SETA
Although English is the link language and more and more children are increasingly being admitted in English-medium schools, there’s still a large population that still can’t speak English fluently. When they are compelled to mouth few words in English owing to social pressures, they at times make a mess of it. This has been reflected in cinema as well and the recent example being Ajay Devgn’s character in Bol Bachchan. But the character was more like a chieftain and hence his mistakes weren’t corrected or laughed upon. But in real life, such mistakes are pointed out and become butt of jokes, which can be extremely humiliating. English Vinglish also deals with this aspect and since the plot was relatable, half of the battle was already won. And thanks to debutant director Gauri Shinde’s direction and script and of course Sridevi’s bravura performance, English Vinglish turns out to be a beautiful and enriching experience. A must watch!
The story of the movie: Shashi Godbole (Sridevi) lives in Pune with hubby, Satish (Adil Hussain), mother-in-law (Sulbha Deshpande) and children Sapna (Navika Kotia) and Sagar (Shivansh Kotia). She’s an expert in making laddoos and even runs a small ‘in-house business’ of the same. Her customers swear by her laddoos but this means nothing for her family. Moreover, she isn’t fluent in English and that is a deterrent as well. The usual ups and downs were going on in her life when suddenly she is called by her sister (Sujata Kumar) to New York for the wedding of her daughter Meera (Neelu Sodhi). Circumstances compel Shashi to travel alone to New York and her family decided to join her few weeks later. How will Shashi, who has always been with her family and isn’t articulate when it comes to English, travel all alone to a foreign country, handle the immigration procedures and interact with the inhabitants?
English Vinglish rests on a simple and identifiable premise. The film doesn’t get complicated at any point – it’s a simple tale told passionately and most effectively. From the first scene, one gets zapped into the world of Shashi, her problems and her joys. The best and in a way the worst part of the film is that it strips you naked and makes you aware as to how we have hurt all those whom we have made fun of, not necessarily of their language. People complain a lot that their parents tend to ‘humiliate’ them in front of relatives, peers or teachers. But in case of English Vinglish, we take Sridevi’s side all along and even argue ‘But what she said was correct and justified’!
English Vinglish progresses slowly and gradually but beautifully. Your heart goes out to Sridevi in her poignant moments and you can’t help but flash a smile when she finds joy in simple things of life, and also when she breaks into the Michael Jackson dance. Cute! Film gets better as she moves to US and the problems she faces in the foreign country. The intermission point was brilliant and the second half gets even better. At a point, one might feel that the film is getting stretched but was necessary. The conflicts that arise in Shashi’s life in the pre-climax and climax were very well thought of. Of course, the finale was outstanding and one can’t help but applaud the team for presenting such an almost-flawless film to the viewers!
Every actor in English Vinglish has put forward their best but its Sridevi’s film at the end of the day. The actress is back and how! The best thing is that this is unlike what she has done before and yet, one won’t miss her chulbuli, bubbly and sizzling yesteryear avatar. She goes deep into the character and comes out with a terrific performance and in my books, one of the most impactful characterizations of all times. You cry when she sheds tears and you laugh when she’s happy, and this happens at every single point! This is a very rare feat and hats off to Sridevi!
Adil Hussain brilliantly portrays the typical Indian hubby and after Ishqiya and Agent Vinod, here’s one more outstanding performance from the actor! Sulbha Deshpande was sweet and for a change, it was good to see daughter-in-law and mom-in-law on the same page! Navika Kotia gets over-the-top at places but then that was character’s requirement. Little Shivansh Kotia is extremely cute and adorable and was reminded of Archana Puran Singh’s legendary ‘I-want-to-take-you-home’ dialogue! Sujata Kumar was natural. Neelu Sodhi and the actor who plays Kevin were good in their small roles. Priya Anand (Radha) looks stunning and delivers a mindblowing performance. An actor to watch out for!
The actors who play Sridevi’s classmates in her English speaking class have a significant part to play in the film. Mehdi Nebbou (Laurent, the French chef) looks cool and was natural to the core. Rajeev Ravindranathan (Rama), best remembered as the one who tries to rag Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots, raise lot of laughs. Maria Romano (Yu Son, Chinese beautician) was very cute. Sumeet Vyas (Salman Khan, Pakistani cabbie), Ruth Aguliar (Eva, Spanish nanny) and Davian Thompson (Udumbke, the African) play their part well. Cory Hibbs (David, the English speaking instructor) was fabulous and leaves a mark. Amitabh Bachchan also features in a cameo and was too good!
Amit Trivedi’s music is soulful and the best thing is, it is seamlessly woven into the narrative. The title song, Dhak Dhuk and Manhattan leave a mark and so does Navrai Majhi and Gustakh Dil. Background score gels well with the narrative. Laxman Utekar’s cinematography beautifully captures the locales of New York. Debutant director Gauri Shinde excels as writer as well as director. Script was terrific and never does it get too melodramatic or over-the-top. Being as realistic as possible is the in-thing nowadays and Gauri conforms to the trend and succeeds. Direction was flawless and it touches chord more so because Gauri throws light on everyday joys and problems. Apt instance is the dilemma Sridevi faces days before she’s about to leave for New York, all alone and is left wondering that how will she manage without her family. Terrific! Also the bond she shares with her cute little son, Radha and her mother-in-law (the only two people who understand her), her classmates (who look up to her) and especially Laurent (and expressing their deepest thoughts in their mother tongue) was very lovely! Hats off to Gauri and hope she shows same amount of passion and simplicity in her next venture too!
Some of the best scenes:
1. Shashi’s entry
2. Sagar tells Sapna’s secret to Shashi (cute!)
3. Shashi at Sapna’s PTA meeting
4. Shashi gets a call from sis in New York
5. The songs Dhak Duk, title song, Manhattan, Gustakh Dil
6. Shashi’s with Big B in plane
7. Shashi’s humiliating experience in a New York café
8. Shashi enrolls in English speaking class
9. All scenes of English speaking classes
10. Shashi confesses to Radha about the class
11. The last 20 minutes
On the whole, English Vinglish is a simple tale told most effectively and beautifully! Gauri Shinde’s script and direction ensures that it touches viewer’s hearts. Music is soulful, characters are interesting and most importantly, its Sridevi’s show all the way. Go for it and fall in love with her…all over again!
My rating-**** ½ out of 5!