Celebs at ‘English Vinglish’ premiereGauri Shinde’s directorial debut has been welcomed with thumping applause not because ‘English Vinglish’ says an extraordinary tale but because it makes a simple story so special.
English Vinglish is that rare thing — a Hindi film that creates a heroine out of a homemaker. Shashi, played by Sridevi, is a beautiful, accomplished woman who efficiently manages her home, husband, mother-in-law and two children. She also runs a small business making ladoos.
Shinde’s narrative resonates with the audience because they can identify with the emotions that are not extreme and overwhelming but merely sensitive. Baradwaj Rangan writes:
There’s no hate here; it’s just that the love has dimmed — otherwise, we couldn’t be hearing a song that went Piya bin dil lage na as Shashi gets ready to go abroad all alone (for her niece’s wedding), with the rest of the family following her after a few weeks. Shashi doesn’t like it when Satish hugs a female co-worker. She complains that he doesn’t express these affections with her. But when he makes a motion to embrace her as he’s seeing her off at the airport, she moves away, embarrassed. These contradictions are lovely — they make these people human. In the US, we meet Shashi’s sister, who still misses her dead husband the way an amputee feels an itch in a toe. Shinde doesn’t pile on the melodrama — there are no tears, just an unsentimental expression of a sentimental thought. And in this gently nuanced world, the imposition of English feels like the fall of an axe. Wouldn’t Shashi be better served by a husband who wakes up to her for what she is than the fact that she tries to become someone he wants her to be? What next? Handcuffs and lingerie in the bedroom?
While everyone is unanimous that Sridevi is brilliant in this film, it is the other characters who remain etched in your mind long after you have walked out of the theatre. Rajeev Masand says:
Even if it treads a safe path, ‘English Vinglish’ achieves believability through its supporting cast of mostly unfamiliar faces, including Mehdi Nebbou as Shashi’s sensitive French admirer, and Adil Hussain as her inattentive husband. Sujatha Kumar as Shashi’s older sister oozes warmth, and both kids playing Shashi’s children are spot-on. There’s also a delightful cameo by Amitabh Bachchan, who steals the scene he’s in with his impeccable comic timing.
Raja Sen says that the film is a winner all the way:
Go watch English Vinglish, and take your mothers along. As shown by one great scene which has Shashi speaking furiously in Hindi to her chef friend Laurent, who replies back in thoughtful-sounding French, it isn’t about language.
It’s about one of the biggest stars of her era transformed into the plainest Jane, a delightful heroine who saves all her grace for hoisting her son onto her pillow. It’s about how vital the smallest-seeming dreams can prove to be. Ah, spell it English Win-glish, I say.
You can read my review here.
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