The actor delivers a power-packed performance and leaves an indelible impression – and that, after a 15-year vacation from Bollywood!
Is Sridevi on her way to becoming India’s Meryl Streep? Or Susan Sarandon? Seriously, we don’t know if such comparisons are valid, ‘coz Sridevi is our very own Sridevi, so let her be her. Yes, those are the kind of reactions she would draw from audiences when they watch her new film, English Vinglish, which is also the directorial debut of Gauri Shinde.
Everyone knows the story of English Vinglish from the trailer. So what is it that makes it special? Good performances, delightful dialogues and some scenes which both make you laugh and feel some dil ka dard. But at the same time, the film does not overwhelm or make you cry or think too much. Its beauty lies in its subtle messages and hints.
Sridevi plays Shashi Godbole, a typical – if we may say so – Indian housewife from Pune. Her world revolves around her husband, two kids and her laddoo ‘business’. She also has a mother-in-law (Sulabha Deshpande), but thankfully who is not the wicked saas-bahu kind. Shashi is overworked and under-estimated, and often overlooked for the kind of love and effort she puts into the family. She is also ridiculed for being a ‘vernac’. Familiar? Everyone will find one woman in their family like Shashi, I’m sure. And therein could lie the formula for the success of the film!
Shashi’s life is mundane but stable, and there’s panic when she has to leave for New York alone to help her elder sister with her daughter’s wedding. Hesitant to go it solo, Shashi finds that NY actually opens up a whole new world for her, when she musters up the courage to join English classes and attends them without letting anyone know. This portion of English Vinglish might remind you of the classic Mind Your Language, or its Indian version Zabaan Sambhalke.
Thankfully the proceedings are lightened up by the possibility of a romance between Shashi and her classmate Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou). So, kuch kuch hota hai or no? Watch the film to find out!
As Shashi’s English classes slowly wind up, her family joins her in NY and she is confused whether to carry on with her lessons or not. She questions her existence, her choices and her driving force and chooses a path. Which path? Go see the film to find out!
Sridevi’s comeback after 15 years is rocking with a role that suits her age and her experience. She is completely in character, knowing just when to hold back and when to emote. However, there could’ve been more scope for her to show her range of that incredible talent she has. Even her well-known dancing skills were not put to good use in the wedding song. But then, that’s demure Shashi for you who’s dancing, and not Sridevi! Kudos to both director and star for that restraint.
French-Arabic actor Nebbou plays a French cook who falls for the sari clad Indian damsel in distress – in this case, a married one. He is hot and his scenes with Sri are most natural, as he communicates with his eyes. Maybe we can see him in another Bollywood film? Sigh…
Bollywood’s legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan is loud and funny in his cameo in the film – hamming for some but likeable anyway.
English Vinglish loses pace in bits and pieces, which is unfortunate considering that it’s just over two hours long. Also, the climax is at a great Indian wedding, as it almost always is. But nevertheless, this one’s a one-time must-watch with the family and touches on old-fashioned values like love, respect for one another (gays included, it insists), courage and determination to get out of a rut and brace for a challenge, loyalty to a partner and confidence in the self. It also tells you to finish what you have started – whether it’s an English class or taking care of a family.
A sari-draped Indian housewife, who seems boring and old-fashioned to her Westernised Indian family, could be considered a stereotypical portrait. But the same sari-clad woman is seen as an exotic and charming lady from a foreigner’s point of view. And that, anyone who has travelled abroad will recognise – charming vignettes like these make the film real and rooted.
Director Shinde brings experiences from her surroundings on to celluloid in a nice way. A lot of the emotions have been depicted in movies and TV shows before, but it still seems new and the credit to that goes to Gauri, Sridevi, the other actors and the production team including Shinde’s husband, filmmaker and ad man R Balki.
Kudos to the music by Amit Trivedi and lyrics by Swanand Kirkire that seem so much a part of the film.
Nevertheless, in the end, Shashi chooses to ask for a Hindi newspaper in her flight back to India, almost as if she is dying to go back to her pre-New York life with her family. But her hubby (played naturally by Adil Hussain) looks on knowingly. So will Shashi embrace English and balance her old life with her new experiences? Or will she be content with the fact that she has been able to communicate her feelings to her loved ones – to tell them that she needs respect and not just love? That’s for you to interpret, but the film’s messages stay with you when you leave the theatre. And that’s a winner for Gauri Shinde and Sridevi!
* Poor – Avoid!
** Average – Give it a shot if you are desperate!
*** Good – One time watch!
**** Very good – Must watch!