English Vinglish: The return of the graceful Sridevi

Published: October 7, 2012
The movie presents a typical housewife with all her socio-cultural shortcomings, who is coming to terms with her life and overcoming all the obstacles. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

The movie presents a typical housewife with all her socio-cultural shortcomings, who is coming to terms with her life and overcoming all the obstacles. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

The movie presents a typical housewife with all her socio-cultural shortcomings, who is coming to terms with her life and overcoming all the obstacles. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
The movie presents a typical housewife with all her socio-cultural shortcomings, who is coming to terms with her life and overcoming all the obstacles. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

The film English Vinglish proves to be an important one for Indian cinema, not just because it marks the return of Sridevi, the most graceful lady on the silver screen after a 15 year break; but because it celebrates the sari clad Indian housewife as a home-maker and an entrepreneur.

Films like Vidya Balan starrer Kahaani have worked on feminist themes by gaining sympathy for a pregnant woman because she is with child. In this spirit, English Vinglish presents Shahshi (Sridevi) — a typically desi housewife with all the socio-cultural shortcomings and handicaps that make a feminist plot; a woman coming to terms with her life and overcoming all the obstacles because she can. This makes the film all the more interesting and plausible.

She doesn’t get time to treat herself for coffee because she is busy making parathas for her family. Her husband Satish (Adil Hussain), who is a modern, office-going, well-to-do middle-aged man, discourages her from following her only passion: making and delivering laddus. Her daughter is embarrassed to take her to the parents-teacher meetings at school, because her mother can’t speak English. All these factors build up to the conflict of the film — the consequences of not knowing how to speak English. This struggle reaches its crescendo when she is invited to attend a wedding in New York; Shahshi decides at that point to steal away from time to time and enrol herself at an English language course.

Directed by the debutant Gauri Shinde and produced by R Balki, English Vinglish has been simultaneously released in Telugu and will also mark Srivdevi’s comeback to Tamil cinema after 26 years. Before its official release, the film was screened at the gala night of the Toronto Film Festival 2012  where it received a standing ovation for Sridevi’s performance and rightly so, because as one embarks upon Shahshi’s journey as a viewer, there is no coming back.

The simplicity with which Sridevi pulls off such a complex character is far too brilliant to be termed commendable or remarkable; it’s simply awe-inspiring. It certainly wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that with this comeback, Sridevi has resurrected her reel life by delivering a career best performance. In a number of scenes, her character stays on screen but can’t express much because of her inability to communicate, yet we all can relate to her dilemma simply because she is so compelling. For all those expecting her to be rusty after such a long hiatus, this film is a must watch because she has returned with even more seasoning in her craft along with a few well-disguised wrinkles. This is a new beginning for the stunning Sridevi; there can’t be a better re-launch.

Unfortunately, the film takes a nose dive in the second half as it starts to drag. The film also deviates from Shahshi’s initial conflict, which was with language, as United States has more cultural shocks to offer than lingual, which essentially becomes the reason for its pointless stretch. Shahshi’s English class is a mere re-enactment of the popular series “Mind Your Language” and apart from a few jokes and serious cultural shocks, it stays there longer than needed.

Although English Vinglish is primarily an actor’s film with very strong performances, but the director needs to be given credit for a smooth sailing first half and some smartly set up conflicts between Shahshi and her husband.

English Vinglish is an uplifting film and a must watch for all Sridevi fans. For others, the underlying themes of motherhood and lines like “kia angraizi bachon sae ziada important hai?” might have an emotional appeal.

To sum it up, English Vinglish may not be timeless, but Sridevi certainly is. The film has some entertaining aspects, especially a stellar performance by the child actor Shivansh Kotia as Sagar and a guest appearance by Amitabh Bachchan.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2012.                

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Reader Comments (16)

  • sid
    Oct 8, 2012 - 12:15AM

    Must watch!!!!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Oct 8, 2012 - 1:13AM

    beautiful film!!


  • Raj - 9797
    Oct 8, 2012 - 1:16AM

    This is one of the best movie I have watched in the recent times. Do not agree with the ET review that the movie was somewhat a drag in the 2nd half. It was an excellent movie throughout from the beginning to the end. It is entertaining, good story value and excellent performance not just by Sri Devi but by everyone, even the kids. Sri Devi’s performance and character will remain in your mind for a long time. Oscar performance by Sri Devi and an Oscar quality movie.


  • sv
    Oct 8, 2012 - 3:06AM

    excellent movie


  • Pk_Paris
    Oct 8, 2012 - 5:12AM

    Watched this movie yesterday. What a movie!!! Hats off to Gauri Shinde for such a great piece and of course Sridevi. All supporting actors from her English class did a great job. I like one from Pakistan.
    Thank you whole team for making my evening wonderful.


  • Hindustani
    Oct 8, 2012 - 7:13AM

    Why can’t we make original films?

    This is a copy from the series Mind Your Language.


  • Prakash
    Oct 8, 2012 - 8:58AM

    I agree with the ET review that Sridevi is excellent in the movie and director has treated the theme in best possible way and proper tempo throughout the film has been maintained. Sridevi was par excelent in the last scene , where she delivers blessings to newly wed couple in halting English showing all the nuances of her acting talent.


  • mr. righty rightist
    Oct 8, 2012 - 9:39AM

    @Raj-9797 “Oscar performance by Sri Devi and an Oscar quality movie. “

    The problem with South Asians is we are basically clueless when it comes to art. We are basically boxed in the banality of Bollywood.

    People who make such comments are not exposed to the best cinema of the world. They are not even exposed to the best cinema of India.

    They have not an iota of idea what they are talking about.


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Oct 8, 2012 - 11:11AM

    Sridevi is one of the most complete actresses of all time. And don’t just go with her North Indian movies alone. Just take a look at the amazing range of her roles in South Indian movies too!


  • indiangirl
    Oct 8, 2012 - 2:18PM

    its not a copy of mind your language..the only similarity is the english classes..i watched the movie on sunday and this is the best movie of this year..every thing is so perfectly woven and the second half does not drag..it just sails..


  • Sidewinder
    Oct 8, 2012 - 2:19PM

    Ms HAWA HAWAI is awesome.


  • Arif
    Oct 8, 2012 - 7:03PM


    No, they’re different.


  • gp65
    Oct 9, 2012 - 8:43AM

    @Hindustani: “Why can’t we make original films?
    This is a copy from the series Mind Your Language.”

    If you think that this movie was a copy of Mind your language, you completely missed the point. It was about how a woman is underestimated and undervalued by her own family even more than those she interacts with because she does not speak English and how she overcomes. Her determination to earn the respect she deserves instead of wallowing in self-pity and her success at a simple everyday task of being able to successfully order in a cafeteria makes you cheer her on.


  • rago
    Oct 16, 2012 - 2:15AM

    So just because the theme is similar dealing with similar issues, it becomes a copy? That is outragous, MYL was a TV sitcom, not a movie. it is like saying anyone who plays a mentally unstable role, then every movie with same theme after that is a copy. You have to look at the way gauri puts it’s own dialogues into the movie, it wasn’t just english class, it was from india to US.


  • rago
    Oct 16, 2012 - 2:20AM

    @mr. righty rightist art doesn’t just mean making hardcore slow arthouse film on poverty in india. EV deals with a universal theme and is delivered in a realistic and entertaining way. It got amazing reviews in TIFF and sridevi was branded as meryle steep of India.


  • Imran
    Oct 18, 2012 - 8:43PM

    @Hindustani: Then you might as well claim that life is a copy of Mind Your Language instead of the other way round. The only portion that is “inspired” (if at all) is the atmosphere of the ESL class which is quite typical in most ESL classes. Does that mean the movie itself is not original? No, it is as original as you can be without becoming God. And only God can be God.


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