Sridevi's 'English Vinglish' a must-watch

Nothing forced about the movie, no unnecessary character; the only issue is Sridevi's struggle with the English language

What Karan Johar tried to teach, over-and-over again through lavish sets and glossy frames, about loving one’s parents, first-time director Gauri Shinde endorses, but with simplistic aplomb.

Her lesson, however, is far more rooted in reality. A bit sluggish, but enjoyable nevertheless.

Although influences of her famed filmmaker husband Balki are inevitable in the styling and narrative, Gauri does show promise.

Like Balki, even Gauri excessively indulges in the storytelling, slowly unraveling the insecurities of her self-doubting, English-challenged protagonist Shashi.

We see her playing the dutiful wife and loving mother, yet Shashi’s efforts are never appreciated nor applauded. Even her small “laddoo business” is frowned upon.

If anything it’s her inability to converse in English that amuses her family most.  

Soon, the jokes turn hurtful, with Shashi silently stomaching all the jabs without putting up a fight.

The situation, however, changes when she travels to the United States of America, a month before the rest of her family, to help prepare for her niece’s wedding.

An ugly spat at a New York café, over her incapacity to communicate correctly in English, persuades her to enroll for  four weeks of English tutorials.

And, there begins Shashi’s journey in rediscovering herself.

Although there are influences of the famed Brit comedy ‘Mind your language’, Gauri refrains from overtly focusing on the language classes, yet retains genuine laughs through her assorted group of non-native English speakers. The Pakistani cab driver, Mexican nanny, Tamilian computer genius, African introvert and oriental beauty make for a fun bunch.

Gauri’s purpose, however, is about sensitising the audience about treating one’s parents with dignity and love.

Sri Devi, who makes a comeback on-screen after a hiatus of 15 years, is splendid as the saree-draped Marathi mommy, who slips into Michael Jackson’s iconic moves just to amuse her little boy.

She falters and stammers her way into our hearts.

Even her gang of English-illiterate pals are equally endearing, with Mehdi Nebbou's French cook appearing the most striking, in personality and charm. His fascination for Shashi is brilliantly captured, without being overdramatic.

Despite the limitations in script, Priya Anand as Shashi’s supportive niece, Adil Hussain as her aloof husband and Sulbha Deshpande as the easy-going mother-in-law are notable.

‘English Vinglish’ has some great moments, the most impressive being the one where Shashi bonds with her teenaged daughter’s South-Indian teacher, over Kerala wafers and broken Hindi. Even Amitabh Bachchan’s cameo as Shashi’s entertaining travel companion is hilarious.

Though Shashi does not turn into an overnight English expert, she does walk away by teaching us a valuable life lesson about treating our elders with respect.  Surely, this is one impactful class no one should bunk.


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