English Vinglish is an amazing Indian movie (the second presented here) released in 2012. It has now a 7.9 imdb rate out of ten with over 25k votes, which made the movie virtually accountable for the famous imdb Top 250.
When I was still navigating in the nineties, I made some Indian friends who told me a lot about Bollywood and the stars of that moment. So, I learned about Sanjay Dutt, Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Darmeendra and others. I knew Raj Kapoor since I was a kid and I have discovered Om Puri watching … Wolf. Oh, by the way, I liked a lot Wolf when I have discovered it. In time, my sympathy for Nicholson decreased with his weight increasing. But there’s another thing I want to point out. Talking to my Indian fellows, I remember that there was another female star beside Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla, and she was actually Sridevi, the English Vinglish heroine. I’m glad I watched this highly entertaining movie.
[source of all pics: imdb.com]
English Vinglish – Plot
English Vinglish is presented as a family/comedy/drama, but I have to say first that up to its first half’s end, I didn’t see the comedy. You know, it’s not the classic Bollywood musical where all the cast and extras start twice or three times to sing and dance (except once, closing to final, more in a Mira Nair’s style), in order to launch some extra Hindi music hits beside the movie. There is music, of course, but it is a little bit different this time. Shashi is a sort of a house wife who doesn’t speak English very good. This reminds me of Zoolander and his philanthropic aspirations. The reality is that she wasn’t just a mere housewife, she was an exceptional cook with two kids (a junior high student daughter and a pre-school boy), a corporate husband and a mother-in-law to care about beside cooking, cleaning and wisely managing the household. Often she made delicious “laddoos”, cookies which were very in demand by various clients, maybe friends or other acquaintances. Laddoos contain chickpea flour, wheat semolina and ground coconut. These are combined with sugar and other flavorings, cooked in ghee and molded into a ball shape. She had a servant to help her at least for delivering, after rolling herself with her hands, hundreds of them. Unfortunately the husband and the daughter frequently mocked her for her lack of English proficiency. Husband was often rude and treated her with disrespect in everything she did. Because he was the providing one in the family, even if he hadn’t mentioned, he seems to feel right to look with contempt at his wife. The daughter learned at a church managed school, something “special”, where English was the spoken language (instead of Hindi, of course). Besides not lending her the house car needed to make her laddoo deliveries, once he couldn’t make up to the daughter school for a necessary teacher-parents meeting. This led to her having to accompany the girl to that meeting and increasing her daughter’s embarrassment by having to walk beside a poor English speaking mother, nevertheless, all those small miseries led to a multiplication of Shashi’s insecurity.
To make things more unbearable, Satish, the husband, received a phone call from Shashi’s sister, inviting them all to her daughter’s wedding, Meera. Unfortunately, Shashi’s sisters family lives in New York, so the bully husband sent Shashi there alone, before them, “to help” her sister, being a woman, and the wedding taking place in her side of the family. So, Shashi had to travel to an unknown and between us, kind of difficult country, on her own. Just imagine the required formalities and remember the fact that Shashi’s proficiency in English was close to none.
Brilliant phase at the embassy, or consulate, where Shashi was asked during her American visa interview: “Ma’am, how would you manage in our country if you don’t know English”? A local clerk answered in the embassy/consulate official’s ear: “same as you manage in our country without knowing Hindi”. So, she got the visa, the ticket being payed by her sister, Manu.
Jeez, no smiles for Shashi in USA either. After feeling herself repeatedly humiliated especially by her lack of speaking English, she decided to secretly enroll in an intensive English learning course, “Learn to speak English in 4 Weeks”! Now, after the English Vinglish intermission, the adventure begin. She was very proud to learn her first word at the center which was linked with her status back home: “entrepreneur”. You’ll see what happens. This is a “comedy” in the same way Chef (2014) is a comedy. Actually it’s a deep drama here, but somehow family suited, in a way. Politically correct, mostly.
Sridevi is Shashi, the catering entrepreneur. Adil Hussain is Satish, Sashi’s husband. Mehdi Nebbou is Laurent, an intensive English language student in New York. Nebbou is a French of Algerian origins after his father, and German on his mother’s side. Priya Anand is Radha, the marrying niece in New York. She also is a Southern Indian actress making now her debut at Bollywood. The late Sulabha Deshpande is Grandma, Shashi’s mother-in-law.
There is an admirable guest apparition by Amitabh Bachchan, as a fellow traveler to USA, elegant, courteous and witty.
Story, screenplay and directing are all by Gauri Shinde, a lady who made her debut with it. The story was inspired by the director’s mother. She felt embarrassed by the lack of English knowledge of her small entrepreneur mother when she was young, as well.
I hope you’ll watch English Vinglish and you’ll love it as much as I did. I have put on hold other movie reviews, with more buzz than this one, to show you my own enthusiasm for it. I’m curious of what do you think, is she going to learn English manageable enough in four weeks?
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