ENGLISH VINGLISH opens with a one line mention of a tribute to Indian Cinema (100 years old) and one of its doyens, Amitabh Bachchan (70 years old on October 11th). And this movie, so brilliantly directed by debutante Gauri Shinde (whose husband R Balki had given us the sensitively handled PAA) actually turns out to be a sterling tribute to Indian womanhood. The combination of Gauri, who is responsible for the visualization and the superb emoting of the actress of yesteryears, Sridevi create a winning composition, the likes of which we don’t get to see often in Bollywood.
Sridevi, plays the role of Shashi, an upper middle class housewife, whose sense of self-worth gets eroded on account of her not being familiar with the Queen’s language. The journey of her gradually losing her self-worth to how she regains is told with humour, subtlety and no melodrama. There are messages galore, but no one gets into the sermonizing mode; there are several occasions when one feels the lump in the throat for what Shashi is made to undergo, but no bucketfuls of tears; hints of closeness and bonding between Shashi and her English co-learner Laurent (excellent acting by Mehdi Nebbou) without dollops of kisses and hugs; occasional ripples of laughter without the necessity of crude jokes.
The performances of all the players are uniformly good, although Sridevi’s act is the most outstanding. Coming to the screen after a hiatus of fifteen years, Sridevi comes up with an award winning performance. Her speech towards the end reminded me of another great movie speech in THE SCENT OF A WOMAN delivered by Al Pacino: both are stirring speeches; powerful and not very fluent, but potent in delivery. Adil Hussain playing Sridevi’s husband, who sees in her only a Laddoo making attribute, delivers a fine performance; and so do the actors playing the roles of their children. The class composition in Shashi’s English class reminds one of the MIND YOUR LANGUAGE series, but Gauri thankfully doesn’t accent those scenes too much.
Two more factors help in the movie making its impact: the stunning collection of Shashi’s cotton sarees which also seem to be conveying a message: simplicity can create its own charm; chiffons, please stay back! The other is Amit Trivedi’s music which wholly blends into the ambience with not one song looking out of place. The tunes too, are hummable.
The only real problem with ENGLISH VINGLISH is also its source of strength, particularly to its Bollywood audiences. Everything is too simple and tailor-made to move the story forward in a particular direction and to highlight Shashi’s plight. Shashi is a character with oodles of goodness; not a single flaw. Wish Gauri had presented Shashi in shades of grey: but then, she would have lost out on the repeat viewing of hundreds and thousands of women audiences who readily would associate themselves with Shashi, the character of ENGLISH VINGLISH!
RATING: 4.5 out of 5
October 6, 2012