October 8, 2012, 9:51 AM IST
“English Vinglish” marks the return of a legend in Indian cinema, Sridevi.
But as much as cinegoers are excited about seeing an actress who has been away from filmdom for more than 14 years, the director of her comeback vehicle, Gauri Shinde, deserves the most applause.
In addition to entertaining, Ms. Shinde’s film creates a space for a female actress who is arguably past her prime. It also nods to serious issues related to the migratory experience, specifically the South Asian diaspora.
“English Vinglish” tells the story of Shashi, a middle-class housewife who is mocked by her family for her inability to speak English properly. She fumbles, mispronounces words and is ridiculed by the people closest to her – her husband and two children. When she finds herself in the bustling landscape of New York — to help plan for her niece’s wedding – she tries to master the English language in order to gain confidence, and the respect of her family.
“English Vinglish” is sheer elegance when it comes to filmmaking. The script is tight, the performances are flawless (Sridevi certainly delivers), the emotions are real and the story is simple. Despite this simplicity, the story is universal, appealing to more than just the Indian viewer.
Let’s get to the obvious and, up to its release, the most talked about feature of the movie – Sridevi’s return. Having a woman at 49 making a comeback to the silver screen is proof that Indian audiences have matured. There has been much hoopla about Indian cinema being a male-dominated industry, but Sridevi and Ms. Shinde go against that theory.
Indian filmmakers today are more willing to focus on the journey and experiences of a female protagonist. Whether a film makes money at the box office or not – a good one stands out. The filmmakers should be applauded as they are the ones taking the unconventional route.
We are now familiar with Bollywood films being shot in exotic international locations. In “English Vinglish,” rather than just having New York as a backdrop, Ms. Shinde makes it part of Shashi’s experiences. New York – its lifestyle, its complexities and its beauty all become part of the story. Through this, Ms. Shinde acknowledges the migratory experience for people all across the world. Sure, Shashi is just visiting America for a few weeks, but her experience mimics that of many new immigrants — to North America in particular — and their daily struggles to fit in, communicate in English and live without fear and insecurity.
Ms. Shinde shows a deep understanding of Shashi’s emotions and how she functions in the larger picture of linguistic challenges, cultural differences and the journey to confidence.
It’s hard to feel disdain or anger toward the characters that make Shashi feel incompetent. Ms. Shinde doesn’t demonize them; instead, she focuses on the nature of human relationships and the realistic interactions between a woman and her husband, and between a mother and her children. She lets the experience of cultural differences and boundaries speak for themselves. Viewers will identify with the familial and cultural challenges in “English Vinglish.”
The film made me question my own actions: Did I ever contribute to the negative experiences of someone new to my city… someone who needed help? And aside from actions affecting a stranger, I know that my sister and I have taunted my mother in many ways when she made errors while speaking English. Of course, it was all done in jest and my mother also laughed and shared in the joke – but the experience is universal and this is where “English Vinglish” excels.
Ms. Shinde’s direction shines right from the first reel. She starts the story in a very simple manner and never complicates her narrative. Instead, she relies on the complexities of human life to bring together characters, situations and locales, without ever making a situation, dialogue or emotion seem forced or unbelievable.
“English Vinglish” is more than just an English lesson – it opens our eyes and our hearts to characters like Sridevi’s Shashi.
Daniel is an expert on Indian movies and the celebrated ‘Bollywood Insider’ on Canadian entertainment show ‘Bollywood Boulevard.’ You can follow him on Twitter @Daniel_Pillai
Follow India Real Time on Twitter @indiarealtime.
'English Vinglish' - Sridevi's grand comeback
Film: "English Vinglish";
Cast: Sridevi, Adil Hussain, Mehdi Nebbou, Priya Anand, Sujatha Kumar, Neelu Sodhi and Ajith Kumar;
Director: Gauri Shinde;
Sridevi may have just won the hearts of millions of middle-class Indian housewives with her flawless performance in "English Vinglish". Every minute spent watching the film is worth the time we've all been waiting to see the actress back in action.
Sridevi plays Shashi, a middle-class homemaker with exceptionally good parenting and laddoo-making skills. Her only purpose in life has been taking extremely good care of her family despite being ridiculed by her own children and husband at her poor English-speaking ability.
Along the course, Shashi gets to travel to the US for a family wedding, where persuaded by an advertisement, she signs up for 'Learn English in 4 Weeks' crash course and what follows is best watched on screen.
The character Sridevi plays on screen is very close to the character she's been playing off-screen. She's returned after 15 years doing something that she was portrayed doing in the first half of the film. She was taking care of her own daughters all these years to date where she's certain that they don't need her support.
The language-speaking impediment was merely used as a tool to help the audience connect with the character on a more emotional level.
This is not the story of one Shashi, but thousands like her in this country who are subjected to daily embarrassment and looked at as an experienced hand only in the kitchen.
Debutante director Gauri Shinde deserves what many filmmakers don't even deserve in today's significantly changing Hindi cinema - a standing ovation. The biggest difference between Gauri and other filmmakers is the fact the she didn't expect Sridevi to return as a star, but as an actress she's always known and cheered for.
Sridevi trades her glamorous yesteryear look for a mature, homely Indian look covered in chiffon sari that will make every mother-in-law in this country look at her 'bahu' and say, why can't you be like her. You may discard Sri's character as very Indian, but it isn't because she plays someone who is blessed with the ability to enjoy life's smallest triumphs. This is the same quality that makes everyone root for her at every step.
Shinde-Sridevi tag team may very well be the best we've had in years and one can proudly vouch for that after watching the film.
The relationship between Shashi and Satish, her husband, is handled deftly by Gauri, as she succeeds in portraying a typical 'I'm the king of the family' type of role. The way Satish distances from Shashi without making it look obvious is a brilliantly handled role by Adil Husain.
The depth of their relationship is brought forth when Shashi asks him: "If you can casually hug your friend in a mall, then why I don't get to be hugged even when we are close to each other".
Gauri should also be appreciated for roping in two of the biggest superstars of Indian cinema in a pivotal role, Amitabh Bachchan and Ajith Kumar.
Ajith's cameo in the Tamil version certainly draws attention and gives his fans every reason to enjoy the film as much as everybody else.
The film was loved equally by one and all because even after 15 years, Sridevi has command over her language, be it Tamil, Telugu or Hindi, and she speaks with confidence, while her shaky-shrill voice works suitably in favour of her character.
To sum it up, "English Vinglish" proves that language is only a mode of communication, but not something that can be used to divide people. As brilliantly shown in one scene which has Shashi venting heatedly in Tamil to Laurent, who replies in French, it isn't about language.
From OMG Yahoo.
IANS India Private LimitedBy Haricharan Pudipeddi |
IANS India Private Limited –
Fri 5 Oct, 2012 6:48 PM IST