I cried while watching English Vinglish. No, it's not because I am a boo hoo hoo baby or I love tearing up at the drop of a hat. I cried because there are aplenty moments in the film that warm your heart- moments that define the roles of wives, mothers, sisters in a typical household. Roles that go unnoticed in the hum drum of life. Roles that take a lot out of the lives of those wives, mothers, sisters and roles that add so much to the lives of those around. Female bonding, issues of equality, class consciousness, adult friendships or gay identity-- English Vinglish includes everything within its simple story and yet ends up making strong statements on each of these points without stereotyping anything. It is one of the most 'inclusivist' films from the Indian film industry. And that to me is a reason to cry out of joy!
It really helps to have an actor to enliven the character and I cannot think of anyone who could have been a better Sashi. While the world will praise Sridevi for giving a stellar performance, I will put Gauri, right at the top.To create a world where the reel is a xerox of real and still engaging and interesting is a remarkable feat.
Sashi is an intelligent home maker who has made a business out of her culinary skills. And while
I am glad that the director doesn't give us too much of English teaching class scenes and smartly uses the class as a ground for Sashi's personality to flourish. To have a Hispanic student on one side, a Muslim taxi driver on another, a French cook and an African-American masculine gay student along with a gay teacher, with no stereotyping-- now that's not easy. Sashi who constantly feels she is incomplete, finds that she is actually complete when others like her, struggling with various issues in life and work, share her agony of not knowing the language and yet find her more complete. Her much dismissed laddoo business back home gets her the tag of an entrepreneur.
The love track between Mehdi and Sridevi is remarkably handled. No moral lessons. Yes, she is married with kids. Yes, he is in love with her. And yes, she doesn't send him on a guilt trip. Her first reaction on knowing his feelings is--" I am shocked because no one has ever praised me so much in such a long time".
That to me is the most defining moment in the film. It is reinforced when Sashi tells the audience why she doesn't want to go ahead with Mehdi--" I don't want love, I want respect." The finale speech by Sashi is all about that!
Adil Hussain and Mehdi Nebbou are the finest supporting cast, Sridevi could have asked for. They are convincing-- making us hate (Adil) and adore (Mehdi) their characters. Their chemistry with Sridevi is remarkable.
Yes, there is a cameo by Mr Amitabh Bachchan, and it feels good to see the two actors share the screen space.The music hooks you from the word go and Amit Trivedi, Swanand Kirkire and Shilpa Rao have given us hummable scores.
If at all, the movie's pace slackens towards the end, but how does it really matter when you get to see acting--for all its worth-- by one of our finest artists ever. Sridevi, welcome back and Gauri, thank you for precisely that!
Lada Guruden Singh in India Today