English Vinglish: The Queen’s Speech
by Sudhish Kamath
A woman who can't speak English all that well decides to learn the language to prove a point
The queen returns to her throne to give the industry starved of quality actresses a crash course in acting with Gauri Shinde’s finely crafted slice of life drama English Vinglish.
Echoing sentiments previously seen in Revathy’s Mitr My Friend, Shinde’s film too captures the unspoken angst of a neglected housewife and mother with refreshing restraint and super sensitivity, at least for most of its running time, letting Sridevi demonstrate how it’s done — from the subtlest of expressions to full blown drama. She makes you smile, she brings a tear to the eye, makes you feel and root for her from the very first scene when she sets her cup of tea aside to fetch a cup for her husband.
There is no evil husband or children with issues here. The characters are so real which is why we feel for the increasingly alienated woman. The brilliant Adil Hussain pulls off a rather difficult role — he is a loving, caring husband but happens to look down at her and says the most insensitive things without intending to hurt. So, it is a nice touch that the filmmaker doesn't feel the need to make him apologise expressly.
The understated change in his attitude says it all.
It is a delightful ensemble that makes sure you are entertained all through. Be it pretty Priya Anand who makes a fine Hindi debut, the charming French actor Mehdi Nebbou or any of the other supporting actors for that matter, they all get to make an impression in this feel-good drama that would make for a memorable television series in the lines of Mind Your Language.
The first half, especially, makes for a riveting pilot episode as it introduces characters and sets the stage for many potentially funny sitcom gags... but given the limitations of the medium, Shinde breezes through the bonding, camaraderie and learning with song sequences and races to the rather predictable but highly effective climax — the big speech.
Like The King's Speech, this star vehicle is all about the lead character finding her voice and confidence.
So, the film was always going to be evaluated on how well the final English speech is written and delivered. Sridevi nails it so beautifully. What a masterfully nuanced performance this is!
The childlike shiver in her voice is now more of a quiver but that apart, there is no other indication that the Queen has aged.
Amitabh Bachchan chips in with a lovely little cameo earlier on in the film (Ajith in the Tamil version of the film) and Amit Trivedi's music adds to the instantly likeable light-hearted vibe of the film. Which is why a couple of scenes where the drama is a couple of notches higher look a little out of place in this film that's largely cooked and tempered at low flame.
English Vinglish delivers what it promises. You will fall in love with Sridevi all over again. It's a fantastic tribute to motherhood and womankind. Make sure you take your folks along. The perfect way to say, ‘I love you, mom.’
From The Hindu