Underdog movies are always endearing because we have a protagonist who is pushed to a corner and by the end of the movie, they prove their worth to the whole world. English Vinglish is another such underdog movie where the lead is a typical Indian housewife (Shashi Godbole) living in Pune with her family comprising her husband, mother-in-law and two young kids.
She is a wonderful cook who runs her own ‘laddoo’ catering business but still she is looked down upon by her elder girl and husband because of her lack of English skills. They are judgmental of her and believe that she is born just to make ‘laddoos’. Just then she gets a chance to go to the US for the marriage of her elder sister’s daughter. She goes there on her maiden solo trip with lots of self-doubt due to her lack of English fluency. But this trip turns her entire life around and does she get the respect that she craves for and most importantly does she learn the all-important language?
The movie is feel-good to the core and inspiring thanks to the characterization of the protagonist. We empathize for her straightaway thanks to the love and affection she showers on her family. But when she doesn’t get what she deserves in return, we naturally root for her big time. The movie is also an indication that urban Indian families are increasingly driven by English.
Sridevi is the soul of the movie. Though her voice is shaky at times and her age shows in her face, her emotive skills are first class. When she is termed an entrepreneur, the pride in her face is so marked. The speech that she gives in English about family, in the climax will surely bring a tear in your eye. There are more such instances when Sridevi has just lived the character and shown all the nuances that made her such a big heroine decades back.
Amitabh Bachchan shows what a big Rockstar he is, in the small cameo that he appears in as Shashi’s fellow traveler in her US flight. He is expressive and uninhibited. The message that he gives Sridevi is so relevant to her journey.
Shashi’s mother-in-law and young son are adorable while we feel bad when her husband and elder daughter just belittle her due to her language skills.
The scenes at the English language learning center in the US are very likable thanks to the myriad characters that we see. A gay teacher, a Pakistani cab driver, a French cook, a South East Asian woman, an African man, a Mexican women and a boisterous south Indian named Ramamurthy are a part of this class. We also have a nice dignified one sided romance between the Frenchman and Shashi. Their scenes together when both of them speak in their mother tongue while the other just listens in agreement are very nice. Homosexuality has also been handled very sensibly for a change. Applause worthy!
The music and songs by Amit Trivedi go along with the movie’s ebb and flow and add to the overall experience. The lush US locales are nicely captured by Laxman Utekar. Since there are a lot of English dialogues and there aren’t Hindi subtitles as well, the rural populace might not be able to connect with this protagonist.
This movie also turns out to be very timely and relevant as there are so many mothers and housewives in our country who do not get the respect and reciprocation that they deserve. English Vinglish is a nice gift to such mothers and a revealing lesson to their children and husbands.
First time director Gauri Shinde lends all the sensitive and emotional touches that are typical of women and delivers a worthy first film. Sridevi couldn’t have asked for a better comeback vehicle.
Verdict: Dedicated to all the typical Indian mothers who slog unconditionally for their families. Every family must watch this!